Bay City: A settlement that arose from the prairie

Matagorda CountyTXGenWeb
There was a fence around the Matagorda County courthouse square. This early photo shows a windmill and wooden buildings along one side of the square. Fire was a constant concern with so many wooden buildings and after several fires around the square, buildings were replaced with brick ones.

   EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 125th anniversary of Bay City’s founding in 1894.
   Since several events occurred in September that year, the Bay City Sentinel will feature the history of Bay City written the late Matagorda County historian Mary Belle Ingram throughout September.
By Mary B. Ingram
   “Bay City,” a name often misleading to strangers, is twenty-five miles from the beach and the Gulf of Mexico. 
   It is so named because the town lies in the center of the vast area of prairie land which has been known as Bay Prairie since the days of Stephen F. Austin in the early 1820s.
   J.A. Allhand’s 1931 book, Gringo Builders, tells the beginning of Bay City as follows:   
   You only have to go back to a summer day in 1894 to get the eginning of Bay City. 
   Out of the raw material of rich Bay prairie, whfrom whence Bay City receives its name, and the facile minds of G.M. Magill and N.M. Vogelsang, was this city born. 
   In that day there was no settlement  near, not even a shack, and it was rather unpropitious time, too, for that was a year of depression and nemployment when the country was tramped by idle mobs, a time when the famous Coxey Army of jobless men was marching across country to Washington, D.C. 
   Only a few months previous, commercial failures in the United States had been rampant, when over 500 banks and loan companies went down in the crash, and receivership over-took some 150 railroads.
   The broad prairie land was still untouched and unused except for cattle grazing. 
   The farming area was confined to Caney Bottoms, where an abundance of corn, cotton and cane were produced, and, until claimed by the flood waters of the Colorado, there was little settlement on the east bank of that stream. 
  A 640-acre tract, 20 miles from the coast and near the Colorado River was acquired, one-half of which was purchased from D.P. Moore for the sum of $1 per acre, and, as a further consideration, some lot concessions in the town-to-be.
   In 1894 the Bay City Town Company was formed by the following men: G.M. Magill, N.M. Vogelsang, N. King and N. Swickheimer.
   Many cities “just happen,” but not so with Bay City. Cutting the tall grass and weeds, so a survey could be made and the lots properly staked, Ma-gill & Vogelsang, managers, proceeded to layout a model townsite. 

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