Time Line

Date Padre Island Events World Events
circa 6,000 BC to circa 5,500 BC The first people inhabit what is now the Texas coast. Beginning of settled agriculture in Egypt's Nile river valley and in India.
3,000 BC Earliest estimated formation of the island Pyramid of Giza built in ancient Egypt; Stonehenge built in ancient Britain
1,000 BC Latest estimated formation of the island Hebrew elders begin writing the Old Testament according to which Solomon succeeds David as King of Israel at about this time; the Olmec civlization of Mexico flourishes
1,000 AD Arrival of the people known archeologically as the Rockport focus. The Karankawa Indians, who inhabited the Texas coast 500 years later, are believed to have been part of this focus. Prior to the emergence of the Rockport focus, a less-developed group known as the Aransas focus inhabited the area of the south Texas coast. Classic pueblo culture of the Anasazi of the American Southwest flourishes circa 1000 to 1300; Viking Leif Eriksson discovers North America and names it Vinland; Beowulf, the first work of English literature, written about this time in Old English.
1492 Peoples now known as the Coahuiltecans and Karankawas probably come to forage on Padre Island. Discovery of the New World by Christopher Columbus
1519 Alonso Alvarez De Pineda maps the Gulf of Mexico. Magellan begins first circumnavigation of the globe. Martin Luther is active in Germany. Hernando Cortes conquers Mexico for Spain. Leonardo da Vinci dies of natural causes.
1527-1537 Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca and shipmates are shipwrecked on the Texas coast while returning from a disastrous Spanish expedition to present-day Florida. Cabeza de Vaca and a few others survive several years as captives of the Indians in south Texas and probably in the Padre Island area and eventually rejoin Spanish civilization in California after having crossed the continent on foot. Cabeza de Vaca's book Adventures in the Unknown Interior of America is the primary source for most current knowledge on the Texas coastal Indians of that time. Pizarro marches from Panama to Peru (1532); Machiavelli's The Prince is published (1532); the English Reformation begins as Henry VIII of England declares himself head of the English Church after being excommunicated from the Catholic Church by the Pope (1535); Jacques Cartier sails up the St. Lawrence river and lays claim to Canada for France (1535).
1542 The last remnants of Hernando De Soto's ill-fated expedition led by Moscoso raft past Padre Island en route Vera Cruz. Whether they landed on the island is unknown. The Spanish discover California, and in Central America they complete the conquest of the Mayan civilization.
1554 In late April, three Spanish transport ships, known as naos, wreck on Padre Island after a storm. This is the first documented instance of Europeans on Padre Island. Although approximately 300 people survive the wrecks, only one is known to have survived the overland trek back to Vera Cruz. One other survives by waiting at the wreck site until salvage ships arrive the following year. Mary I "Bloody Mary", Queen of England and daughter of Henry VIII, marries Philip II of Spain, who becomes king of Spain on the abdication of his father, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V in 1556.
1620 Pilgrims land at Plymouth Rock
1685-1687 In 1686 and 1687, the Spanish send naval expeditions to search for La Salle's colony, but never find it. They do, however, record descriptions of Padre Island as they pass. In February 1685, the French explorer Robert Cavalier Sieur de La Salle establishes Ft. St. Louis on Matagorda Bay in Texas (about 70 miles north of Padre Island) after searching in vain for the mouth of the Mississippi River. The fort is later found abandoned.
1700 Establishment of Spanish colony of Nuevo Santender, which encompasses present-day south Texas Virginia is the largest English colony in North America. Population estimates vary from 58,000 to 70,000.
1766 After rumors of an English attempt to establish a colony in the area reach the Spanish government, a reconnaissance party under the command of Colonel Diego Ortiz Parilla is sent to scout the area. The party does not find evidence of an English settlement, but does reconnoiter Padre Island, resulting in one of the earliest maps of the area. English chemist Henry Cavendish announces his discovery of hydrogen, which he terms "inflammable air"; the British Parliament repeals the Stamp Act in the American colonies; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart tours Paris and London.
1776 The United States of America declares independence from England.
1804 Padre Nicolas Balli establishes the first permanent European settlement (a ranch) on the island. Napoleon proclaims himself emperor of France. Alexander Hamilton is mortally wounded in duel with Aaron Burr. Lewis and Clark begin the exploration of what is now the northwestern U.S.
1821-1826 Legends and rumors say the pirate Jean Lafitte is rumored to have used Corpus Christi Pass (present-day Packery Channel) on the island's northern tip as a hideaway in which to repair his ships and in which to have buried treasure during this time. Little evidence supports this. (1821) Napoleon Bonaparte dies in exile. (1822) Joseph and Claude Niepce produce the first photograph. (1823) The US establishes the Monroe Doctrine. (1824) Louis Braille introduces the Braille alphabet. (1825) In England, the first locomotive to regularly carry passengers and freight makes its initial trip.
1821 Padre Island becomes part of Mexico. Mexico declares independence from Spain.
1836 As a result of the war, Padre Island is in an area claimed by both Mexico and Texas. Texas War for Independence
1845-48 (1845) General Zachary Taylor, having camped at the site of present day Corpus Christi for several months, sends a reconnaissance party down Padre Island to scout a possible route to Mexico. Subsequently, General Taylor decides against the island route and marches via the mainland fighting the battle of Palo Alto along the way. After the war, Padre Island becomes part of the US. US War with Mexico
1860-65 In December 1862, Confederates win a skirmish with Union forces at Corpus Christi Pass, now called Packery Channel, on the northern tip of the island. The engagement is called "the Affair on Padre Island". Throughout the war, troops from Union blockaders off the coast occasionally come onto the island to rustle cattle for supplies. The American Civil War
1879 Patrick Dunn establishes the Dunn Ranch and eventually owns approximately two thirds of the island. Thomas Edison invents the electric light bulb; Albert Einstein born.
1913 The SS Nicaragua runs aground on the island during a storm. The little that remains of her can still be seen at low tide 10 miles north of the park's southern boundary. Henry Ford introduces the first true assembly line.
1926 Colonel Sam Robertson buys Patrick Dunn's surface holdings on Padre Island with an eye to establishing a tourist industry on the island. However, the deal allows Mr. Dunn to still operate his ranch on the island and he retains the mineral rights. Robert Goddard launches the first liquid-fuel propelled rocket.
1927-1933 The first overland connection between Corpus Christi and Padre Island, the Don Patricio Causeway (named in Spanish for Patrick Dunn), is built by Colonel Sam Robertson and destroyed a few years later by a hurricane. (1929) The stock market crashes and begins the Great Depression. (1933) Hitler assumes power in Germany. (1933) Prohibition is repealed in the US.
1936 Patrick Dunn leases the mineral rights to his Padre Island property for twenty years to the Sun Oil Company. In Germany, Konrad Zuse builds a primitive form of digital computer. In England, the British Broadcasting Corporation begins the first daily electronic public television broadcasts.
1941-1945 The US Navy establishes a bombing range on the island. The Coast Guard patrols the island to protect against German spies and saboteurs infiltrating the area from U-boats. Access to the island is limited for national security. The Second World War
1945-1960 Padre Island continues to be used as a bombing range by the US Navy. The descendants of Pat Dunn continue to use the island as a ranch. Alaska and Hawaii become the 49th and 50th states in 1959.
1950 Padre Island Causeway opens. The US enters the Korean Conflict.
1951 First documented drilling for minerals on North Padre Island. The Soviet Union develops its first atomic bomb.
1957 Senator Yarborough initiates the founding legislation of Padre Island National Seashore. The Soviet Union launches Sputnik thus beginning the "space race".
1962 Signing of the National Seashore's founding legislation by President John F. Kennedy on September 28. Telstar, the first active communications satellite is launched and transmits the first transatlantic television images; Rachel Carson's Silent Spring is published and creates a stir in the environmental movement.
1962-69 Land acquired for Padre Island NS The US becomes increasingly involved and then committed in the war in Vietnam. In 1969 Neil Armstrong becomes the first man on the moon during the Apollo 11 mission.
1970 Padre Island National Seashore opens to the public. The first "jumbo jet", the Boeing 747, goes into service. About 20 million Americans participate in the first Earth Day on April 22. The floppy disc is introduced for storing computer information. The US Department of Defense begins developing the Global Positioning System. Apollo 13 is launched.
1971 Last of the Dunn Ranch cattle leave the island ending the ranching era. Ray Tomlinson, a computer scientist, writes the first e-mail program and introduces the use of the @ sign. Sony introduces the videocassette. Texas Instruments introduces the first pocket calculator. Intel introduces the first microprocessor chip.

Last updated: October 2, 2021

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