When first explored by Europeans, the island where Galveston lies was an Akokisa Indian site. The Karankawa Indians used the island for hunting and fishing. Pirate Jean Laffite established a settlement in 1817. During the Texas Revolution the harbor served as the port for the Texas navy. Following the war, a group of investors obtained ownership of land at the harbor to found a town in 1838, and the following year the Texas legislature granted incorporation to the city of Galveston.
Galveston's early years gave the city many firsts in Texas: the first Roman Catholic convent, the first electric lights, and the first medical college. During the disastrous Galveston storm of 1900, the entire island was inundated during a hurricane, which claimed more than 6,000 lives. A seawall was built two years later. Presently 10 miles long, it has proved its staying power several times over.
Galveston Island offers 32 miles of beach and also is a treasure trove of things historically Texan. Many city parks, picnic areas and recreation centers offer playground equipment, athletic fields, tennis courts, and golf courses.
The seat of Galveston County, Galveston is a major port, tourist, and convention center, and the home of the University of Texas Medical Branch, Texas A&M Universtiy at Galveston, and Galveston College.