This Historic Resource Study of Padre Island contains a brief survey of the island's history from its discovery in 1519 to the creation of Padre Island National Seashore in 1962.
The study focuses on the three cultures which experienced the island, Indian, Spanish, and American. Each culture defined its relatedness to Padre differently. For the Indian, Padre was a source of food and an island to which he could retreat when seeking refuge from attacking enemies. For the Spanish, Padre was another coastal feature in a barren and forbidding wilderness. Until the beginning of the 19th century the Spanish viewed the Isla Blanca, as Padre was called for almost 300 years, primarily as a place where ships wrecked among hostile Indians or enemy European powers planned intrigue. In 1805 a Spanish priest named Padre Nicolas Balli obtained a land grant to the island for the purpose of raising cattle. The transformation of Padre from wilderness barrier island to peaceful natural resource began at this time.
The American replaced Spanish or Mexican influence on Padre at the time of the Mexican War in 1846. Until the 1920s he defined his relationship to the island in a manner similar to Padre Balli. Between 1846 and 1879 various men raised cattle on the island. In 1879 a man named Pat Dunn came to Padre from the mainland and it was not long before he owned the entire island. The Dunn ranching activities continued until 1971. Beginning in the 1920s Americans began to view Padre as a place where one could enjoy the outdoor pleasures of swimming, boating, fishing, and hunting This relationship to the island has continued to the present day. In the middle of the 1950s Padre assumed still another value when it was recognized that the island was one of the few barrier islands in the United States that retained the natural characteristics of such an island. The perception that Padre combined an unspoiled or unchanged natural environment with outdoor recreation values led some Americans to suggest that Padre would make an ideal national park. In 1962 the movement to establish a national recreation area achieved success with the passage of the legislation creating Padre Island National Seashore.
Emerging from the study of Padre's history is an identification of the island's major historic resources. This study surveys those resources and makes recommendations for the preservation and interpretation.
Last Updated: 16-Mar-2007