Located on the scenic Matagorda Bay coastline in Texas, Indianola is a fascinating ghost town that remains shrouded in mystery among the numerous abandoned settlements in the state. Indianola has a rich history, with significant events such as the arrival of German immigrants, U.S. troop landings during the Civil War, and a visit from Ulysses S. Grant.
Unfortunately, the town was frequently struck by disasters such as fires, hurricanes, and the devastating yellow fever outbreak. Over time, Indianola became a place that was eventually abandoned, leaving behind a lesser-known but fascinating story.
The emergence of Indianola as a bustling port
Indianola was founded in 1846 by German merchants who wanted to create a trade route connecting Texas and Europe. Originally known as “Indian Point,” the town had humble beginnings. Thanks to its prime location on Matagorda Bay, it didn’t take long for this place to become a thriving port that drew in ships from all over the world. The town played a crucial role in the influx of German immigrants who arrived on Adelsverein-sponsored vessels, which greatly contributed to its expansion. In 1853, Indian Point was officially renamed Indianola, following a suggestion made by a local newspaper.
Indianola was a bustling port and commercial hub, ranking second in size among Texas ports, after Galveston. It also held the distinction of being the fourth-largest city in the state. The town thrived with a population of over 5,000, offering a range of amenities including hotels, banks, schools, churches, newspapers, and a telegraph office.
Indianola’s vibrant atmosphere was enhanced by a variety of cultural and social activities, such as balls, concerts, fairs, and races. In the Civil War, the town was strategically important as a base for both Confederate and Union forces. This significance reached its peak when U.S. troops arrived in Indianola in 1865.
Indianola Ravaged by Disasters: A Troubling Situation
Indianola experienced a brief period of prosperity, but unfortunately, the town was soon hit by a series of devastating disasters. In 1869, a devastating fire broke out, engulfing more than 50 buildings and leaving behind widespread destruction. The fire, caused by a steamboat-related incident, caused significant damage to the wooden buildings due to strong winds.
In 1875, Indianola experienced another devastating event when a powerful hurricane struck the town. This hurricane brought winds exceeding 100 mph and a storm surge over 15 feet, causing significant destruction. The devastating hurricane resulted in the loss of more than 150 lives, leaving thousands without homes and causing significant damage to vital infrastructure, which cut off Indianola from the outside world.
In 1886, the town faced yet another devastating hurricane. This powerful storm brought winds of over 120 mph and a storm surge that reached more than 20 feet. This hurricane caused extensive destruction to the remaining structures, resulting in a tragic loss of over 200 lives. Additionally, it significantly changed the course of the bay, making it difficult to access the port. In the end, Indianola fell into ruin, forcing the survivors to move to neighboring towns such as Victoria and Cuero.
Present-Day Remnants of Indianola
The town of Indianola was unable to recover from the devastating hurricanes that hit it, leading to its official dissolution in 1887. The land was subsequently sold to private owners. Although it has become less well-known over time, the town has attracted the interest of historians and enthusiasts who are passionate about preserving its legacy.
A monument was erected in Indianola by the Texas Centennial Commission in 1935 to commemorate its historical significance. In 1971, the Texas Historical Commission recognized Indianola as a historic site and added markers and plaques to commemorate its significance. Additionally, in 1982, the Calhoun County Historical Commission established a museum in the area.
Matagorda Island State Park in Indianola is a fascinating ghost town that beckons visitors with its natural beauty and abundance of recreational activities. Visitors have the option to take a ferry to the island, where they can explore the remains of Indianola. These remnants tell a captivating story of triumph, tragedy, growth, decline, hope, and despair. This ghost town invites visitors to remember and explore its fascinating history.