The North Channel area is made up of several smaller outlying communities bordering the City of Houston. Each of these communities enjoys a long and rich history that has helped shape their identities of today.
Long known as the energy capital of the world, Houston also ranks as a leader in space technology and medicine, as well as petrochemicals and shipping. Early leaders’ determination to make the city a leading port, although it was 50 miles from the gulf, resulted in the development of the Houston Ship Channel and the Port of Houston. Many North Channel area businesses are dependent in one way or another on the port. Houston has always been more an economic community than a city. The various communities of the North Channel area are very much a part of that economy and contribute to it.
The area’s outstanding highway system makes Houston’s sports, entertainment and arts readily available, and gives residents the advantage of urban amenities to complement the hometown, suburban setting of their neighborhoods.
In 1841, four years before Texas became a state, James Oates, Sr. obtained a land grant for 40 acres from the Republic of Texas. In 1843, Oates settled in what is now Jacinto City. The first house was on the present site of Whittier Elementary School. The first baby, James Oates, Jr., was born in this house in 1888, beginning the population of today’s Jacinto City.
Most of the area was a prairie with scattered, dense forests cut by bayous, creeks and gullies. Because the prairie was so well suited to grazing and hay, cattle production became the preeminent industry of the area. Logging was another important occupation of early settlers.
Development was greatly hastened by the discovery of oil in the same general area, the oil refining industry in the Houston area, and the development of the Houston Ship Channel. Families whose livelihood came from new oil-related industries and support businesses began to move into the area. Around 1917, the railroad was built parallel to Market Street, linking Houston and Baytown. Originally, the railway’s primary usage was for the Inter Urban, an early mass transit plan that utilized trolley cars. Only at night was the railway used to move freight.
In the 1920s, as area development accelerated, Holland Avenue was extended from Clinton Drive to Market Street. This linked the communities that are now Jacinto City and Galena Park. The 1940s found Jacinto City growing from a rural community to a progressive community building towards incorporation. In 1946, interested citizens banded together to form a General Law City to be known as Jacinto City.
In this century, Channelview has transitioned from primitive forest land without roads to an industrial complex. Early settlers included freed slaves and soldiers given land grants for their role in fighting for Texas’ independence from Mexico. On April 21, 1836, the 18-minute Battle of San Jacinto occurred just across the ship channel from Channelview. There, a small band of Texans defeated the Mexican army of General Santa Anna.
One of the heroes of the battle was Lorenzo de Zavala, who became the first vice president of the Republic of Texas and a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence. De Zavala’s vast land holdings were bounded by Old River on the south, Greens Bayou on the west, San Jacinto River on the east, and probably Sheldon on the north. The first of de Zavala’s land in present Channelview was sold to a developer around 1917. Earlier names were Cedar Bluff and Old River. Later it was called Aradia, but in 1930 it was found there was already an Aradia in Texas and the name was then changed to Channelview.
In 1929, Market Street was paved and a service station and grocery store were built. The earliest streets in Channelview were Market Street, Sheldon Road and de Zavala Street.
Channelview has experienced rapid growth over the past several years with new single family homes available in a variety of price ranges.
The early history of Galena Park abounds with heroes of Texas history. Fourteen years before the Allan Brothers established the first settlers in Houston, Ezekiel Thomas sailed to Texas on the Revenge, along with William Vince and Nathaniel Lynch. One of Stephen F. Austin’s “Old Three Hundred,” Thomas received a land grant from Mexico in 1824 and moved his family to the area that would one day be called Clinton, and later still, Galena Park.
After the Civil War, Commodore Charles Morgan, a highly competitive shipping magnate, took over the Buffalo Bayou Ship Channel Company and developed Buffalo Bayou as a waterway. Morgan purchased the Texas Transportation Company, which had a chapter entitling it to build a railroad. Morgan named the terminal, where the railroad linked the interior U.S. with the Gulf of Mexico, after the town of his birth, Clinton. The economy of Clinton grew, but was largely dependent on the ship channel. After Morgan died in 1878, the ship channel decreased in importance, while the railroad’s importance increased.
In 1887, H.H. Graff moved to Houston to work for the Dickson Car Wheel Company. After working several years, Graft opened a small grocery store. Later, he opened a second store in a building on the channel. The site of the building was called Johnson’s Landing. Mr. Graff later became the first mayor of Galena Park.
Clinton experienced rapid growth with the coming of the oil industry. In 1916, Galena Signal Oil Co. became the first of many refineries in the area. The citizens wanted a post office for their growing town. However, another Texas town already held the name Clinton. The town’s citizens met and agreed to change the name to Galena Park, named for the Galena Signal Oil Company, a major industry at the time. In 1928, Clinton High School became Galena Park High School, and in 1930 the Galena Park Independent School District was formed.
Sheldon is located in northeast Harris County along Highway 90 between the San Jacinto River and Greens Bayou. The first settlers came in the early 1800s when it was still Mexico. The first post office was built in 1890 and remained open until 1953. In the early days, the post office included a telephone, Western Union telegraph service, and a connection for Wells Fargo and Company. Around 1896, a general store was added to the post office. In 1910, the railroad depot was built for passenger and freight service.
In its early years, Sheldon was isolated, heavily wooded and sparsely populated. Beaumont Road was the only thoroughfare into downtown Houston, but it was narrow and dirt and gravel. When an occasional trip to Houston was necessary for supplies, it took six to eight hours by horse and wagon.
The first school was located on the south side of Beaumont Road across from the post office. It burned in 1915 and was replaced in 1917 with a two-room building used until 1929. In 1952, Sheldon Independent School District was formed with one school, the Alamo School built in 1929, serving eight grades. During the 1920s the area experienced considerable growth. More people moved into Sheldon and businesses appeared. Currently, Sheldon is experiencing robust growth of single-family homes.
The community is comprised of several smaller neighborhoods including Cloverleaf, Hidden Forest, Home Owned Estates, Pine Trails, River Grove, Riviera East, New Forest and Woodforest. Once a quiet community hidden among the tall pine trees of east Harris County, North Shore has seen a population explosion over the last 40 years that has brought it to the forefront as a major suburban residential area. While its history is relatively brief, North Shore has rapidly developed a name recognition known throughout the greater Houston area. Retail and commercial developments target North Shore as a prime customer base.
With Interstate 10 running through its center, the North Channel area has positioned itself as the gateway to Houston from points eastward.