Located at 14520 Stewart Road, Galveston, Texas is Sewart's Mansion. This land has exchanged hands several times over the years. One of the earliest known sites of occupation on the west end of Galveston Island, this ridge was at one time a campsite for the nomadic Karankawa Indians. The property was purchased (or possibly a land grant) in 1856 by Col. Warren D. c. Hall (1788-1867), veteran of several military expeditions and the Texas revolution. The estate was named "Mottexas" under the next owner, Galveston attorney Col. Marcus F. Mott (1837-1906). His home burned in 1925 and the land was then purchased by prominent businessman George Sealy, Jr. (1880-1944), who built a home here and named the site "Isla Ranch."
The Sealy’s one of the most dynamic families on the island were very powerful in business and politics. George Sealy Jr. commissioned San Antonio Architects Atlee B. and Robert M. Ayres to design the opulent 8,200 sq ft Spanish Colonial Revival summer retreat to be built in 1926. He was a famous industrialist and infamous union-buster. He called the mansion Isla Ranch and commissioned the murals to be painted sometime in the 1930′s.
The next owner of the property is Marco Stewart Sr. who was the founder of Stewart Title Co. He acquired the mansion on October 13, 1933 as a vacation resort home. He made his fortune in insurance, banking and war. Marco Stewart Jr. then inherited the more than 2,000 acres property in 1939. He remodeled and expanded the property as well as changed the name to Stewart's Mansion. In 1944, Stewart’s widow, Louise Bisbey Stewart and her son Marco Stewart Jr. donated the residence to the University of Texas Medical Branch where it was used for a number of years as a convalescent home for crippled children.
Stewart Mansion was once part of Stewart Ranch. There used to be two house for ranch hands on the property as well but they no longer exist. In 1969, the ranch, minus the mansion was willed and/or gifted to the State of Texas and became what is now the Galveston Island State Park.
The Battle of Three Trees
Stewart's Mansion is rumored to be haunted by several different entities due to its location and significant history. Less that 100 feet from the gates of Stweart's Mansion you will find a State Historical Marker that is titled "Lafitte's Grove."
This is the site where Jean Laffite's town and headquarters once stood and where the Battle of Three Trees was fought between Laffite's men and the Karankawa Indians in February 1821. Laffite's men kidnapped a Karankawa woman and warriors from her tribe attacked the colony killing five men. In return, the corsairs aimed their artillery at the Karankawa which killed most of the men of the tribe.
There are reports from caretakers of Stewart's Mansion over the years seeing Pirates and Native American Indians. There is rumor of hearing cannon fire, musket fire, and cries and screams of injured or dying men that is likely attributed to the war that took place in this location.
The island is also said to be home to a pack of supernatural phantom pack of black dogs since before the great storm of 1900. One urban legend says that twelve black puppies born during the midst of a hurricane were adopted by a downtown business owner when their mother was killed. For over a century now there are tales of these large black hell-hounds with flaming eyes. The stories are not just scary but are also somewhat of an omen because seeing the dogs are a warning of an impending disaster.
Another story is that the pack of twelve black dogs were part of a pack that were owned by Pirate King Jean Laffite. Known as the Campeche devil dogs they were bred for hunting and known to hunt down men as well as animals. The rumor goes that Lafitte demanded that a voodoo queen give him an army of dogs to guard his palace the Maison Rouge. Upon Lafitte's demand the Voodoo Queen did a ritual over the puppies as they were being born. It is said seeing the pack of twelve black dogs is an omen of trouble or tragedy. Some mention the smell of wet dog, the sound of growls, barking dogs, and the brush of a dog against the leg where no dog exist.
Shadow people are the most often visible paranormal activity observed on the property. Shadows seem to dash from tree to tree and disappear inside the structure. Visitors have mentioned the sound of children laughing, piano music being played, and loud laughter coming from outside of the house with absolutely no explanation.
Voodoo Queen / Voodoo Lady / Witch
Lafitte and his men didn't just bring themselves to their little colony they also brought slaves. These slaves brought in from New Orleans were known to practice voodoo. Lafitte was said to be so unnerved by the practice of voodoo by the slaves that he built his own house away from the protection of the colony and refused to do talk business on the island instead preferring his ship. So is it any wonder that to this day people still claim to hear the screams and beating of drums in the distance as if a voodoo ritual is taking place. Several years ago someone told me they experienced a black female dressed in dirty clothing with a necklace of bones hanging around her throat while going through the courtyard of Stewart's Mansion. He said all he could do was stand there and stare because at first he thought she was real because she was so clear. He realized she wasn't real the moment she reached down to draw something onto one of the tiles and then disappeared right in front of him.