The first recorded history of Galveston Island occurred in 1528 with the shipwreck of Cabeza de Vaca and his crewmen. They were survivors of Alvarez de Pineda's ill-fated expediton to Florida and were held captive here by the Karankawa Indians. De Vaca and three of his men escaped to Mexico six years later.
Costal Indians, mainly the Karankawas, inhabited the area and the island abounded in wild game.
Other explorers of the area and surrounding bay waters included Robert Cavelier, Siuer de La Salle, who established a French colony in 1685 in what is now Matagorda County and Luis de Moscoso, successor in command to Hernando de Soto. In the eighteenth century, Dutch buccaneers were active in the Gulf, raiding Spanish galleons. Explorers continued to come to the island and by 1788 the population reached 268.
Galveston Island had many names during its early history. Among them were Culebra, Malhado, San Luis, Isla Blanca and Campeche. In 1783 Jose de Hevia surveyed the island and the bay, reporting he found persons here who gave him assistance. He later named the island Galvez in honor of Bernardo de Galvez, Spain's Viceroy to Mexico.