Bay City is named for its location on Bay Prairie, which is between the Colorado River and Caney Creek. With plans to establish Bay City, David Swickheimer, G. M. Magill, N. M. Vogelsang, and Nicholas King bought 320 acres from D. P. Moore and another 320 acres from the Mensing brothers of Galveston on Bay Prairie in 1894. They promoted the town site and promised a new courthouse if the county government was moved from Matagorda. In September 1894, the voters elected to move the county seat to Bay City and the town, which at the time had no buildings, began construction. At the time, 2,250 of the county’s 3,000 people were Black. Oil was discovered in the county in 1904, and by 1914 Bay City had 3,156 residents and was still growing. The town had lawyers, physicians, dentist, railroads, newspapers, churches, rice mills, cotton gins, and many other businesses and buildings. In 1924, levees and dams were built along the Colorado River to prevent the frequent flooding of the area.

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