Dickinson, a part of the vital Bay Area south of Houston in Galveston County, was founded by a land grant from the Mexican government to John Dickinson in 1824. Dickinson acquired land located just north of present-day Dickinson on the bayou which also shares his name. There is no record of a settlement until 1850, but by 1860, Dickinson was listed as a stop on the Galveston, Houston and Henderson Railroad. A post office appeared by 1890.
The 1890s saw the first major growth of Dickinson as a town. Fred M. Nichols and eight other businessmen organized the Dickinson Land and Improvement Association to promote the sale of the areas fertile farmland. As the town expanded, Nichols donated 40 of his own acres as a public park and named it the Dickinson Picnic Grounds. The picnic area flourished for three decades until the Texas Coast Fair took it over in 1896 and a harness racetrack was built to attract more visitors. Local legend claims that the great harness racing champion, Dan Patch, ran at the track. By 1911, prominent citizens established the Oleander Country Club. Like its neighbor across the bay, Galveston, Dickinson became home to gambling establishments in the early 20th century. Despite the clubs’ popularity and prominence, open gambling was effectively shut down by the Texas Rangers in 1957.
The expansion of the oil industry after World War II brought significant growth and prosperity to Dickinson, as did the establishment of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space center in 1962 just to the north in Clear Lake City. Although Dickinson was a well-established town, the neighboring municipalities of Texas City and League City encroached into the city’s traditional boundaries through aggressive annexation in the 1970s. In response, Dickinson incorporated in 1977 and, in 1990, annexed additional acreage.
Dickinson has been called “the best kept secret on the Gulf Coast,” and is conveniently located on Interstate 45 and Dickinson Bayou, between Houston and Galveston, 20 minutes from the beach. The Clear Lake resort area and Galveston Bay, as well as three major shopping malls, are all within 10 miles.
Dickinson Bayou, a large navigable body of water, is lined by the largest stand of trees south of Houston, and as such, is readily discernible from the air. The bayou was once a dredged, industrial waterway, but is now a 20-foot deep recreational attraction for fishing, boating, swimming, and water-skiing.
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