Entering Matagorda

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Good morning, Bay City. You’re listening to Happy Radio, 92.5, Matagorda County, Texas. Currently 85 degrees at the Happy Radio studios. We’re having a fantastic day here with a partly cloudy sky. It’s a good time to take your radio outside, give your neighbors a little better taste in music, up next at Happy Radio. Matagorda County is one of 258 counties in the state of Texas. We’re located right on the Gulf of Mexico, about 90 miles southwest of this metropolitan Houston area. It is a large land mass. It’s often said that we’ve got more cattle than we have actual residents. Life here in Matagorda County is rural America. We have rural values here, leaving our windows open at night, our doors unlocked many times, and trusting our neighbors, and caring for our neighbors and our families. There’s a lot of naturists here.

The people come from all over the United States to fish or seek birding, and—you know— it’s kind of a great outdoors type place. Bay City is the county seat for Matagorda County, and we’re also very fortunate to have a number of communities equally as important. You travel south, there’s the Township of Matagorda. And then we have Palacios. It’s a beautiful coastal city. It’s a wonderful place to be. Blessing is another very nice community, and we have Van Vleck, where, actually, TenarisBayCity will be built. We all know each other, and we’re like one large family in this small community.

What really draws you in and holds you here is that… that sense of belonging, that sense of home, that sense of “I’ve finally arrived.” Matagorda County is the cradle of history for the state of Texas. If the settlers had not come here, we wouldn’t know Texas as we know it today. Matagorda is part of the earliest history of our state, the almost mythological beginnings of the great state of Texas. Matagorda, loosely translated, means “mata”, grass.

And “gorda”, fat. The Indians were trying to describe to the conquistadors what was a name for their land, and they came up with Matagorda, meaning there was a lot of grass in the area. It was very thick and hard to get through. Matagorda County was part of what is known as Austin’s Old Three Hundred settlement. It was Stephen F. Austin fulfilling the contract with the Mexican government to fulfill 300 Anglo families to come in and settle in Texas.

They recruited those people in New York, sailed down the Mississippi, boarded the “Little Zoe” in New Orleans, and then landed near this site, which is the mouth of the Colorado River and the Gulf Intercoastal Waterway. Well, it was raw land, you know. These people, I’ve often said, were survivors. You know, they had no supermarket to go to. They had to build their own house. And conditions were pretty tough. Welcome to the Matagorda County Museum. My name is Barbara Smith, and I’m the director here at the museum. This is kind of the beginning of the Matagorda history. This was a map hand-drawn in 1839. This is the original plats, the original 300 that came in, and you can see all the little plats with the different names. A lot of these people are still here in the area. This house was built by a gentleman named Mr. Fisher in 1832 and it is the oldest registered house in Matagorda County and one of the oldest houses in Texas.

Mr. Fisher was a Catholic and a Mexican citizen, as the other settlers were. They decided they didn’t want to be that anymore, so they had the Texas Revolution. They were able to immediately become fairly prosperous. They had experience planting cotton. They grew corn, sugar cane. Another thing that really begins to take hold at this time that proves incredibly important for the economic history of the region is the rise of rice farming. And they also immediately began raising livestock in the area. Cattle thrived here. This was all prairie, so there were lots of prairie grasses for the cattle to graze on, and it just kind of fell into line when the cattle ranchers came that this was perfect land. We still have a tremendous influence in the cattle industry here in Bay City. Some long-term families that started many, many years ago are still in the cattle business. As a matter of fact, they still have the old-fashioned cattle drives where they actually cross the cattle over the river. We still use the same things that they used during that era: the hat, the spurs, the saddle, the lariat, or the rope. It’s all part of our Spanish heritage. The way we dress. I was born and raised in Matagorda County.

My father, his father, and his father were all born and raised in Matagorda County. Certainly agriculture has kept this county going since the beginning. We’ve got a rich history of raising cattle. Pretty much the rancher way of life is just a lot of hard work and sweat. It’s made Texas what it is today. And so the railroad came through. It was a blessing to this town for one reason: it would bring people here. Things began to take an upswing by the end of the century. There are more and more small farms and ranches. Oil is discovered. Natural gas is discovered. And it’s part of the larger Texas oil boom. New immigrants from other parts of the United States come into the area. Ideas begin to move back and forth. The Hispanic population that evolved here started many, many years ago.

Our family has been here now maybe a hundred years, if not more. And we do feel that we are one of the oldest still-standing, still-owned-by-the-same-family businesses here in Bay City, so we’re very proud of that. Our Texas language is a mixture of black, brown, English, Yankee, Creole, and we put it all together and then we have Texas. Are you ready? Come on, Bay City, I said, “Are you ready?” One, two, and through. Yes, sir! We have diversed ourselves in the last couple of years from being just agricultural or just tourism-based to now seeking out industrial partners. With the recent economic success, we’re having another boom, and Matagorda County looks to be one of the most important centers of future economic growth. Tenaris is about to build Tenaris Bay City, about 6 miles north on Highway 35, at Van Vleck. Van Vleck is a small community with one signal light on the highway. That’s Van Vleck. About 4 or 5 miles from Bay City and about a mile down from the new Tenaris plant. It will be like 3,500 people live in this area, you know? Not much. Families coming into our county have a great amount of options that they can have for their students, whether it be Bay City or Van Vleck, Palacios and Tidehaven.

Our students have opportunities to be involved in many activities: athletics, band, drama, agricultural science, culinary arts, physics, chemistry, and we actually offer hands-on labs for our students. It makes learning exciting. Families can rest assured that our students will be receiving a great education in a safe environment. Van Vleck people are expecting from Tenaris people they can help the community and they can participate in the community activities, that this is the new environment, a small town, new people. Just go like friendly and work together. Live like a big family in town, you know? We cannot clap with one hand.

We have to have another one, so we’ll do our share and then the rest to Tenaris. If you like sports, hunting, fishing, anything of that nature, I think anyone coming in will find Bay City a very pleasant place to be. We have really nice beaches. You can build a bonfire on the beach, take your friends to the beach, look up at the stars, have a couple drinks, a bottle of wine, whatever you’d like to do. It’s wonderful. I think they will find a tremendous amount of Southern hospitality. Here, when it comes to faith, we have enough churches here that will accommodate any faith. We hope somebody is spiritual because that’s who we are here in Bay City.

You can go to any church you want to, any school you want to here in the county. Work together, pray together, in fellowship together. You’re coming here for the same reason that the people came back in the 1800s. You’re coming here for a better life, for a land of opportunity, And… what else? If your people are interested in learning and finding out about us, I think… I think we’re going to open our doors and put out the welcome mat. I would just recommend that they get involved. We have a lot of charitable organizations in the county, and the best way to meet people and to learn about the community is to get involved. And you just end up with so many friends. It’s awesome. I expect them just to be a part, to — you know — appreciate our community. I welcome them, and we are here to serve them whenever they want.

Well, I want to extend an invitation to each and every one of you to come and visit Matagorda County. Be a part of what we believe is quality of life and is friends and family. We’ll open our arms. We’ll do whatever we can to make sure that you feel comfortable being here, and we want to make sure that you have the best experience right here in Matagorda County as those of us that live here experience.

All rights reserved. 2018