The coastal community
of High Island sits atop a salt dome at the east end
of Bolivar Peninsula. It was named High Island because
the hill sits about 45 feet above sea, the only dry
land visible during storms and flooding.
Settled by Anglos in the early 1800s, nearly all of
High Island lies within the Martin Dunman Survey,
granted in 1837. The pioneers were mostly farmers,
though George E. Smith gained fame from his patented
bottled water from natural springs on his land.
The town expanded in 1886 when the Gulf and Interstate
Railroad began operations in the area. A depot was
built, along with many new businesses. In 1897 C. T.
Cade constructed the Sea View Hotel on the hill
overlooking the Gulf of Mexico. The hotel became a
place of refuge in 1900 and 1915 when hurricanes
struck the Texas Coast, causing flooding over the
Oil was discovered on High Island, with successful
drilling beginning in 1916. Petroleum deposits found
at the perimeter of the salt dome in 1931 started an
oil boom, and provided employment for the region.
High Island has become recognized internationally as
an important habitat for migratory birds, bringing
crowds of bird-watchers annually to the area.