time’ was had by all
By Wanda Orton
Published in the Baytown Sun July 23, 2008
The biggest party this side of the ship
channel took place nearly 75 years ago to mark the opening of the
Morgan’s Point ferry. The ferry began operating July 29, 1933,
between Hog Island and Morgan’s Point, and the celebration lasted
A free barbecue was held both days on the
shores of Tabbs Bay and everyone was invited. Many thousands
attended, including my parents. I have a photo of them in their
“Sunday best” standing near Remember the year, 1933. The Great
Depression was going on all over the country, but from the looks of
that ferry feast, you’d never know it.
In the beginning Harris County operated the
ferry but the state took it over in 1939.
The first ferryboat was named the Charles
D. Massey, honoring the Precinct 2 commissioner from Cedar Bayou.
Charlie, as most folks called him, played a key role in implementing
plans for the ferry and causeway.
Before the Morgan’s Point ferry service
began, the main connection between north and south on the ship
channel had been the ferry at Lynchburg.
The Morgan’s Point ferry remained in
operation 20 years, her final voyage occurring in 1953 after the
Baytown-La Porte Tunnel opened.
Although I missed the festivities in ‘33
(hadn’t been born yet), I well remember the ferry along with waiting
in line a long time to board the boat.
I think we all had a love-hate relationship
with the ferry. We loved the boat ride but hated to wait for it.
Little did we know that traffic in years to
come would jam up horribly on both sides of the Baytown-La Porte
In retrospect, waiting for the ferry was
more tolerable than tunnel traffic. For one thing, we enjoyed the
ferry ride once we got there, and eating and reading could ease the
preceding long waits.
A vendor strolled by cars in line, selling
delectable tamales wrapped in newspaper pages, and young boys sold
newspapers hot off the Houston Press. “Extra! Extra! Read all about
it. He killed her because he loved her …”
Or, if you didn’t want to eat or read, you
could stroll along the waterfront, throw rocks in the channel and
feed the sea gulls.
Traffic jams at the tunnel never offered
that much flexibility.
It seemed as though, during the
construction phase in the early 1950s that the tunnel never would be
finished, and we felt the same way about the Fred Hartman Bridge in
History was repeating itself. People felt
similar pangs of impatience in the early Thirties about the
completion of the Tabbs Bay causeway and ferry.
In 1930 voters in Harris County approved a
bond issue for the project, and work started that year. Stretching
from the end of Evergreen Road to Hog Island, the causeway was
finished in 1931.
Then the money ran out, and the county hit
a snag in starting work on the ferry project. Meanwhile, folks were
calling the newly completed causeway the “$150,000 crabbing pier”
because, without a ferry business, it led to nowhere.
Finally a group of Houston businessmen
bought the remaining bonds, and work began in early 1933 on the
ferry landings on Hog Island and Morgan’s Point.
The Morgan’s Point ferry could carry 20
vehicles and its average speed was five miles per hour. It took from
12 to 15 minutes to make the voyage across the channel.
For a total cost of $222,466, the dream of
the causeway/ferry project at last had become a reality.
And that’s what all the celebrating was
about 75 years ago.
Wanda Orton is a retired managing editor for The Baytown Sun.