James Murray Doughty
Reposted with permission. James Murray Doughty reference in last paragraph. CORPUS CHRISTI — The Sept. 8, 1838, Telegraph and Texas Register reported that Col. Edwin Morehouse was back from Corpus Christi Bay after his militiamen interrupted Mexican smugglers unloading cargo on the Encinal Peninsula, a wedge of land between the Cayo del Oso and the Laguna Madre. The smugglers met a company of Mexicans on shore ready to load the goods on pack horses to carry into Mexico. When the Texas militia arrived, they dumped 100 barrels of flour and parts of a steam engine and ran.
That flour-dumping incident gave Flour Bluff its name, although the first usage of it as a place name has been lost in the footnotes of history.
Smuggling flourished around Corpus Christi Bay in 1838 when French warships blockaded Mexican ports. The French-Mexico conflict was over reparations that were owed to French merchants for damages caused by the looting of Mexican soldiers. Since one merchant was a French baker in Mexico City, the conflict was called the Pastry War.
With Mexico's ports blockaded, the value of imported goods, like flour, soared, making smuggling profitable. The new Republic of Texas wanted French recognition, so it tried to stop or discourage the smuggling. In late 1838, French forces fought a skirmish against Mexican militia at Veracruz. Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna was wounded (it cost him a leg) and nine of his men were killed. After that skirmish, the Pastry War came to a negotiated end.
A year later, Henry Kinney built his trading post at what would become Corpus Christi. He was engaged in the thriving Mexican trade, selling leaf tobacco and domestic calico to traders who came with pack-mule trains from Mexico. In May 1841, Philip Dimmitt built a competing trading post 12 miles away. Dimmitt was a hero of the Texas Revolution. His place, probably at Flour Bluff Point, could have marked Flour Bluff's beginning as a settlement if it had not been strangled at birth.
Both Kinney's and Dimmitt's posts were in territory claimed by Texas and Mexico. Both countries made incursions in the area at will. Dimmitt's post threatened Kinney's monopoly. On July 4, 1841, Mexican cavalry under the command of Capt. Vicente Sanchez raided Dimmitt's store, plundered $6,000 in merchandise, seized Dimmitt and carried him to Mexico. Kinney's place, conspicuously, was not molested. In Mexico, Dimmitt took a fatal dose of morphine rather than face imprisonment in a Mexican dungeon.
The man who led the Dimmitt raid was an aide-de-camp to Gen. Mariana Arista, Kinney's friend. Dimmitt's friends suspected that Kinney used his friendship with Arista to get rid of a competitor. Kinney and partner William Aubrey were brought up on charges of treason, but the case was dismissed for lack of evidence. Still, suspicion that they were behind Dimmitt's death never went away. In one sense, the Dimmitt Affair began a contentious relationship between Corpus Christi and Flour Bluff that persisted for long afterward.
After the Dimmitt Affair, Flour Bluff attracted little interest. When Zachary Taylor's army landed in 1845, W.S. Henry described Corpus Christi as a hamlet of 20 or 30 houses. He saw cattle grazing on a green slope and, to the south, he could see what he called "Flower Bluff."
In the Civil War, contrary relations between Corpus Christi and Flour Bluff surfaced again. Flour Bluff became a sanctuary for Union sympathizers. Among the refugees on the peninsula were members of the Singer family from Padre Island and the Anderson family from Corpus Christi. After John Anderson was warned that Confederates planned to hang him, he took his family to Flour Bluff in an ox-drawn wagon. They moved into a salt storage house at the Point.
In August 1862, Lt. John Kittredge, commander of the Union blockade, sailed his fleet into Corpus Christi Bay. He sent a shore party, with rattail files, to spike the guns of a Confederate battery. When they were beaten back, Kittredge's warships bombarded the town. Weeks later, he arrived at Flour Bluff to seek information from Union supporters or to get fresh eggs and buttermilk for the captain's mess.
When one of Kittredge's ships anchored off the Point, 50 Confederate soldiers were lying in wait. When Kittredge came ashore, he and his seven-man gig's crew were captured without a shot fired. At Corpus Christi, crowds came out to see "that pirate Kittredge," his bombardment still fresh on their minds. He was released on parole and sent North.
After the war, in 1867, James Doughty built a beef slaughter house, or packery, at Flour Bluff. He moved his operation to a rocky ledge at Aransas Bay, which became Rockport. That year, the Encinal Peninsula became part of Mifflin Kenedy's Laureles Ranch, which he bought from Charles and Cornelius Stillman. Kenedy also bought a beef packing house and moved it to the Point, across the way from Dimmitt Island (sometimes spelled Demit and Dimmit). After the packing house closed, the giant boiler was used "by old man Ritter" as a cistern.
(This is the first of three columns on Flour Bluff.)
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