Stories of Flour Bluff, the Little Town That Almost Was(#5)

Flour Bluff, Front Page, Local history
This picture was published in the Brazosport Facts on June 6, 1976.

 

     “Make a loose fist of your hand.  Imagine that the fingers and palm are the major part of Corpus Christi.  The space between them and the thumb corresponds roughly to Cayo del Oso.  The thumb is Flour Bluff,”wrote Bill Duncan in a Corpus Christi Caller-Times article from 1963.  He, like many others, agree that the geographical location of the Encinal Peninsula greatly affected the historical – and even current – events of the area.  Though settlement of the area did not occur until the turn of the 19th century, this sandy “digit” attracted some human activity.

     With the discovery of several burial sites of the Karankawa Indians (Carancquacas) on the shores of the Oso, one could logically conclude that these nomadic people would travel across the shallow Oso waters onto the great “thumb” seeking fish, shellfish, and turtles.  These were staple foods for the pre-historic people called “dog-lovers” or “dog-raisers”, who, according to Carol Lipscomb, writer for the Texas Handbook Online, “kept dogs that were described as a fox-like or coyote-like breed.” The name Karankawa was a general designation of several bands of Indians who shared a common, though limited language, including the Capoques, Kohanis, and Kopanes.  According to one source, the Karankawa word for “dog” translates to “kiss.”  In addition to their limited vocabulary, they communicated with whistles, sighs, and guttural grunts.

Courtesy of Brazosport Facts, June 6, 1976

     Many theories exist about how the Karankawa came to the Gulf Coast of Texas.  This thoroughly coastal oriented tribe left an impression on all who encountered them.  According to a May 24, 2016, Corpus Christi Caller-Times article by local historian Murphy Givens, “The men were over six feet tall and carried long bows of red cedar.  Women wore deerskin skirts and smeared their bodies with alligator grease.  The men’s hair was braided with rattlesnake rattles, which made a dry rustling sound when they walked.”  Linscomb wrote that the bows “reached from the eye or chin level to the foot of the bearer” and that the men were tall and muscular and wore deerskin breechclouts or nothing at all.  She goes on to relate how they painted and tattooed their bodies, and pierced the nipples of each breast and the lower lip with small pieces of cane.  It seems that even the women tattooed their bodies and wore “skirts of Spanish moss or animal skin that reached to the knees.”

     Most accounts of this extension of Paleo-American man claim that the Karankawa tended to travel in groups of 30 or 40 and broke into smaller “family” units to facilitate foraging.   They could be hostile and warlike – even in their “play.”  Givens relates in his article that Cabeza de Vaca was kept as their prisoner for years after he was shipwrecked on a barrier island in 1528.  Twenty years later, all but two of a group of 300 survivors of a shipwrecked Spanish fleet were attacked and killed by a Karankawa band.  Linscomb tells us, “Karankawas also participated in competitive games demonstrating weapons skills or physical prowess. Wrestling was so popular among Karankawas that neighboring tribes referred to them as the ‘Wrestlers.’ Warfare was a fact of life for the Karankawas, and evidence indicates that the tribe practiced a ceremonial cannibalism that involved eating the flesh of their traditional enemies. That custom, widespread among Texas tribes, involved consuming bits and pieces of the flesh of dead or dying enemies as the ultimate revenge or as a magical means of capturing the enemy’s courage.”  Frequent encounters between the Karankawa and the European explorers, missionaries, and settlers led to many deaths from combat – and from epidemic diseases brought to the coastal areas by the invaders.

Map of 1853 Encinal Peninsula with names of the impresarios who were granted land on the Encinal Peninsula by the Mexican government

     Though the Karankawa managed to survive 300 years of European contact, 1821 brought a different challenge for the indigenous group.  Mexico gained independence from Spain in 1821, and the new government invited Anglo-Americans to the province of Texas.  Over the next 15 years, the Karankawa would battle not only with the Anglo-Texans, but also with the hostile Tonkawas and Comanches.  By 1836, the number of “dog-lovers” had diminished to the point that they were no longer considered a threat.  It is believed that the few who remained moved into Tamaulipas, Mexico, where they suffered attacks from the Mexican authorities and were eventually pushed back into Texas, perhaps back to the shores of the Cayo del Oso (El Grullo), where they slowly disappeared into history.

    By 1850, Texas and Mexico were attempting to untangle the land ownership of the El Rincon del Grullo, “The Corner of the Grey.”  According to Duncan, “It eventually went to Leonardo Longoria de la Garza of Tamaulipas by order of Texas Governor O. M. Roberts. Still there was no great rush to settle the area. One of the first surveys of the area, which appeared in the map, ‘The Public Roads of the Nueces County,’ and was adopted by the Commissioners Court in February, 1879, lists the entire tract from the Oso to Laguna Madre to Alazan Bay as ‘M. (Miflin) Kenedy’s Pasture.'”  The land speculation of the 1800s by a Union colonel, Elihu H. Ropes and others, was responsible for the first breaking up of the large parcel and the arrival of the first settlers.  Ropes filed a survey plat May 6, 1891, of the “Laguna Madre Farm and Garden Tracts”, which covered all of present Flour Bluff. It turns out that Ropes actually listed the 18-square mile plat (11,520 acres) as “Flower Bluff (sic) Farm and Garden Tracts”, some say to make the land seem more desirable.   There seems to be some question as to whether Ropes ever actually owned land in Flour Bluff.  Duncan writes, “More likely is it that the promoter made a deal with owners to survey the land and sell off portions under a ‘lot lease clause’ deal.” Sue Harwood, staff writer for the Caller-Times in 1959 wrote that Ropes did indeed buy the Flour Bluff land at $8 an acre.  Regardless, this idea – like the ones that got him run out of town – fizzled.

       By 1890, the Texas Land Development Co. of San Antonio bought what was left of the peninsula after Kenedy bought much of the original grant from heirs of the Mexican grant.  They started selling land between 1890 and 1900.  Some of the first to buy this property have descendants living in Flour Bluff today.  Mrs. Louisa Singer, G. H. Ritter, and E. Roscher were three who became some of the first settlers on the peninsula.  At about the same time, Mrs. Henrietta M. King, who had acquired much of “Kenedy’s Pasture” in a partition of their lands, sold off by 1907, creating the southern boundary of Flour Bluff that joins the King Ranch.  There, on the “thumb” between the Oso and the Laguna Madre, families started to take root in Flour Bluff, the little town that almost was.

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Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.  She also writes and edits for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper.

Living la Vida Bluff Style!

Arts, Business, Education, Flour Bluff, Food and Drink, Front Page, Opinion/Editorial, Outdoors, Religion, Sports, Travel
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Sunset on Cayo del Oso in Flour Bluff

     I guess taking part in my 40th class reunion made me a bit nostalgic concerning my hometown, Flour Bluff.  It is a little community of about 20,000 fiercely independent people that sits on the Encinal Peninsula between Cayo del Oso and Laguna Madre.  On Aug. 5, 1961, the City of Corpus Christi, Texas, voted to annex Flour Bluff while Flour Bluff voted to incorporate as a separate city.  The Corpus Christi City Council passed an annexation ordinance, and city police began patrolling in Flour Bluff.  Suits filed by Flour Bluff residents to block annexation were appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that it did not have jurisdiction in the matter.  Even though Flour Bluff officially became part of Corpus Christi, the people don’t really seem to know it.  That’s why most Flour Bluffians say they are “going to town,” when in actuality they are simply crossing one of the two Oso bridges into Corpus Christi proper.

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     Once known as the “Gateway to Padre Island,” Flour Bluff is home to the award-winning Flour Bluff Independent School District and Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, the two largest employers in the community.  These two entities have supported each other since World War II when the Navy commissioned the base in 1941.  Flour Bluff, like many Texas towns, was influenced by ranching and oil and gas.  Add to that tourism, highlighted by fishing, boating, birding, and water sports, the diverse nature of the community starts to take shape.

An aerial view of Naval Air Station (NAS) Corpus Christi, Texas, as it appeared on January 27, 1941, seventy-two years ago today. The air station was commissioned in March 1941.
An aerial view of Naval Air Station (NAS) Corpus Christi, Texas, as it appeared on January 27, 1941. The air station was commissioned in March 1941.
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The first school was opened in 1892 in the community of Brighton, later to become Flour Bluff.
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Kite surfing, boating, fishing, and great meals at Laguna Reef in Flour Bluff
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Flour Bluff is home to countless species of birds.

    It is possible to live and work in Flour Bluff and never leave except to visit a major hospital, which is just five minutes away.  Flour Bluff has its very own HEB Plus and Super Walmart along with a host of unique shops and businesses that meet the everyday needs of the people.  It has an active business association, three fire stations (federal, county, and city), a police substation, various banking institutions, eateries of all types, and even a brewery!  Add to this three quick-care clinics, local dentists, a vet clinic serving large animals and small pets, accommodations for out-of-town guests, a twenty-four hour gym, multiple auto mechanic shops, storage facilities, car washes, insurance companies, attorneys-at-law, and a host of other businesses that offer the citizens of Flour Bluff basic amenities of life. Of course, churches of all denominations and community organizations enrich the lives of the people, too. If a person wants something more, indoor and outdoor malls are within a ten-minute drive east while the Gulf of Mexico is ten minutes the other direction. Padre Island sports the longest stretch of undeveloped, drivable beach in America (60 miles).  Del Mar College, Texas A&M Corpus Christi, and the Craft Training Center provide educational opportunities beyond high school and are all under a 20-minute drive from Flour Bluff.

    

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     Living in Flour Bluff comes in all shapes and sizes.  The community offers many housing choices – including affordable housing, and multiple realtors in the area are available to assist newcomers in finding the perfect home.  Some residents in Flour Bluff enjoy the rancher’s life and own large pieces of property with room for horses and cows.  Others love living on the water.  Waterfront properties are available along Oso Bay, Laguna Madre, and parts in between where ponds and canals exist.  Many people prefer little or no yard maintenance and live in single or multi-level apartments or condominiums.  Flour Bluff welcomes its friends from the colder parts of the country in the many RV parks in the community.  Most residents, however, live in quiet neighborhoods filled with the whir of lawnmowers and the laughter of children.  Yes, there is indeed something for everyone!

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     Flour Bluff offers many outlets for family fun.  The community has a public and school pool, little league softball, baseball, and kickball fields, youth football organizations, activities at Flour Bluff Schools (i.e. basketball, football, volleyball, softball, academics, arts, music, NJROTC), a skateboard park, a disc golf park, multiple playgrounds, and other facilities for activities such as martial arts, soccer, tennis, rugby, and horseback riding.

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          Seasonal events give everyone something to anticipate.  Whether it’s the Navy hosting the Blue Angels, the Flour Bluff Homecoming Parade, the Flour Bluff Business Association Community Christmas, the Flour Bluff Fire Department Santa float, or the Flour Bluff 8th-Grade trip to HEB Camp in the Hill Country, those who know Flour Bluff, know it has a host of unique offerings for the community.  Maybe it’s a school that’s excels in everything.  Maybe it’s the year-round great weather conducive to outdoor activities like fishing, boating, swimming, and surfing.  Maybe it’s the tight-knit community that welcomes people from all over the world to be a part of what is happening here.  Maybe it’s the rich history or unique geographical location. Maybe it’s the class reunions, Friday-night football, or visiting with old friends in the grocery line. Whatever it is, Flour Bluff is a great place to live, visit, play, raise a family, and take part in a community that is like no other.

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Santa float

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     Spending the weekend with childhood friends (Flour Bluff Class of ’76), driving the Bluff in search of what is new or changed, writing this article, and gathering pictures for it takes me to the heart of a place I have called home for nearly 50 years.  Even those who have moved away still feel her tugging at their heartstrings. She definitely leaves an impression.  Flour Bluff, like every little “town”, has its problems, but that which is good outweighs them all.  I just wish more people could experience living la vida Bluff style!

 

Please follow and like us:

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.  She also writes and edits for The Texas Shoreline News, a Corpus Christi print newspaper.