Unregulated entry of immigrants through the Port of Galveston in the late 1830s greatly contributed to local outbreaks of yellow fever and other communicable diseases. The young city instituted quarantine measures in 1839 and in 1853 built Texas' first quarantine station on the eastern tip of Galveston Island. Yellow fever returned to plague the community in 1867 and 1868.
A larger quarantine station, built by the city in 1870, was destroyed by hurricane winds in 1875. The state built new facilities in 1879 and again in 1885 at a site in Galveston known as Fort Point. Ships suspected of harboring infected crew, passengers, or cargo were not allowed to enter Galveston's port. A new station, built on nearby Pelican Island by the state in 1892, was destroyed in the storm of 1900. Texas built its last quarantine station at the Fort Point site in 1902. This station merged with Federal operations in 1919.
A federally funded 10-structure quarantine facility, secured with the help of Galveston's Federal Liaison Colonel Walter Gresham, was completed here on Pelican Island in 1915. The station was noted for its serene and beautiful grounds, which included oleanders, palms and Bermuda grass. However, the park-like atmosphere did not interfere with the station's purpose of inspecting ships bound not only for Galveston but for
Houston and other Galveston Bay ports. Pelican Island Federal Quarantine Station, which closed in 1950, inspected an estimated 30,000 ships that brought an estimated 750,000 immigrants to Texas during its 35 years of operation.