Kemah can be found on State Highway 146 and Farm Road 518 on Galveston Bay. The town is located in a unique half-moon pocket of the bay, about twenty-five miles to the northeast of Galveston.
The town was founded in 1898 when the Texas and New Orleans Railroad came through the area. The first settlement was called Evergreen and later Shell Siding. This last name came from the cargo of shells that the railroad frequently hauled through this area.
In 1907 a post office was built and the town’s name was changed to Kemah. Kemah is a Native American word that means, “facing the winds.” Part of the reason the town’s name changed was also due to the fact that there was already another Shell Siding located in Texas.
200 residents were living in Kemah by 1914. Several hay producers were in the area as well as farm homes, and summer homes that belonged to the wealthy residents of nearby Galveston and Houston. There were also many fishing camps located near the town, which took advantage of the fishing off of the bay.
The Great Depression affected Kemah as well as the rest of the country and the population fell to around 100 during this time. An old map that was drawn when the state highway was being planned shows that in 1936 there was still a school, a church, several businesses and houses located in the town.
The Second World War brought growth to Houston and Galveston and Kemah saw a rise in its population. By 1943, the population had increased to 550 residents, as well as several new businesses. This number stayed the same for many years, until 1965.
This year brought incorporation to Kemah and at this time there were over 30 businesses, who mainly served the nearby oil and ship-building businesses in the region. When Kemah incorporated, its schools were merged into the Clear Creek Consolidated Independent School District.
The first part of the 1970’s were a period of even greater growth as the oil craze brought many new residents to the area. The highest population estimate of 2,000 residents was taken in 1970, and there were over 40 businesses in operation at this time. By the mid-1970’s the population began to decline once more and is now estimated at around 1,094 residents.
Kemah has retained its ties to the shipping industry, and was once known as a shrimping town. These ties are especially evident during the annual Blessing of the Fleet festival which takes place every August. This is a town rich in history and offers many opportunities for boating, fishing and outdoor fun. Finding an apartment in Kemah means that you’ll still be close enough to work in Galveston or Houston, but you can avoid living in a metropolitan area.
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