East Texas Oil Museum hosts exhibit exploring Galveston Island’s immigration gateway

Immigration gateway

KILGORE, TX (KLTV) - They came from Galveston, but shortly before that they came from other parts of the globe. For over 70 years hundreds of thousands of immigrants to the U.S. went through Galveston Island. You can learn all about it at a new exhibit hosted by the East Texas Oil Museum.

Forgotten Gateway: Coming to America through Galveston Island is quite an eye-opening exhibit according to East Texas Oil Museum Manager Olivia Moore.

“It is very informative. There were hundreds of thousands of people that came through Galveston between, I believe it was, 1845 and 1924,” Moore said.

The panels are filled with photographs and details of why people came to America.

“One of the reasons that people came was because of the land, and there were some conflicts of that land. So it talks about some of the court battles; somebody thought it was theirs versus somebody else that got there before them,” Moore revealed.

The display arrived in time for school field trips. Melissa Clayton tells the kids about immigrants’ journey to Galveston.

“When a storm comes, it will rock the ship, and some people can’t take that. It’s what you call motion sickness. Guess what? Because of the sickness a lot of them died,” Clayton stated.

There are surprising facts on the panels, including:

“Some of the trials and tribulations, things you wouldn’t expect to be part of this story of immigration to America,” Moore stated.

The panels reveal the history of Galveston Island from a small harbor to a major railroad and steamship hub and back to a little used immigration station.

It even poses a question many immigrants asked:

“Is this trip going to be worth it?” Clayton said to the touring kids.

Many traveled with little more than the shirts on their backs.

“A lot of them came with cloth sacks, and that’s really their possessions they brought with them; just a sugar sack or a bed sheet folded up with their clothes in it,” Moore said.

Moore says the numbers coming through Galveston dropped, but they were all looking for purpose, opportunity and a new beginning.

The Exhibit will be on display through June 15. The East Texas Oil Museum is open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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