Armand Bayou Nature Center was founded in 1974 as a result of efforts begun by an environmental visionary, Armand Yramategui. Armand foresaw the urban growth around Armand Bayou and strove to have this land remain a wilderness. Armand's tragic death in 1970 inspired a local, regional and national coalition of people and organizations to acquire the 2500 acres of land now preserved as ABNC. ABNC is a non-profit organization that was established with the mission preservation and environmental education.
Native Americans at ABNC
Excavations by local archaeologists have shown the Middle Bayou (renamed Armand Bayou) area was occupied by Native Americans for at least 7,000 years. Ancient remains such as pottery, arrowheads, flints, and shell middens (trash piles), within ABNC indicate this area was once a major campsite for Native American tribes. These Native Americans used the Middle Bayou area for hunting and fishing until the mid-to-late 19th Century.
19th Century Residents
About a dozen families of European descent occupied the Middle Bayou area during the mid-19th century. These early pioneers lived by hunting; fishing and growing produce which they floated down the bayou in barges to market. The settlement even had a post office and a school.
Jimmy Martyn, a long time resident of the Middle Bayou settlement, lived in a modest house near the banks of Middle Bayou from 1894 until his death in 1964. Like many area residents, the Martyns raised cattle, grew produce and harvested cedar from the surrounding forest. ABNC contains a re-creation of a typical farm during the 19th century, which is called the Martyn Farm in honor of Jimmy Martyn.
Jim West, another well-known Middle Bayou resident, owned 28,000 acres surrounding Middle and Horsepen Bayous at one time. West raised cattle and maintained his ranch as a preserve for deer, quail, peccary and prairie chickens.
Saving Armand Bayou
In 1938, the Humble Oil and Refining Company (now a part of ExxonMobil) purchased the entire J.M. West Ranch for its oil and gas resources at a price of $8,500,000 plus royalties. In 1962, Humble created a real estate subsidiary, Friendswood Development Company, and placed 15,000 acres and 7,250 acres under its control for residential and industrial development, respectively. The industrial development is now called the Bayport Industrial District.
Real estate development in the current ABNC area began in earnest in 1962 when the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) selected 1,698 acres of the former West Ranch for the Manned Spacecraft Center. Construction of Bay Area Boulevard in 1967 cut the present ABNC site in half and made Middle Bayou more accessible to the public.
The movement to preserve Middle Bayou began with Armand Yramategui. Mr.Yramategui was a visionary of Texas Gulf Coast wilderness conservation who initiated the drive to preserve Armand Bayou and the surrounding lands. This movement accelerated after Mr.Yramategui's death when plans to begin real estate development along Middle Bayou became known. During this time period, Middle Bayou was renamed Armand Bayou in remembrance of Mr. Yramategui and his conservation efforts.
ABNC was incorporated in 1974 on land acquired through efforts of a diverse coalition of individuals, organizations and government entities. The property owner of record is Harris County. ABNC holds a 99-year automatic rollover lease agreement, assuming full management, preservation and development responsibilities.