Americans and An Island (continued)
2. The Patrick Dunn Ranch, 1879-1926
In 1835 every square foot of land between the Rio Grande and the Nueces including Padre Island had been granted in large tracts to Mexicans. Two years before the Civil War all but one of these grants had passed into American hands.  The Mexican War was the event which accelerated the transfer of the land from Mexican to American ownership. This change of ownership was not a simple real estate deal. As the historian Paul Taylor points out, "But when the Mexicans first sold to Americans they were under stress to sell. They were not simply holders of property selling at their own free will; they were selling because they were Mexicans who, in a time of chaos, could no longer occupy their land, and who saw the imminent American military and political domination."  Taylor quotes one Texas old timer as simply saying, "The Americans took the land from the Mexicans. History will tell; it may be too soon now." 
The history of land ownership on Padre Island is long and very, very complex. The island has been in and out of the Texas courts almost continuously for about a century. Although always valuable as a cattle ranch, the discovery of minerals in the 1940s immeasurably increased the island's worth. As one can easily imagine, everyone with even the remotest claim to Padre desired to share in the wealth. Countless suits appeared on Texas court dockets and one of them, "State of Texas vs. Balli," a claim by the state of Texas to own all but 11-1/2 leagues of the island, was finally decided against the state by the Texas Supreme Court. During the period from 1855 to the time that Pat Dunn went to Padre in 1879, the same thing happened on the island as on the nearby mainland. By purchase and just plain occupation, Americans took over Padre. The Továr sections on the north went in pieces to such prominent residents of Corpus Christi as John McCampbell and Stanley Welch. At the south end, John Singer had purchased some land, but the majority apparently still legally belonged to Nicolás Grisante. Singer and others simply claimed it by right of possession, a right with which the Texas courts could be expected to sympathize. It would be a mistake to claim American stole Padre from its Mexican owners. By purchase payment of back taxes, and other means the original Balli land grant, which was the legal basis of ownership, legally passed into American hands. Whether the transfer was fair and just is another question. Beginning in 1879 a major beneficiary was a man named Patrick Dunn.
Patrick Dunn was the son of Irish immigrants who came to Corpus Christi in the 1840s or early 1850s. Born in 1858 and left fatherless in 1865, Pat Dunn grew up in the tough social and economic environment of the Texas gulf coast. It was a period when a young man without means was forced to work hard to create a material existence. Like many of his contemporaries, Pat Dunn turned to cattle as his vocation and occupation. With his brother, Dunn as a teenager worked cattle on the open range. The fencing of the range in the 1870s meant the end of the landless cattle entrepreneur. Either one moved farther west to the Big Bend country or even to Arizona or one turned to another trade. As Dunn himself many years later described his decision to go to Padre Island, "The occasion of going to Padre Island was this: in the early days the range was all free, there were no pastures, and then people commenced building fences and buying the land, and my brother and I had some cattle and we had to go some place and so we went to Padre Island."  When Dunn first went to Padre in 1879 he did not, as far as is known, own any land on the island. When he sold the island in 1926, he owned almost all of it.
When he moved onto Padre, Dunn apparently had a lease from two Corpus Christi gentlemen who owned land on the island, John McCampbell and Stanley Welch. It is probable that this was a verbal agreement, for that is how Texas gentlemen conducted their business. After a man named Healy moved his cattle off Padre, Dunn stocked the island with 400 cows he had purchased from a man named Rachel who lived at White Point.  Dunn and his brother drove the cattle from White Point to Flour Bluff and then forded the Laguna Madre. For decades this was the way Dunn got his cattle on and off the island. Nature was unkind the first year. A severe winter badly damaged the herd, which was not in any case made up of prize animals, and Dunn was unable to meet the payment on the note due Rachel. Fortunately a firm called the Coleman-Fulton Pasture Company was looking for someone to drive 1,000 head to a ranch in Webb County. Dunn took the job and received a dollar a head as commission. The money enabled him to meet his payment. It was to be the last time that Dunn was not able to earn a living on Padre.
By 1884 he had firmly established his cattle operations. In that year he decided to move his family to the island. The family lived at the settlement about 20 miles from the north end. About five or six years later one of his daughters contracted scarlet fever, which left her partially paralyzed. Thinking conditions on Padre contributed to this misfortune, Dunn moved his family into Corpus Christi. For the next sixteen years he lived at the settlement or at one of the line camps he built to manage his cattle ranch. In 1907 Dunn decided to build a two-story house on Packery channel. Constructed entirely from drift lumber found on the beach, the house was an imposing structure (see illustrations). Although the family continued to maintain its permanent residence in Corpus, they spent several months during the summer on Padre. In 1916 an exceptionally severe hurricane blew the house away. Dunn replaced it with a smaller structure also located at the north end of the island. This structure, which since 1916 has been remodeled a number of times, is still standing and in use.
When Dunn moved the first four hundred cows to Padre in 1879, he was confronted with the problem of adapting a type of agricultural land utilization to the island's environment. The two most important elements of successful cattle raising, food and water supply, were already present. The island's grasses had for years supported cattle and horses. Padre Balli, who had learned the technique from the Indians, has solved the problem of obtaining fresh water by digging shallow wells in the sand. Dunn simply adopted this technique. Padre had additional environmental characteristics which were advantageous to cattle raising. The island required no fencing. The Gulf on the east, the Laguna Madre on the west, Corpus Christi Pass on the north, and Brazos Santiago Pass on the south formed natural barriers. Dunn never had to worry about his cattle wandering off his range nor did he have to construct fences to distinguish his land from his neighbors. The sea was the fence. Good grass and water plus natural fences made Padre an ideal place to run cattle. The island possessed still another attribute which very few cattle ranches in that part of the country could claim. There was no brush on Padre such as the mesquite and chaparral which made cattle raising on the mainland as difficult as the periodical drought. Brush was as much the vaquero's enemy as the outlaw steer. When riding in the brush he dressed appropriately. Toe fenders and thick boots protected his feet while heavy leather leggings and ducking jacket covered his body. Gauntleted gloves took care of his hands and wrists and a stout hat shielded his head. When working cattle in brush the vaquero did not quietly ride along singing a cattle song with one leg swung over the saddle horn. He "tore a hole" in the brush or "split the brush." He was not called a cowboy but rather a "brush popper" or a "brush wacker." As J. Frank Dobie was fond to note, a good brush wacker chasing a cow was "likely to emerge from a thicket with enough wood hanging in the fork of his saddle to cook a side of yearling ribs."  For some reason the brush so typical on the mainland was not found on Padre. Vaqueros working the Dunn ranch did not have to weigh themselves down with extra clothing nor worry about splitting their skulls on branches or scarring their faces and hands. Cattle did not get lost in the brush, requiring the vaquero to spend hours searching for them. They were always in the open between the two water fences, easy to find and easy to string out. According to Jim Lynch, a south Texas cattle man who has worked Padre Island cattle since his boyhood, the island's good grass and water, the natural fences, and the absence of brush made Padre one of the easiest ranches in the area. 
Another environmental characteristic to which Dunn adapted his cattle ranch was the island's size and dimensions. Padre is approximately 115 miles long and from 500 yards to three miles wide. Although the majority of the cattle grazed on the northernmost sixty miles, some wandered down the island to the southern end. In order to work cattle spread out over such a great distance, Dunn built a string of line camps down the island. Ranch headquarters on Padre was located at the northern end. Here Dunn had a house, a bunkhouse, traps, and working pens. Going south down the island he located three line camps at approximately 15-mile intervals. They were called respectively Novillo, Black Hill, and Green Hill. These facilities covered about sixty miles of the island's prime range. The choice of 15-mile intervals was not accidental. That was the distance it was possible in the old days to drive the cattle and get them in the trap before dark. Each camp was similar to Novillo (see illustrations). First there was a large trap which enclosed the entire camp area. Within the trap Dunn built two huts or cabins, an outdoor kitchen, smaller traps, and corrals or working pens. One of the huts was for Dunn's personal use and the other functioned as a bunk house for the men.
When Dunn built his Padre Island structures, he was unable to simply call up a lumber yard in Corpus and ask them to deliver so many board feet of lumber, so many kegs of nails, so many hinges, or so much glass. There of course was no causeway, lumber was expensive, and transportation to the island was difficult, Like Padre Balli, John Singer, and all those who had built structures on Padre before him, Pat Dunn turned to the island itself for his materials. He found them on the beach, where the gulf delivered a constant supply of hard and softwood boards of all lengths and widths. Dragged to one of the camps they became the huts, kitchens, fences, and corrals. Shingles were hand made from rough lumber. The sea also supplied furniture. Barrels with the tops removed and filled with sand became small stoves. Stools and chairs came in and found their way to the camps. Indeed it is said Dunn furnished his headquarters home with furniture from the Nicaragua, an unlucky Mexican ship that stranded on Padre in 1912 or 1913. Tar barrels floated in and were melted to close holes. Other barrels collected rain water. Ropes of all sizes were used for a variety of purposes. The sea and island were generous and Dunn took advantage of it. In an architectural sense he in fact adapted his structures to the environment and used available materials in their construction. In relation to form the structures were not elegant. They were simple, plain, and rough like the men who lived in them and the island upon which they stood.
Throughout the island Dunn constructed the wells which were the most unusual feature of the Padre Island cattle operation. Again using lumber from the beach Dunn first built a rectangular frame about eight feet by two feet. A hole was then dug in the sand, usually near a sand dune, and the frame inserted in the hole. Water, which did not run off but which was rather trapped in the sand, slowly seeped into the tanks. According to Dunn, at one time or another there were as many as 75 of these tanks spread out on the island.  Keeping them clean was a constant task, but it was easily accomplished by bailing them out and then cleaning the sides and bottoms. Unlike the water supply on the mainland, sweet water was never a problem on Padre. During the 1940s Burton Dunn, Pat's son who had taken over management of the ranch after his father's death in 1938, decided to modernize the place by constructing windmills. The windmills functioned properly, but they marked no improvement over the time-tested tanks. Old timers silently shook their heads and wondered why anybody would want to spend money building expensive windmills when the tanks had always supplied more than enough good water.
For ten months out of the year the cattle on Padre peacefully grazed. Dunn and his men moved up and down the island checking on the new calves, taking care of distressed animals, and cleaning the water tanks. Twice a year, usually in May and October or November, it came time to round up the herd and cut out coasters for market. Dunn adapted the cattle drive or roundup to the island's conditions. With a foreman, about twelve vaqueros, a cook, and the necessary baggage and camp gear, Dunn first proceeded down the island to Green Hill, the southernmost camp. (This camp is today called the Dunn Ranch.) After making any necessary repairs to the traps and corrals, the men were ready to begin the drive. Proceeding another thirty miles down the island to a fence Dunn had constructed in the area of the present-day Port Mansfield Channel, they slept on the beach. Getting up at 4:00 in the morning they ate breakfast and then spread out across the island in the form of a "V". When the men were in place the drive got underway. According to Jim Lynch, who pushed many of Padre Island roundup, the function of the men on the wings was to throw the cattle to the center of the "V" where they strung out and moved north. The foreman pushed the whole operation. He was always a man who, as J. Frank Dobie described him, "savvied the cowcow psychology, cow anatomy, cow dieteticscow nature in general and cow nature in particular. He must know how to water a herd, graze it, drive it, hold it up, string it out, manage it at will and yet leave it free to thrive and be contented."  On Padre the foreman's main job was to move back and forth across the island making sure that one of the wings did not get ahead of the other and that the herd was properly strung out. Cripples and outlaws, who could upset the herd, were either left behind to be picked up later or tailed to quiet them down. Tailing was a dangerous vaquero sport. It consisted of reaching down from the horse, grabbing the tail of an angry cow, and wrapping the tail around the horn and hump. If the vaquero was successful, and he usually was, the outlaw was violently thrown to the ground. Upon release the dazed animal docilely joined the string. If the vaquero missed, the cowboy could be dragged from his horse or the horse badly gored.
Slowly moving north the men on the wings continued to throw the cattle to the center of the "V". The herd gradually grew in size. When it approached Green Hill, three men were stationed on each side of the trap. Their job was to make sure no cattle got past the trap into the next section of the island. After the herd had been placed in the trap, the task of working the animals got underway. Calves were separated out into one of the working pens, where they were branded, castrated, and, in later years, vaccinated. Other cows were run through dipping vats or, again in later years, sprayed. The major concern, however, was to separate out the yearlings and other stock which would be taken to market. Once the work was complete and the prime beeves selected, the rest of the herd was turned out. They slowly drifted back down the island and resumed grazing.
The technique of the "V" type drive between the two bodies of water on each side of the island was repeated between Green Hill and Black Hill. Again the vaqueros spread out across Padre with the wings throwing the cattle to the center, where they joined the animals from Green Hill. Reaching Black Hill, the cattle collected between Green and Black Hills were branded and vaccinated. When the cattle ready for market had been added to those from Green Hill, the herd resumed the slow drive up the island. The same roundup technique was employed between Black Hill and Novillo and Novillo and headquarters at the top of the island.
It usually took about three weeks to a month to work the entire island and collect a herd at the north end. The work, however, was not yet over. Dunn and his foreman still faced the problem of getting the cattle off Padre to the mainland. From the headquarters pens, Dunn and his men drove the herd to the Laguna Madre where they forded that salty body of water to the Peta Island holding pens on Flour Bluff. Cattle in general are good swimmers, but those from Padre Island were so good they became known as sea lions. At the Peta Island pens, the herd was sold on the spot or arrangements were made to drive it to another main land ranch. In later years Dunn acquired still another place on Flour Bluff about two miles from the Peta Island pens. Here he kept his equipment and horses.
Between the 1880s and the 1940s Dunn's Padre Island cattle ranch underwent no significant changes. On the mainland, vehiclesespecially the trucktook over many of the functions previously performed by horses and wagons. Gathering and working cattle became much easier and quicker. The old-time cattle roundup and drive disappeared. On Padre, however, the traditional techniques remained. Twice a year crews went down the island to Green Hill, gathered the cattle, and strung them out north. Beginning in the 1940s, change did come to Padre.
The first innovation involved the use of a four-wheel-drive vehicle. At the end of WW II, Dunn purchased an army surplus two-ton truck which he converted to a "bob-tail." Thanks to its four-wheel drive, the truck could easily move down the sandy Padre Island beach without getting stuck. The bob-tail changed the style of the roundup. Instead of riding the horses south to Green Hill and driving a herd north, Dunn and his men worked each camp. At the headquarters place at the north end, the horses were loaded on the truck and taken to Green Hill. Using Green Hill as a center and collection point the men first went south to the Mansfield Cut and drove the cattle into Green Hill. Instead of then proceeding north with a herd, they went to a point about halfway between Green Hill and Black Hill and drove the cattle south to Green Hill. The animals selected for market were loaded on the bob-tail and trucked to the headquarters pens at the north end of the island. Finishing at Green Hill, the crew proceeded north to Black Hill, where they again collected the animals north and south of the camp. The same procedure took place at Novillo. The use of the bob-tail not only cut the time necessary to gather a herd for market, but it also cut down on the shrinkage the cattle had experienced during the month-long drive up the island.
Another development which affected Dunn's Padre Island ranch during the 1940s was the digging of the Intercoastal Canal down the Laguna Madre. This waterway, which enabled vessels to pass easily from Corpus to Point Isabel and Brownsville, brought an end to the practice of fording the cattle across the Laguna Madre. Burton Dunn had to look for another way to get his cattle to market. He solved the problem by driving the cattle collected at the headquarters pens up Mustang Island. At the north end they were loaded on trucks and ferried across to the mainland. Although there was a small railroad on Mustang, with a Ford on its rims serving as engine, Dunn did not use it.
The 1940s saw still other changes. These involved the application of methods aimed it improving the quality of cattle and the efficiency of the industry. Perhaps following the lead of the King Ranch, Burton Dunn decided to adopt some of the new innovations on Padre. He installed windmills throughout the island. However, they marked no significant improvement over the ancient tank-type well. When hurricanes later blew most of the windmills away, they were not replaced. Dunn also sought to enrich his cattle's diet by introducing salt and minerals. For over 130 years the cattle on Padre had acquired salt and minerals from the natural environment. They simply sucked salt out of objects thrown up by the sea or they chewed fish found on the beach. Indeed, many a Padre Island visitor was startled to see a cow walking down the beach with a rope and half a fish hanging out of its mouth. Naturally, the immediate conclusion was that the strange Padre Island cattle ate ropes and fish. In addition, spraying replaced the dipping vat and vaccination became a routine part of working the animals. Although old timers with abundant cow knowledge were skeptical, the herd benefited from these innovations.
The Dunns apparently never experimented with one innovation that had changed the great mainland herds. They did not attempt to transform the Padre herd into a single cattle breed such as the King Ranch's famous Santa Gertrudis. Although new stock was often introduced to improve the herd, it is possible that Padre Island cattle retained traces of the cattle Padre Balli brought to the island at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Indeed, Padre cattle were famous for their ability to thrive on the food supply nature provided. They required little help from man. Animals taken from the mainland to Padre took a long time to adjust to the island's environment. Cattle raised on Padre Island had no difficulty adjusting to mainland conditions.
The construction of the Padre Island causeway in 1951 again changed cattle raising on the island. The causeway made it possible to bring large trailer truck type vehicles to the island. The traps and corrals at the north end were abandoned and Novillo became the major collecting point. Cattle gathered at Green Hill, Black Hill, and north of Novillo were held in the Novillo traps. The large semis drove down to loading chutes at Novillo and picked up the cattle. In that it was no longer necessary to drive the cattle up to the north end of Mustang, shrinkage was again reduced.
At one time the Novillo loading chutes were located at the beach. One year Jim Lynch and his father P. A. Lynch, who was Dunn's foreman from 1942 until his death in 1962, had backed the trucks up to these chutes and were busy working the cattle in the corrals. Suddenly they noticed that the tide was rising much earlier and faster than normal. Dropping everything, they ran for the trucks and scrambled into the cabs. The water was already up over the wheels as they gunned the engines and headed up the beach toward higher ground. The sand, which a few hours before had been smooth and hard, had become soft and it sucked at the big tires. Jim Lynch thought that at a moment he would get stuck and be forced to leave the expensive equipment to the mercy of the salt water. After several anxious moments, they made it. 
Technological change such as trucks and a causeway effected cattle raising on Padre. However, one aspect or element of life on the Dunn ranch remained almost totally unchanged from the 1880s to 1970. That element was the men and their daily routine.
Following the Mexican War, Americans moved to acquire the land between the Nueces and the Rio Grande. By the time of the Civil War, almost all of this territory had passed into American ownership. During the same period a division of labor emerged which has dominated the economic life of the Texas gulf coast until the present day. White Texans who owned the great ranches and banks, formed the elite. A middle class controlled the professions and the businesses in towns such as Corpus Christi. Labor was supplied by Mexican-Americans. Often living in an almost peon-type relationship to their employers, the Mexican-Americans were the vaqueros and pastores. Under the guidance of the ranch owner and his foreman, they worked the cattle or herded sheep. In later years, when cattle ranching gave way to cotton and other agricultural products, the Mexican-Americans came the field hands. An old-timer nicely summed up the relationship between the Mexican and other Texans when he said:
Pat Dunn was a son of Texas who grew up during the time of the often bloody antagonism between the Texans the Mexicans. He shared the prejudices and attitudes of his environment and time. On his ranch he followed the economic practices which prevailed throughout Nueces County. Like other ranchers he too employed Mexicans as his vaqueros and servants. And like the others his relationship to them was that of the paternalistic patron, "Don Patricio." A few of his servants were permanent employees. The vaqueros, who drove the cattle up the island during the twice-yearly roundups, were temporary employees. They were experienced cowboys whom the foreman hired in Corpus Christi or in smaller towns such as Robstown.
Dunn moved his family from Padre Island into Corpus around 1890. As his Padre Island ranch prospered, Dunn turned his attention to other activities and soon became one of Corpus Christi's leading citizens. From 1912 to 1915 he represented Nueces County in the Texas State Legislature. Among his friends were such prominent Texans as John Nance Garner, Richard King, and Edward Kleberg. When in Corpus, Dunn dressed and conducted himself in a manner fitting the prominent citizen. In later years he lived in a suite in the Driscoll Hotel, Corpus Christi's finest, and had a chauffeur-driven automobile. However, his heart always remained on Padre, where he spent much of his time. When Dunn went there, off came the city clothes and he became a man of the land, riding from one camp to the next, checking on the water tanks and working the cattle with his men. From all accounts he was a hard and strict boss, but always fair. Above all, he was the patton. At each of his line camps, such as Novillo, he constructed two houses. One was for his use and the other was for the men. He commanded and received obedience and loyalty. In the hierarchy of the cattle ranch, patron, foreman, and vaquero, each "knew his place" and behaved accordingly. In the evenings, after a hard day of working the cattle, Dunn was down by the fire eating carne quesada with his men. For Pat Dunn, there probably never was a grander companionship between men nor a better life.
For the vaquero, life on Padre Island was hard work. He of course did not work a conventional 8:00-to-5:00 with coffee breaks and a two-hour lunch. The day began at four in the morning and often ended long after the sun had sunk into the Laguna Madre. Food was ample, but plain. Breakfast, which consisted of bacon and eggs and the ever-present coffee, was prepared by the camp cook over an open fire. The men ate well, for it would be evening before they again sat down to a hot meal, Driving cattle was an all-day operation. Once the cattle were strung out, it was impossible to stop for an hour to eat lunch. Such a break would have upset the "V" and allowed the cows to wander. The men kept the animals moving until they were securely in a trap. During the day they carried food in their pockets and ate in the saddle. Dutch oven bread was the usual fare. This was a low-yeast bread, which the cook baked by placing the dough in a covered cast iron skillet and then covering the skillet with hot coals. The Dutch oven, which had become an item in Western museums, was in use on Padre as late as 1969. In addition to satisfying a hungry vaquero, Dutch oven bread had another function. As Jim Lynch, who has eaten a lot of the bread, put it, "You put some in your pocket and take it out to kill rattlesnakes."  After the men had driven the cattle into the trap, and had taken a dip in a water tank to wash away the day's grime and sand, they sat down to dinner. The meal may not have appealed to the television gourmet, but the bacon and beans or carne quesada satisfied the hungry crew. Meat did not come from a nearby supermarket in neat celophane covered packages. At the beginning of the drive the cook killed a calf and butchered it. Because there was no refrigeration, it was impossible to keep fresh meat. The cook cut the beef into thin strips and hung the strips over a wire to dry. Decades after this famous food had disappeared from the West, Padre Island cowboys were still eating jerked beef. Until 1969 the salted bacon and beans or jerked beef stew were prepared over an open camp fire. No vaquero strummed a guitar or played nostalgic melodies, but a scene of cowboys around a fire, which is a standard element of the cowboy's romantic life style in the "Old West," was a reality on Padre Island until 1969. In that year technology finally caught up with the vaquero. An ice refrigerator was installed at Novillo and the cook was supplied with a Coleman gas stove.
From 1879 to 1971 Dunn was a name synonymous with cattle ranching on Padre Island. Like Padre Balli, José María Továr, and John Singer before him, Pat Dunn adapted a major agricultural type of land utilization to Padre's natural environment. In so doing he defined a level of man's relationship to the island. Until 1926, Padre's major value was its adaptability to cattle raising. In that year other men came to Padre who felt the island possessed additional resources that merited exploitation. As Dunn had defined his level of relatedness to Padre in terms of cattle ranching, they would define theirs in terms of outdoor recreation.
Between 1879 and 1926 Pat Dunn had acquired legal ownership of almost all of Padre Island's 130,000 acres. During these years the exclusive use of the island had been as cattle ranch. Although many people from Corpus Christi and the communities along the coast south to Brownsville enjoyed fishing, hunting, and swimming on Padre, Dunn frowned on such trespassing. As early as the 1890s he placed notices in Corpus Christi and Brownsville papers declaring that anybody wishing to trespass on Padre required permission. In Dunn's eyes the island existed for the contentment of cattle and not for the benefit of Texans who wished to spend time outdoors.
By 1926, society on the Texas gulf coast had changed dramatically since the 1880s. Cattle ranching had been joined by cotton, vegetable and citrus fruit farms as regional agricultural activities. The towns and communities from Corpus to Brownsville experienced the typical cycles of prosperity and recession characteristic of American agriculture during these years, but they had continued to grow slowly and to prosper. As economic productivity increased, more and more people acquired the leisure time and incomes that allowed them to turn their attention to concerns other than "making a living." Outdoor recreation, which throughout the nineteenth century had been the prerogative of the rich, had by 1926 come within the reach of millions of Americans. An industry composed of such diverse elements as sport equipment manufactures, railroads, hotel and resort owners, and magazine publishers emerged to satisfy the public's demand for fun and relaxation in the great American outdoors. Remington, Yellowstone National Park, Miami Beach, and The National Geographic Magazine became national symbols of outdoor recreation.
On the south Texas gulf coast, entrepreneurs quickly recognized the economic potential for their region of this new industry called tourism. Like the southern parts of Florida and California, the Texas gulf coast in the area of the Rio Grande Valley enjoys a semi-tropical climate. When it is freezing in Minneapolis, Chicago, Denver, and Kansas City, it is balmy in Brownsville and warm in Corpus Christi. Texans hoped that just as New Yorkers traveled to Miami Beach and people on the west coast to Santa Monica, so Midwest citizens would come to the south Texas gulf coast. One Texan, an entrepreneur named Col. Sam Robertson, took a look at Padre Island with its beautiful white beach and had a vision.
It is unknown when Robertson first approached Pat Dunn to discuss the possibility of purchasing Padre Island. As early as 1911, the island's recreation potential had been recognized, but no serious attempt had been made to develop the island. It is also unknown why Pat Dunn decided to sell to Robertson. It is possible that Dunn, always the clever Texas cattle trader, might have thought Robertson would not make a go of Padre. Should Robertson be unable to make his payments, the island would revert to Pat Dunn. In any case on February 1, 1926, Pat Dunn conveyed to Sam A. Robertson all his holdings on Padre Island. The price was $125,000.  Dunn retained mineral and grazing rights. Although the land passed out of his hands in 1926, the Dunn cattle operation continued until 1971.
Robertson had no sooner purchased Padre than he set out to turn the island into the Miami Beach of the Texas gulf coast. His first problem was to find ways for tourists to get to the island. Visitors arriving in Corpus in Fords or Buicks or at Port Aransas via steamers from New Orleans could not be expected to ford the Laguna Madre like Pat Dunn and his vaqueros. In 1927 Robertson constructed the first causeway between Flour Bluff and the northern end of the island. He called it the Don Patricio Causeway after Pat Dunn. It consisted of four wooden troughs supported by a trestle. Each pair of troughs, which were as wide as the standard automobile, allowed two-way traffic to and from the island (see illustrations). One wonders who backed up when a driver took the wrong set of troughs and met another car in the middle of the Laguna Madre. A photograph of the causeway shows a charming sign which informed the Padre visitor that there was no charge for fishing, but he was requested to "please do not leave fish and bait in the troughs" (see illustrations). In the first month of its operation, the Don Patricio Causeway registered 1,800 cars. In the second month 2,500 vehicles passed over it to Padre. The number fell there after.
In addition to the Don Patricio Causeway, Robertson stationed ferries at Port Aransas and built a bridge over the Corpus Christi Pass. At the south end he stationed another ferry. The ferries and the bridge allowed visitors coming from the north and south to reach the respective ends of the island without having to go around Corpus Christi Bay or make the long journey north to the Don Patricio Causeway.
At the same time as he solved the problem of access to Padre, Robertson also developed accommodations for the expected tourist influx. As part of his plan to link the two ends of the island in a long ocean beach drive, Robertson built a hotel and about five houses. He located the hotel and four of the five houses within the southernmost 45 miles of the island, which is warmer in winter than the north end. The fifth house was located at the north end about three and a half miles below the causeway.  Unfortunately, little is known about these structures. There are apparently no photographs of them. In addition, he put in a telephone line joining the houses.
Little is known concerning the promotional effort Robertson undertook to attract visitors to Padre. He might have published advertisements in newspapers throughout the Midwest. It is probable that the Chambers of Commerce in Corpus and Brownsville also performed various public relations activities in support of Robertson's Padre vacation paradise. It was all to no avail. Although more and more people from the Midwest states were coming to the Rio Grande Valley to spend the winter, Padre attracted only a few. By 1930 it had become apparent that Robertson's grand plan to transform Padre into the Miami Beach of the Texas gulf coast had failed. The tourist boom just did not develop. When the depression struck in 1929, Robertson was no longer able to make his payments. However, instead of allowing Padre to revert to Dunn, Robertson sold his interests on the island to two brothers from Kansas City named Albert and Frank Jones.
The Jones brothers formed a company called the Ocean Beach Drive Corporation to continue Robertson's development. However, they apparently invested little or nothing in the island. When in 1933 an especially harsh hurricane hit Padre, it blew away all of Robertson's investment including the Don Patricio Causeway. The first story of the hotel survived and for many years was used as a bathing house. As of 1933, the first attempt to turn Padre into a vacation and resort area had failed. The island once again became the domain of Dunn's cattle, a few fishermen, and beach combers.
Although Robertson failed in his efforts to develop Padre's outdoor recreation potential, he did make a contribution to changing the American's relationship to the island. Before Robertson's attempts to develop Padre, the people of the Texas gulf coast thought of the island primarily in terms of Dunn's cattle ranch. By the time the 1933 hurricane blew away the Don Patricio Causeway the same people also thought of Padre in terms of the opportunities the island presented for outdoor recreation. The number of people visiting Padre was small, much too small to support a hotel and tourist cabins. A few people, however, had learned to enjoy fishing on the island. Still others valued it for the opportunity Padre presented to visit an untouched natural environment where one could spend a weekend walking the beach, observing the bird life, collecting shells, or just watching the sea.
Between 1933 and 1950 little happened on Padre. The Ocean Beach Drive Corporation continued to own the land, but it made no developments which would have changed the island's environment. On the main land the situation was exactly the opposite. The exploitation of oil and natural gas on the Texas gulf coast transformed the area. Corpus Christi changed from a small town supplying ranchers, farmers, and commercial fishermen into a booming seaport with refineries and industrial facilities. Oil was but one cause of change. World War II was another. The war brought military bases to south Texas and bases brought people and incomes. Economic growth, long an American goal and a Texas obsession, brought with it an increase in demands for more and better goods and services. One of the services which many demanded was public facilities for outdoor recreation.
Although Padre Island was almost untouched between 1933 and 1950, it remained an object of interest. With the discovery of underground minerals on the gulf coast, oil companies quickly moved in and purchased leases on Padre. During the 1940s natural gas wells on the island itself and oil wells offshore started pumping their valuable natural resources to the mainland. The oil companies did construct permanent facilities on Padre, but in general they do not intrude on the natural landscape.
With the outbreak of WW II, Padre Island became off limits for all but those having business there. The Navy, apparently thinking Padre's beach, which for over a century had been used by smugglers of everything from cotton to liquor, would also present a temptation to foreign enemies desiring to infiltrate spies and saboteurs ashore from submarines, decided to patrol the beach. The United States Coast Guard was assigned the task. For the duration of the war armed Coast Guard patrols with German shepherd dogs routinely marched back and forth along the beach. The men were quartered in Quonset huts built approximately six miles apart. Those who spent the war on Padre found the sand and rattlesnakes to be greater enemies than the Germans or Japanese. There is no record that any enemy was ever caught sneaking over the beach.
At the end of the war, the Navy retained an interest in Padre. The island's proximity to the large Corpus Christi Naval Air Training Station and its desolation in terms of human occupants made Padre an ideal bombing range. The Navy set up targets on the island, and for about 13 to 15 years the harmony of waves beating on the beach was often interrupted by the crashing dissonance of exploding ordnance. Dunn's cattle adjusted well to this activity. It is said they by themselves quickly moved away from the targets when they heard the planes coming and somehow knew when a day's practice was over.
Between 1933 and 1950 Padre's principal inhabitants were the Dunns and their vaqueros, the Coast Guard, and the Navy. Other men also lived on the island during these years, but there is little record of their activities. They were fishermen, men who worked for the oil companies maintaining the equipment, and beachcombers. The best known of these men is a gentleman named Louis C. Rawalt. Lou Rawalt was born in 1898 on the gulf coast and attended high school at Portland.  When the United States entered World War I he enlisted in the army and saw action in France, where he was wounded on November 10, 1918. At the end of the war, Rawalt spent two semesters at the University of Paris. Returning to Texas, he spent two years fighting the effects of his wounds and then entered the University of Texas, where he studied during 1922 and 1923. Still carrying shrapnel in his body, he was forced to give up his studies and seek further medical attention, which he received by joining the Navy. In 1925, seven years after the end of the war, Rawalt finally left the hospitals and doctors behind and returned to Corpus Christi. Remembering that he and his brother had sailed and fished around Padre Island as children, Rawalt decided to go there and make his living. For the last 46 years the island has been his home and fascination. It has provided a living, adventure, and an education.
At one time or another, Lou Rawalt worked at almost every one of the many ways a man could earn a living on Padre. Fishing was a primary occupation. For the thirty years between 1925 and 1955 Rawalt spent some time out of almost every year fishing. In the beginning he lived in a tent near Corpus Christi Pass. Equipped with a 16-foot boat, he transported his catch to Corpus Christi. After the construction of the Don Patricio Causeway, Lou purchased an old Model T pick up. Once a week he loaded his catch into the pick-up and transported it to town. In town he purchased supplies for the week and returned to the island. Fishing consisted of throwing lines with a couple of hooks baited with mullet out into the surf. To preserve the fish until they could be taken to market, Rawalt had two large iceboxes of 500- and 3,000-pound capacities. The first was taken to the fishing site. When it was full, Rawalt took it to his main camp, dumped the contents into the 3,000pound box, and returned to get another 500-pound load. As the years passed, Rawalt moved up and down the island, living at approximately seven different locations. A Model A Ford converted to a pick-up replaced the Model T. Housing also improved. Like so many before him, Rawalt built his structures from materials found on the beach. Timbers, tar paper, and tar were the basic materials. Heat came from wood burning in sand-filled barrels. He constructed furniture from drift wood. Water came from wells dug in the time honored tradition of the Indians and Padre Balli. Food was simple, but adequate. From the island came coquina, fish, sea greens, and occasional wild fowl. Supplies bought in town included beans, salt, potatoes, coffee, flour, sugar, salted pork, and some fresh meat.
When it came time to send his children to school, Lou moved the family into Corpus. During WW II he was one of the few men allowed to remain on the island. Except for a two-year break from 1947 to 1949, Rawalt made his home on Padre until 1955. With the opening of the Padre Island Causeway in 1950, more and more people were coming to the island. Although Rawalt moved his camp site far down the island to the wreck of the Nicaragua, his cabin was repeatedly vandalized. In 1955 he moved up to the causeway and set up the combination store, gas station, and bait stand which remains his headquarters.
In addition to fishing on the island, Rawalt worked at a number of other jobs. He sometimes worked for the Dunn ranch during roundup. He guided people to Padre and showed them the best place to fish and camp. He combed the beach, often selling his finds. In 1948 the Saturday Evening Post published a story dealing with Padre's beach treasure entitled "Isle of Plunder." The article contained several photographs of Lou Rawalt and depicted him as Padre's number one beachcomber.  From 1947 to 1949 he worked with Dr. Armstrong Price, the well-known south Texas geologist and conservationist, who at the time was preparing a geological survey of the Padre for the oil companies. During this time, Rawalt designed several tools which the oil company adopted in their drilling operations on Padre.
Rawalt's life on Padre Island was not a romantic existence of man living in harmony with nature and subsisting from the land. By working hard he was able to earn a living on the island, but his was never an affluent existence. As the years passed Padre did become more than just a place to live and work. It became a fascination which ranged across several disciplines. Although not formally trained in any one discipline, Rawalt educated himself in geology, biology, archeology, and history. In pursuing each of these interests he turned to Padre. The island became his laboratory, primary source, and archeological site. He knows Padre's flora and fauna, can discuss its geology, and has researched its history. Above all, archeology interested him. Padre is in fact one large archeological site. The sands turn up artifacts from the Indian, Spanish, and American periods. During the long years of walking Padre's beach and dunes, Rawalt developed an archeologist's eye for artifacts. His collection, which he has painstakingly catalogued, is probably one of the finest private collections on the Texas gulf coast. It has been coveted by university professors and famous museums.
Like Padre Balli, John Singer, and Pat Dunn, Lou Rawalt defined a level of man's historical relatedness to Padre's natural environment. The island sustained him as fisherman, ranch hand, tourist guide, beach comber, oil field worker, and store owner. As flora and fauna, barrier island, landscape, and source of ancient artifacts, Padre provided intellectual stimulation and spiritual satisfaction. Man's historical interaction with nature on Padre Island has been varied. Lou Rawalt is another witness to that variety.
When the 1933 hurricane blew away the Don Patricio Causeway joining Padre Island to the mainland to Flour Bluff, easy access to Padre came to an end. For the next eight years, a variety of ambitious plans to develop the island circulated in Corpus and Brownsville, but no actual development took place. During World War II, which absorbed the attention and energies of the people of the region, the public discussion of turning Padre into a Miami Beach was dropped. After the war, interest quickly revived. By 1948, plans were on the drawing boards for a new causeway. With the completion of the causeway in 1950, Padre once again became readily accessible. Land owners made plans to subdivide the area for residential and commercial development.
At the south end development took a similar course. During the 1930s a few people had constructed beach houses on Padre. A "casino," in which the rooms were reportedly identified by the name of their female occupants, flourished. At the end of the war developers energetically began to make plans to turn the southern section into a resort combining beach houses and hotels. As had been the case at the northern end, access to Padre was a major problem. After the usual public pressure a causeway was constructed linking Padre with the mainland at Port Isabel. Completed in 1954 the causeway signaled the beginning of a large scale promotional effort by hard-sell real estate developers intent on selling lots on Padre. Eventually, it was hoped, development of beach houses, hotels, marinas, and motels would reach all the way to the Mansfield Cut.
While businessmen from Corpus to Brownsville concentrated their energies on developing the island's tourist and residential capacity, others turned their attention to developing Padre's outdoor recreation potential. Recognizing that private development could possibly limit the enjoyment of the island's natural values to a privileged few, they set out to preserve the public's right also to enjoy Padre. There was nothing new in the desire to create areas of public access on Padre. As early as 1936 a bill had been introduced in the Texas legislature to purchase a large portion of the island and turn it into a state park. Actively pushed by such Padre Island enthusiasts as Corpus Christi's William Neyland, the bill received wide support throughout south Texas. A Padre Island Association formed to arouse public opinion in support of the bill and 35 towns expressed their sympathy.  The legislature passed the bill and authorized $400,000 to purchase land. Governor James Allred, however, vetoed the bill, contending that the true ownership of the island had not yet been legally decided. It was possible the state already owned a large portion of Padre. (In "State of Texas vs. Balli et. al.," which was finally settled in 1945, the Texas Supreme Court ruled that the original Spanish land grant covered the entire island. Those claiming under that grant were the legal owners. The state had maintained that the grant covered only eleven and a half leagues, or 50,912 acres of Padre's approximately 130,000 acres.)
After World War II, interest in public facilities on the island revived as quickly as private real estate development plans. In 1949 one thousand acres were set aside at the north end for a Nueces County Park. At the south end two county parks called Isla Blanca and Andy Bowie were established. Nevertheless, these county parks were very small. The real issue of what was to become of Padre's extensive undeveloped natural environment was still to be decided. Some suggested that the island should become a national park.
The idea that Padre Island was a natural resource ideally suited to becoming a national park was also not new. As early as the 1940s a few Texans had thought that a national park would be the best way of preserving the island's almost untouched natural environment. They were in a long tradition. Since the second half of the nineteenth century the national park had become a institution by means of which Americans preserved natural resources. The roots of the institution are deep and complex. In a broad cultural sense a park represents a response to the environmental circumstances created by American civilization. Historically the transition or transformation of the natural environment from a natural to an artificial condition was one of the most important pre-conditions for the creation of national parks. The American industrial revolution in the nineteenth century and a literal explosion of technological creativity in the twentieth century reduced nature to an object of scientific understanding and technological exploitation. Bulldozers moved mountains, plows carved the land, and dams changed the course of rivers. Cities and towns with their goods and service industries replaced the farm and village as the country's population centers. The environment in which most Americans lived became one which man himself had created.
The man-made or artificial environment made it necessary for the American to redefine his relationship to nature. An element of this new definition was the national park idea. The creation of national parks preserved selected natural resources from undergoing the transition from a natural to an artificial condition. These resources would remain as nature created them and the hand of man held at a distance. Americans recognized that their relatedness to the land took place on many levels. Economic exploitation of natural resources was one level indispensable to material progress and prosperity. Prosperity became synonymous with growth and growth was measurable in terms of increases in the GNP, rising per capita income, new housing starts, bushels per acre, miles of highways constructed, and automobile units produced. But there were also other levels of man's relationship to nature in addition to the economic. These levels were more qualitative than quantitative. They were theological, intellectual, scientific, esthetic, and psycho-biological. For many Americans, nature was a God-created cosmos. In experiencing nature as God created it, one achieved transcendent union with the divine. In terms of intellectual ideas, many Americans conceptualized nature as wilderness. Wilderness was defined as an untouched natural environment similar to the environment their forefathers struggled to overcome in building a nation. For other Americans, nature was a place to learn. By studying nature according to the forms of knowledge of the natural and physical sciences, one learned how and why nature worked. Still others perceived nature as landscape possessing scenic or esthetic values. Finally, for most Americans, nature was a place where civilized urban man could "get away from it all," i.e., from the artificial environment of cities, factories, and offices with their attendant social and psychological pressures. In a natural environment, one could seek a more simple existence and in swimming, boating, camping, fishing, and the like cultivate psychological and physical health. Conservation and preservation groups articulated these needs and demanded that society preserve natural and recreational areas where the American could experience these human ways of being in relation to nature. Society's answer was the creation of an institution called the national park.
As the movement to make a national park out of Padre Island gathered momentum between 1955 and 1960, the area's supporters spoke of the island in terms long familiar in the American conservation and preservation movement. First, the island's environment was almost totally untouched. Save for the residential and commercial developments at the two ends near the causeways, Padre remained as nature created it. As of 1955 there were few, if any, coastal barrier islands that could make this claim. Padre was an example of a Barrier island as they existed before the Americans began to alter nature. In preserving Padre from development and exploitation, one preserved a specimen of the primitive American landscape as the Indians, the explorers, and the pioneers experienced it.
Padre's unmodified condition led many to perceive the island in wilderness terms. "The spell of Padre is brought about by its suggestion of a primeval world," a Padre Island admirer wrote in Travel, one of the country's leading outdoor magazines. "Infinity seems close at hand with a thousand miles of the Gulf of Mexico on one hand and the unconquered island on the other." On Padre the visitor could "gaze across infinity and fill his spirit with the fruits of silence and contemplation on one of American's true island idylls."  Padre's wilderness value became one of the principal themes presented by those desiring the creation of a national park. Wilderness and commercial development were incompatible. If one wished to preserve Padre's untouched wilderness, commercialism must be kept out. Testifying in support of the bill to create a national park on Padre Island, a representative of the San Antonio Conservation Society contended that the area, "when it becomes a reality, will be the greatest gift, of natural wilderness type beauty, and, if I may coin a word, un-Miamied commercialism all of us could leave to our descendants." 
Padre's wilderness natural environment was many things to many people. Some perceived it in terms of infinity and others as a God created harmony of natural phenomena. Above all, Padre's wilderness was a place where civilized man could retreat from the complexities of modern society and find a more simple and natural existence. Experiencing the island's wilderness brought psychological benefits. As one wilderness lover put it, Padre was "a vast wilderness of sea, sand, and surf where it is possible to escape the anxieties, tensions, and complexities of our time." In escaping from modern society, man returned to nature where he discovered one of the primordial conditions of his existence. "Padre Island's primitive conditions pit a man against the elements." 
Padre's wilderness condition was only one of its values. The same environment also had scientific value. Padre constituted an outdoor laboratory and museum for all those interested in the natural and physical sciences. The island's natural history had interested scientists since the turn of the century. In 1891 a naturalist named William Lloyd had visited Padre. His observations were published in Vernon Baily's North American Fauna, Biological Survey of Texas. Describing the islands' vegetation, Lloyd wrote that shin-oak "extends from the north end for about a mile and continues on sandy hills on the lagoon side for five or six miles further. This is usually six inches to eighteen inches high, but there are trees, perhaps a different species, six to eight feet high. As this oak is always loaded with acorns, even now it is the favorite wintering ground of birds such as wood ibis, whooping and sand hill cranes."  Lloyd saw deer and coyotes and noted the absence of hackberry, mesquite, and Mexican persimmon, all of which were found on the nearby mainland.
Although Padre never acquired a reputation for possessing unique or distinguished scientific value, it remained of interest to many naturalists. The south Texas gulf coast lies at the end of the central flyway. Literally thousands of birds migrate yearly to the area and rookeries abound. Professional and amateur ornithologists have long had an interest in the region and were instrumental in the establishment of the Aransas Wildlife Refuge to protect the whooping crane. In the 1930s the National Audubon Society took a special interest in two prominent rookeries in the Laguna Madre called the Bird Islands. When the plans to build the Intercoastal Canal and a causeway to Padre Island were first presented in the late 1940s, the society became alarmed. Praising Padre for its remoteness, the society claimed the two projects might do ecological damage to the area. "The time to save a natural environment," it was pointed out, "is before it is made accessible, not after,"  The canal and causeway were constructed and in themselves did not damage the environment. Nevertheless, interest in preserving Padre for its wildlife value had been aroused. When in the 1950s the area came up for consideration as a national park, naturalists immediately supported the proposal Dr. Eula Whitehouse, a representative of the Dallas Audubon Society and the Texas Ornithologist Society, testified at the hearings held in Corpus Christi in 1959. He expressed the sentiments of the natural science community when he said, "I come to you as a Texan, a botanist, and an artist to plead for the preservation of Padre Island as a living outdoor museum and a place of beauty."  He described Padre as being a mecca for scientists desiring to study an undisturbed ecological balance. Robert Mitchell, a biology professor from Lamar State College, provided further support. He told the senators, "We strongly feel that the best interests of scientific study would be served only if the entire island, from its beginning in the temperate zone at Corpus Christi to its semitropical zone termination at Port Isabel, be preserved,"  The island's geology was also of great interest. According to the editor of Recreation, another nationally distributed outdoor magazine, "Padre is a classical example of an offshore bar and presents an excellent opportunity to witness and study the forces of sea disposition and erosion at work."  Conservation groups and garden clubs throughout Texas wrote petitions on Padre's behalf and a host of scientists supported the area with expert testimony. All shared a similar concept: Padre Island, which presented a rare instance of an unmodified barrier island environment, should be preserved as a place where the American could engage nature in the dialogue of the natural and physical sciences.
Another value that Padre's supporters perceived in the island's unspoiled natural environment centered on outdoor recreation. Like the wilderness idea, this concept also distinguished between the environment created by civilization. and the environment created by nature. Civilization's environment harmed the Americans physical and psychological well-being. On the other hand, nature's environment was good for what ailed the body and mind. Padre Island offered the opportunity to play in a natural environment and thus cultivate psycho-biological health. Look magazine pointed out that Padre's "size and unspoiled character give the island a fascinating atmosphere of spaciousness and isolation."  Such an atmosphere was ideal for surfing, horseback riding, swimming, and other outdoor activities.
Although Texas Senator Ralph Yarborough, one of the fathers of Padre Island National Seashore, introduced the first Padre bill in 1958, hearings were not held until 1959. The original bill called for the creation of a national park. At the same time two other coastal areas, Point Reyes, California, and Cape Cod, Massachusetts, were also being considered for preservation. All three areas possessed some of the traditional characteristics of a national park, but they were located on the sea and would also include extensive recreational facilities. It was decided to call them national seashores.
At the 1959 hearing held in Corpus Christi, Senator Yarborough outlined the basic political and social reason for the new national seashore. "We in Texas," he said, "do not want a Miami type of development here. The right to go down to the sea is a natural right and should be recognized as one of the inalienable rights of man."  Everyone in Texas agreed that Americans should have the right to access to the sea on Padre Island. However, some disagreed on how much access they should have. The owners of Padre Island and those interested in real estate and commercial development felt that the proposed seashore should be limited to thirty or at the most fifty miles. As one developer who envisioned hotels and motels put the case, "Millions of Americans who could and would enjoy this great shoreline very likely would go instead to other coastal areas where they could enjoy some of the wonders of private enterprise along with the wonders of nature." 
The conservation groups opposed this position, claiming that the new area should include at least eighty to ninety of Padre's 115 miles. Thinking of Miami Beach-type development, one conservationist claimed that "There would undoubtedly be a picture window view of the sea, if one is fortunate enough to be located on the right side of the structure, but the beach might prove to be a bit crowded. Beach developers advertise the wild, romantic appeal of sand and surf, but they fail to mention how little beauty is left after development gets underway." 
In addition to the question of the area's size, there were also the problems of mineral rights and the Navy's use of Padre as a bombing target. Both considerations delayed action on the bill. In 1961, additional hearings were held in Washington. A representative of one of the oil companies holding leases on Padre appeared and testified that "We are not opposed to the park. All we want to do is to see that we have continued mineral rights that we have at this time."  In Texas, mineral rights are often viewed as another of man's natural rights. The bill was worded to guarantee that all mineral rights would remain dominant after the seashore's establishment. When the Department of Defense informed the committee that the loss of the Padre Island targets would not affect operations at the Corpus Christi base with its sizeable payroll this issue was settled. The size of the seashore remained a problem. The owners continued to insist that as much of the island as possible be left free for private development. The conservation groups on the other hand insisted that as much of the island as possible be preserved. When Texas business interests, the mayor of Corpus Christi, and the editor of the Corpus Christi Caller-Times lined up behind an 88-mile size, this issue was also settled. As a representative of the East Texas Chamber of Commerce, thinking of the tourist attraction of a national seashore, testified, "We are vitally interested in this legislation in view of the far reaching effect it would have on the future development of this area of Texas, which we believe has great possibilities for development into another gold coast." 
In 1962, Congress passed the legislation authorizing the establishment of Padre Island National Seashore. The final step of purchasing the land remained. The issue went to court and the Federal Government was ordered to pay approximately $17,000,000 for the present seashore. Padre's value had increased, to say the least, since the days when José María Továr valued his half ownership at $1,000 or when Pat Dunn sold for $125,000. A Texas-sized natural wonder brought Texas-sized fortunes to its owners. Although the people paid a large dollar-and-cent price for the national seashore, there are those who argue that Padre Island is priceless. As of 1962, Padre Island's natural environment was preserved.
Last Updated: 16-Mar-2007