The Edward under construction at E.O. Sjolander’s shipyard, Galveston Daily News, May 28, 1911.

From the very beginning there has been boatbuilding going on in Galveston Bay. The first boats made by the Karankawas were dugout canoes, using a single tree trunk with the center hewed out. They made and used these canoes all over the Galveston Bay system for hundreds of years. If you fast forward a few centuries, the next local shipyard we know anything about belonged to Walter G. Dyer in 1843 and was located at Midway Landing, on the peninsula south of the ExxonMobil docks just west of the Fred Hartman Bridge. He probably did not build boats from the keel up, but the yard was known for repairs. He had built an inclined plane to haul out steamboats for hull repairs. The steamboat Patrick Henry was overhauled there in 1840, and an 1844 article in the Telegraph and Texas Register reported that Dyer was trying to get a contract for repair of Texas Navy ships. The same year he acquired the brig San Jacinto where he had it moored at his shipyard. There was another shipyard in Lynchburg in 1850 run by ship builder Louis Macomb who employed a ship carpenter and two shipwrights. A little further south near Mitchell’s Bay lived John Overland who was also a shipwright. 

Not many steamboats were built here because the large shipyards on the Mississippi River were better suited for the manufacturing process although there were a few built in Houston and Galveston prior to 1860. The 1860 census shows William Coat and Jacob Huntman working at a shipyard at Wallisville and William Peet and Henry Whiting working at another one on Cedar Bayou on the Chambers County side. During the Civil War, Thomas Chubb had a ship yard on Goose Creek. It would be a safe bet that John Overland worked there. Records indicate that at least seventeen vessels were constructed in upper Galveston Bay and used as blockade runners. The only ship built from the keel up on Goose Creek was the schooner Bagdad, but five others are known to have been refitted there. The Royal Yacht was burned in the Battle of Galveston in 1861 but was towed to Goose Creek for rebuilding and returned to service. She was later captured by the U.S. Navy while attempting to run the blockade. 

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