Indianola, Texas

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State historical marker for Indianola IndianolaTXhistoricalmarker.jpg
State historical marker for Indianola
Indianola by Helmuth Holtz, Sept. 1860 Indianola Texas.jpg
Indianola by Helmuth Holtz, Sept. 1860

Indianola is a ghost town located on Matagorda Bay in Calhoun County, Texas, United States. The community, once the county seat of Calhoun County, is a part of the Victoria, Texas, Metropolitan Statistical Area. In 1875, the city had a population of 5,000, but on September 15 of that year, a powerful hurricane struck, killing between 150 and 300 and almost entirely destroying the town. Indianola was rebuilt, only to be wiped out on August 19, 1886, by another intense hurricane, which was followed by a fire. Indianola was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1963, marker number 2642. [1]

Ghost town city depopulated of inhabitants and that stays practically intact

A ghost town is an abandoned village, town, or city, usually one that contains substantial visible remains. A town often becomes a ghost town because the economic activity that supported it has failed, or due to natural or human-caused disasters such as floods, prolonged droughts, government actions, uncontrolled lawlessness, war, pollution, or nuclear disasters. The term can sometimes refer to cities, towns, and neighbourhoods that are still populated, but significantly less so than in past years; for example, those affected by high levels of unemployment and dereliction.

Matagorda Bay bay

Matagorda Bay is a large Gulf of Mexico estuary bay on the Texas coast, lying in Calhoun and Matagorda counties and located approximately 80 miles (130 km) northeast of Corpus Christi, 143 miles (230 km) east-southeast of San Antonio, 108 miles (174 km) south-southwest of Houston, and 167 miles (269 km) south-southeast of Austin. It is separated from the Gulf of Mexico by Matagorda Peninsula and serves as the mouth of numerous streams, most notably the Lavaca and Colorado Rivers. The Texas seaport of Port Lavaca is located on the system's northwestern extension of Lavaca Bay. The city of Palacios is found on northeastern extension of Tres Palacios Bay, and Port O'Connor is located on the southwestern tip of the main bay's shore. The ghost town of Indianola, which was a major port before it was destroyed by two hurricanes in the late 19th Century, is also found on the bay.

Calhoun County, Texas County in the United States

Calhoun County is a county located in the U.S. state of Texas. As of the 2010 census, the population was 21,381. Its county seat is Port Lavaca. The county is named for John Caldwell Calhoun, the seventh vice president of the United States.



German immigration port of entry

Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels, representing the Adelsverein, selected Indian Point in December, 1844 as port of entry for the Verein colonists from Germany. Prince Solms renamed the port Carlshafen in honor of himself, Count Carl of Castell-Castell [2] and Count Victor August of Leiningen-Westerburg-Alt-Leiningen [3] whom Solms claimed had been christened Carl. Prince Solms' choice of Carlshafen and its inadequate accommodations as a port of entry, as well as the isolated route to New Braunfels, was to keep the Germans from interacting with any Americans. [4] In February 1845 Henry Francis Fisher conspired with Dr. F. Schubbert to coerce incoming immigrants to sign legal documents disassociating themselves from the Verein and to join Schubbert's colony in Milam County. [5]

Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels German royalty, Texas pioneer, New Braunfels, Texas named for him

Prince Carl (Karl) of Solms-Braunfels, was a German prince and military officer in both the Austrian army and in the cavalry of the Grand Duchy of Hesse. As Commissioner General of the Adelsverein, he spearheaded the establishment of colonies of German immigrants in Texas. Prince Solms named New Braunfels, Texas in honor of his homeland.


The Mainzer Adelsverein at Biebrich am Rhein, better known as the Mainzer Adelsverein, organized on April 20, 1842, was a colonial attempt to establish a new Germany within the borders of Texas.

Germany Federal parliamentary republic in central-western Europe

Germany, officially the Federal Republic of Germany, is a country in Central and Western Europe, lying between the Baltic and North Seas to the north, and the Alps to the south. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, France to the southwest, and Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands to the west.

In May 1846, Meusebach received a letter from Count Castell informing him 4,304 colonists were on their way to Texas. With no funds and no new settlements, the mass of emigrants were stalled at Carlshafen. Meusebach's requests to the Verein for more money, and his warnings at pending bankruptcy for the Verein, brought no results. As a last resort, Meusebach instructed D.H. Klaener to publish the plight in the German news media. Embarrassed by the publicity, the Verein established an inadequate $60,000 letter of credit. [6] Meusebach had arranged with the Torrey Brothers for transporting the emigrants inland, but the United States hired the Torrey Brothers for use in the Mexican–American War. [7] An epidemic of spinal meningitis broke out at Carlshafen and spread with the emigrants to New Braunfels and Fredericksburg. [8]

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Mexican–American War armed conflict between the United States of America and Mexico from 1846 to 1848

The Mexican–American War, also known in the United States as the Mexican War and in Mexico as the American intervention in Mexico, was an armed conflict between the United States of America and the Second Federal Republic of Mexico from 1846 to 1848. It followed in the wake of the 1845 American annexation of the Republic of Texas, not formally recognized by the Mexican government, disputing the Treaties of Velasco signed by the unstable Mexican caudillo President/General Antonio López de Santa Anna after the Texas Revolution a decade earlier. In 1845, newly elected U.S. President James K. Polk, who saw the annexation of Texas as the first step towards a further expansion of the United States, sent troops to the disputed area and a diplomatic mission to Mexico. After Mexican forces attacked American forces, Polk cited this in his request that Congress declare war.

New Braunfels, Texas City in Texas, United States

New Braunfels is a city in Comal and Guadalupe counties in the U.S. state of Texas, located in the northeastern part of Greater San Antonio. It is the seat of Comal County and 32 miles (51 km) from Downtown San Antonio. The city covers 44.9 square miles (116 km2) and has a 2017 estimated population of 79,152.

Samuel Addition White and William M. Cook founded Indian Point, later Indianola, in August, 1846. [9]

Some of these immigrants purchased land from Samuel White and established a settlement at Indian Point. The name of the settlement changed to Indianola in 1849 by combining the word Indian with ola, the Spanish word for "wave". The German immigrants continued to refer to the community as Carlshaven (Carl's Harbor) in honor of Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels. [10]

Post German immigration years

Indianola, Texas in 1875 Indianola.jpg
Indianola, Texas in 1875

From its founding in 1846, Indianola served as a major port, and before the 1875 storm was second only to Galveston as Texas's primary port. [11] The town incorporated in 1853. In 1856, the port received cargoes of camels, part of the US Army Camel Corps experiment to replace horses and mules as the primary pack animal in the southwestern parts of the country.

Galveston, Texas City in Texas

Galveston is a coastal resort city and port off the southeast coast on Galveston Island and Pelican Island in the American State of Texas. The community of 209.3 square miles (542 km2), with an estimated population of 50,180 in 2015, is the county seat of surrounding Galveston County and second-largest municipality in the county. It is also within the Houston–The Woodlands–Sugar Land metropolitan area at its southern end on the northwestern coast of the Gulf of Mexico.

Camel genus of mammals

A camel is an even-toed ungulate in the genus Camelus that bears distinctive fatty deposits known as "humps" on its back. Camels have long been domesticated and, as livestock, they provide food and textiles. As working animals, camels—which are uniquely suited to their desert habitats—are a vital means of transport for passengers and cargo. There are three surviving species of camel. The one-humped dromedary makes up 94% of the world's camel population, and the two-humped Bactrian camel makes up the remainder. The Wild Bactrian camel is a separate species and is now critically endangered.

During the American Civil War, Indianola was twice occupied by Union troops, in October 1862 and November 1863. During the second occupation, part of a Union infantry regiment moving from Indianola to Matagorda Island drowned in Matagorda Bay.

In 1869, the world's first mechanically-refrigerated shipment of beef left Indianola for New Orleans.

During World War II, the U.S. Army constructed an anti-aircraft firing range along the Indianola shoreline to train gunners and the facility was used primarily by military personnel from Camp Hulen, located outside of Palacios.

Impact of storms

Having survived severe storms before, Indianola was almost totally destroyed on 16 September 1875. The New York Times reported in detail on the extensive loss of life and property. Even the lighthouses were swept away [12] and the keepers, including Thomas H. Mayne and Edward Flick Jr. of the East Shoal Lighthouse, killed. [13]

The town was rebuilt but events were repeated in 1886. The destruction served as an abject lesson for many residents of Galveston, 100 miles up the Texas coast. However, their calls for a seawall to protect that city went unheeded, and Galveston nearly shared Indianola's fate when the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 struck the island.

A railroad was intended to connect the port of Indianola to San Antonio. After the two storms, discouraged investors abandoned the venture and made Galveston the port of choice. After Galveston's hurricane, shipping traffic recentered over time to inland Houston.

After the 1886 storm, the county seat was moved to Port Lavaca. On October 4, 1887, the post office in Indianola was permanently closed and the town declared "dead". [10] Today, almost nothing remains of the original Indianola, as, due to storm erosion, most of the site of the city is now under water. A granite marker was placed on the shore at the nearest point to the Indianola courthouse, now 300 feet (about 90 meters) away in Matagorda Bay. It reads, "Calhoun County Courthouse. Edward Beaumont, Architect 1859. During the Storms of 1875 and 1886, precious lives were saved within its walls of shell, concrete, and lime. Abandoned 1886." The site is also home to a statue of René-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle.

Indianola is now the site of a small unincorporated fishing village.

In literature

In Elizabeth Hand's novel Aestival Tide, a reconstructed Indianola is featured as the lowermost level of the central ziggurat in the dome city of Araboth. [14]

In the novel Matagorda by author Louis L'Amour, much of the action took place in Indianola, Texas on the day it was destroyed by the 1875 hurricane. The courthouse, the site of which is now underwater out in the bay, was featured as the last refuge of the townspeople. [15]

In Part I of Isaac's Storm , in the chapter "Galveston: An Absurd Delusion" (pages 79–84), Erik Larson describes the two storms that ravaged Indianola and the significance of these storms for Galveston, Texas, leading up to the Galveston storm of 1900. [16] He notes: "At first, Galveston's leading men seemed to grasp the significance of the Indianola storms. Anyone who looked at a map could see that Galveston was even more vulnerable to destruction than Indianola. It had no picket of barrier islands to shelter it, no buffer of mainland prairie. The city faced the Gulf head-on." He further observes: "Six weeks after the second Indianola storm, a group of thirty prominent Galveston residents calling themselves the Progressive Association met and resolved to build a seawall", and "The city's Evening Tribune endorsed the plan". However, although "The state eventually did authorize a bond to pay for the work," the city's engineer E.M. Hartwick observed, "this was some months after the flood, and by then the attitude was, Oh, we'll never get another one--and they didn't build."

Larson criticizes meteorologist Isaac Cline (among others) for this failure. For example, Larson cites statements Cline published in the July 1891 Galveston News article, "West India Hurricanes": [17]

Further, in Part III of Isaac's Storm, in a chapter titled "Ritter's Cafe: You Can't Frighten Me", Larson publishes the recollections of Mollie Cohen, whose impressions of the Galveston Storm of 1900 reminded her of the second Indianola hurricane:

In music

Singer/songwriter, Charlie Robison, included a song titled "Indianola" on the 1998 album Life of the Party that is a specific reference to Indianola, Texas. The song begins from the perspective of a German immigrant approaching Indianola by sea and chronicling details of the narrator's family. The narrator and his cousin attempt to traverse the South to join the Union Army in the American Civil War, though they encounter Rebel resistance in Indianola, TX. The next scene of the folk song briefly addresses the stock market crash of 1929 in an indirect fashion, noting that little change occurred in their respective lives other than rust's accumulating on wagon wheels. While this verse is brief in regards to words and time, it denotes a subtle and increasing disaffection in the American/Texan experience, adversely affected by seemingly non-relevant incidences. The storyline then progresses to World War II, introducing an internal struggle between the call of duty of the United States of America and its armed conflict with Germany, the ancestral point of origin of many Americans. The overall sentiment of the song begins as a story of new promises followed by a series of fictional, though personally carved facts, that illustrate a common experience for the individualist. Texas exemplifies a spirit that is not only uniquely a Texan story, but an American one, thrusting the individual against the external influence that would assume its right to assert its own values. This, however, should not be confused with contemporary movements deviating from the spirit of this song.

Singer/songwriter Brian Burns included the song "Indianola" on his 2004 album "Heavy Weather". The lyrics of the song chronicle the full life cycle of Indianola with verses from the points of view of a personified Matagorda bay, an immigrant who helped build the city (Johann), a worker who came to help "bury the lost souls who perished that day" (Isaac), and finally the songwriter himself visiting the site (Brian). It is unclear whether the "Johann" mentioned in verse three refers to the Johann Dethardt, the first ship to bring settlers into the area, or Johann Swartz, the owner/builder of the first home erected in what would become Indianola. [19]


What is now Indianola is served by the Calhoun County Independent School District.

See also

Further reading


  1. "Indianola, Texas". Recorded Texas Historic Landmark. William Nienke, Sam Morrow.
  2. Brister, Louis E. "Count Carl of Castell-Castell". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 26 December 2010.
  3. Brister, Louis E. "Count Victor August of Leiningen-Westerburg-Alt-Leiningen". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 26 December 2010.
  4. King (1967) pp.52-58
  5. Solms (2000) p.131
  6. King (1967) pp.75-83
  7. King (1967) pp.85,87
  8. King (1967) p.88
  9. Malsch, Brownson. "Indianola, Texas". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 2 January 2011.
  10. 1 2 Wolff, Linda (1999). Indianola and Matagorda Island 1837–1887. Austin, Texas: Eakin Press. ISBN   1-57168-340-2.
  11. Bartlett, John Russell (1854). Personal narrative of explorations and incidents in Texas, New Mexico, California, Sonora, and Chihuahua, connected with the United States and Mexican boundary commission, during the years 1850, '51, '52, and '53 /By John Russell Bartlett, United States commissioner during that period ... Missouri Botanical Garden. New York and London : D. Appleton & company.
  12. "The Gulf Cyclone: Additional Particulars Of The Destruction Of Indianola. Hardly A House Left Unharmed". New York Times . September 30, 1875. Retrieved November 9, 2013.
  13. "Thomas Louis Mayne" . Retrieved November 9, 2013.
  14. Hand, Elizabeth (August 1, 1992). Aestival Tide (Spectra Special Editions ed.). Spectra. ISBN   978-0-553-29542-9.
  15. L'Amour, Louis (February 1, 1985). Matagorda: A Novel. Bantam. ISBN   978-0-553-28108-8.
  16. Larson, Erik (1999). Isaac's Storm. Random House Publishing. ISBN   0-609-60233-0.
  17. Cline, Isaac M. (July 16, 1891). "West India Hurricanes". Galveston 'News'.
  18. Larson, Erik (1999). Isaac's Storm. Random House Publishing. p. 157. ISBN   0-609-60233-0.
  19. "Town of Indianola Markers". Retrieved 30 August 2017.

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Coordinates: 28°30′43″N96°29′15″W / 28.51194°N 96.48750°W / 28.51194; -96.48750