On the west end of Galveston Island, on Stewart Road, just a little bit east of 12 Mile Road, stands a gray granite marker, right where the State of Texas put it in 1936. Beneath the bronze Lone Star seal is engraved the following:
- Lafitte’s Grove
- Fort and settlement
- established here in 1817
- by the freebooter Jean Lafitte
- who maintained headquarters here
- while preying on shipping in
- the Gulf of Mexico
- The Battle of the Three Trees
- was fought here between
- Lafitte’s Men and Karankawa Indians
- February 1821
- Ford abandoned and burned
- in 1821 by Lafitte after his
- departure was ordered by the
- United States Government
If you were to glance around, taking in the golf course and beautiful island homes, it would be easy to conclude the pirates are long gone.
Gone they are, but not long. Until recently, you just had to know where to look.
And where to look was just a mile west.
Right before Stewart Road curves into 13 Mile Road there is a neglected drive.
If you had turned down, you would have seen this:
Warts Mansion? Nay, ’tis Stewart’s Mansion.
Pass through the arch and behold Stewart’s Mansion.
It was built in 1926 by George Sealy, Jr. on forty acres purchased from the Mottexas Ranch. It was intended as a summer home for the Sealy family. They called it Isla Ranch.
In 1933 it was purchased and expanded by Maco Stewart, Sr., founder of Stewart Title.
When he was done, the mansion was eight thousand square feet of Spanish colonial revival style.
And there were pirates…
When Maco Stewart, Sr. died in 1939, the property passed to his son, Maco Jr.
Mr. Stewart the younger gave it to the University of Texas Medical Branch in 1944.
UTMB used it as a convalescent home until the late sixties. After that, the history is sketchy.
Who painted these murals? I haven’t been able to find out. I’m hoping someone reading this knows and will share the story us.
These photos were taken a number of years ago by Jonathan Aldridge, a talented professional photographer in Houston. You can see larger versions that really show the detail at his website: jaldridgephoto.com.
The mansion has been remodeled since that time. I’m told the murals were too far gone to save at that point. It’s better than allowing it to decay further, but still feels like we lost something.