Texas is steeped in a rich, proud history of its origins, and Matagorda is no different. In 1827, 297 grantees purchased 307 parcels of land in Mexican Texas from Stephen Fuller Austin and became known as the “Old Three Hundred.”
A portion of those grantees settled in the region where the Colorado River meets the Gulf of New Mexico, and established it as Matagorda, Texas, in 1829. It was touted to have beauty beyond description and a place where the founders envisioned enterprises like the two salt factories that were established in 1832. Trade between the Mexican Nationals and the settlers grew over the next 10 years.
Now imagine a time prior to Anglo settlers when wooly mam-moths roamed and a tribe of Native Americans called the Karankawa called Matagorda home. The name Karankawa became the accept-ed designation for several groups of coastal Indigenous peoples of seasonal nomadic lifestyle who shared a common language and culture. Evidence and artifacts from these peoples can be seen at the Matagorda County Museum along with mammoth teeth found in Matagorda. Imagine tall tales of men standing seven feet tall and an era when cowboys like Charles A. Siringo of Matagorda County, one of America’s best known cowboys, rode the range on horseback rather than today’s thrill-seekers on four-wheelers.
Matagorda is even credited with the origins of the word “maver-ick.” The origin begins with the story of Matagorda County resident Samuel A. Maverick, a lawyer and real estate man who had moved his family to Descrow’s Point on Matagorda Peninsula in 1844. In lieu of a debt payment, Maverick was given 400 head of cattle, which he was unequipped to manage. The story goes that by all accounts the cattle were poorly managed and left to graze, fatten, multiply and wander with no branding. Traditionally, ownership was attributed to the cattleman who ﬁ rst put their branding on the animal ince Maverick let his animals stray and many hadn’t been branded, the stray cattle were dubbed “mavericks” by the local residents.
In recent history, Matagorda County led Texas and the nation for the 23rd season and 14th year in a row in the Audubon Society’s 121st Christmas Bird Count. Some 224 bird species were counted between Dec. 14, 2021, and Jan. 5, 2022. Consider that the entire state conducted 103 Christmas Bird Counts, reporting 384 species in total. Sources at the Audubon Society suspect that the limitations of gathering and counting due to the pandemic affected the bird count, which was lower than in prior years. According to the Audu-bon Society, this also was the second year in a row those counting had to deal with a major cold front that arrived the day of the count. Cold temperatures and strong winds reduced production below expectation, yet Matagorda’s Mad Island Marsh led the count. There were even three “exclusives” found in Matagorda County, meaning only one of a particular species was found during the count.
For more information, visit www.matagordacounty-museum.org.
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