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DICKINSON, TEXAS

Galveston County, Texas Gulf Coast

2927'38"N 9503'14"W (29.460467, -95.053856)
State Hwy 3
19 miles NW of Galveston
28 miles SE of Houston
Population: 20,881 Est. (2018)
18,680 (2010) 17,093 (2000) 11,692 (1990)

Book Hotel HereDickinson Hotels

History in a Pecan Shell

By Clint Skinner

Located in the northwestern section of Galveston County along State Highway 3, the city of Dickinson lies 19 miles northwest of Galveston and and 28 miles southeast of Houston. It was named after John Dickinson, one of Stephen F. Austin's Old Three Hundred. In 1824, he purchased a land grant from Mexico and moved to an area north of current-day Dickinson. Around 1850, Dickinson Bayou became the site for the first settlement.

The railroad eventually made its way to the town in a quest to link Henderson to Galveston. In 1859, a depot was built on the property once owned by John Dickinson for the purpose of serving the Galveston, Houston, and Henderson Railroad. Because of its location, everyone called the building Dickinson Station and the area it served by the same name. This practice continued, despite efforts to use other names in refering to the region.

During the Civil War, the Nolan Home of Dickinson served as a hospital for the Confederacy. General John B. Magruder traveled through the region using the GH&H Railroad to move troops in preparation for the defense of Galveston Bay. The resulting success of the campaign in 1863 meant that the Texas coast would remain in Confederate hands for the rest of the war. Not much happened in Dickinson after the state rejoined the Union until 1890, when a post office opened its doors to the public.

Sometime during the 1890s, Fred M. Nichols, the son of prominent railroad director Ebenezer B. Nichols, met with eight businessmen and formed the Dickinson Land and Improvement Association. The founders wanted to use the organization as a way to market unused land in the region. To appeal to farmers, they emphasized the land's rich soil. For the middle and upper classes, they took a different approach. Ebenezer Nichols converted forty acres of his summer estate on Dickinson Bayou into a public park. Called the Dickinson Picnic Grounds, it was used for public gatherings and holiday celebrations.

In 1900, a large number of Sicilians were forced out of their homes in Bryan by a series of massive floods. Clemente Nicolini, the Italian consul stationed in Galveston, helped them find refuge in Dickinson and other parts of Galveston County. That same year, the railroad depot burned to the ground, later to be replace by a new one.

In 1905, Italian ambassador Baron Mayor des Planches was traveling through Texas, hoping to find a place for 150 immigrants who had arrived from Eastern Italy. The warm welcome he received from the Sicilians of Dickinson convinced him that the town was the perfect spot for the new arrivals.

Industrialization. the oil business of Houston, and the shipyards of Texas City contributed to Dickinson's growth. Tourism and gambling also played a part, thanks to the efforts of the Maceo Crime Family. Salvatore "Sam" Maceo wa a mobster who had gained control of Galveston's underbelly by the 1920s. Casinos and resorts emerged throughout the county. Gambling continued in Dickinson until 1957. Attorney General Wil Wilson endd all gambling venues in the region that year with the help of the Texas Rangers.

Dickinson continued growing during the 1960s, thanks to the opening of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in Clear Lake City. Although Dickinson had surpassed 12,000 by 1970, it faced the danger of annexation from its two neighbors Texas City and League City. To eliminate this threat, the citizens voted to incorporate the city in 1977.

Dickinson started hosting the Red, White, and Bayou Crawfish Festival in May 2009, a tradition which would last for ten years. A new town hall and library opened just one month after the first festival. In August 2017, Hurricane Harvey flooded ninety percent of the city. Despite the devastation, the population remained steady and reached 20,881 in 2019.
© Clint Skinner
November 2, 2019
Bibliography

  • Ci.dickinson.tc.us
  • City-data.org
  • Dickinsonhistoricalsociety.org
  • Tshaonline.org
  • Wikipedia.org
  • TX Galveston County  1907 Postal Map
    Galveston County 1907 Postal Map
    showing Dickinson on the railroad, & Galveston Bay

    Courtesy Texas General Land Office

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    Dickinson, Texas Nearby Towns:
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    See Galveston County | Texas Gulf Coast

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