History

History of South Padre Island, Texas

1519 marks the modern history of South Padre Island, Texas. Alonso Alvarez de Pineda charted much of the waters. According to him, “giants” inhabited the area, which was more than likely the Karankawa Indians or Kronks. Early stories reveal them to be cannibalistic, but this is not known to be complete fact. Merchant ships from Mexico to Spain frequently wrecked in the waters near South Padre Island, which attracted pirates for centuries. In 1804, a Catholic Missionary, Padre Jose Nicholas Balli, settled on the island for which was named after him. His bronze statue is near the Queen Isabella Causeway. The year he died, 1829, Padre Jose Nicholas Balli was awarded the title to the island by the Mexican government. His descendants still live and own land to this day. Battles in South Padre Island have significant meaning to both the Mexican War and the Civil War: President James K. Polk sent General Zachary Taylor to the area. When the US won over Mexico, Zachary Taylor’s lead had ushered him into the presidency. And the last battle at Padre Island during the Civil War was after Robert E. Lee surrendered to Grant at Appomattox. Ironically, the Confederates won the battle. In the 20th century, Port Mansfield Gulf Channel was completed, and, in 1974, the Queen Isabella Causeway was constructed. Soon thereafter South Padre Island beauty was seen by millions of visitors. As of 2000 Census, 2,422 lived on South Padre Island, Texas, some part-time and some full-time.