Town of Indianola Historical Markers
Starting in 1998 the Calhoun County Commission, thru Commission Chairman George Fred Rhodes, erected 56 Indianola Markers in the Magnolia/Indianola Beach area. The historical markers tell the story of the history of Indianola. The Markers are as follows:
Site of German immigrant landing beginning on December 24, 1844, which received settlers sponsored by Adelsverein. Settlers then moved on to planned colonies in the hill country (New Braunfels and Fredericksburg)... The town of Indian Point was surveyed and formally established in 1846. The name was changed to Indianola in 1849.
The first vessel to bring German immigrants to Indian Point was the Johann Dethardt (Capt. Th. Ludering). The second vessel bringing German immigrants to Indian Point was the Herrschel (Capt. J. Lamke) on December 8, 1844 followed by the Ferdinand (Capt. A. Hagedorn) on December 14. It was followed by the brig Apollo.
The first Xmas in Texas for the Germans was an unhappy experience, with no building on the bay to house and protect them from the cold wind and rain. Reverend Lewis Ervendberg, the first Texas German Protestant minister, came to Indian Point and extended the Germans who had arrived a Christian welcome.
On Xmas Eve a small tree was decorated. Gifts were presented to the children. On December 25th, 1844, the first Holy Communion service on the land that was to be Indianola was led by Evangelical Lutheran minister Rev. Ervendberg. These families were the vanguard of thousands of Germans to Texas for the next three decades.
On Powderhorn Bayou, 3 miles southeast of Indian Point, a storehouse had been rented for the Verein’s property. Prince Carl and Samuel A. White did all they could to ease the problems of the German immigrants stranded at Indian Point. Prince Carl had a two story frame building erected. He then referred to Indian Point as Carlshaven.
The first immigrants were to remain at this location subject to ever changing elements and the attacks of the Gulf Coast Mosquito. The immigrants remained under these conditions for several months before property for a permanent inland settlement was acquired and transportation could be provided. Johann Swartz and family decided to remain and purchased land and erected a house.
Johann Swartz’ home was the first house erected on the site of what was to become the Port of Indianola. Swartz died in that house on October 31, 1860 and was considered the oldest inhabitant and being the first settler on the site of the City of Indianola, where he built the first house, which he occupied up to the hour of his death.
Means of travel was obtain in January of 1845 to move the German immigrants to their first stop at Agua Dulce on Chocolate Creek, just twelve miles from the bay. The immigrants traveled to the Northwest to Spring Creek just above Victoria, Texas. Prince Carl left the immigrants to find and purchase a tract of land to be used for the initial settlement.
By March 5th, the first immigrants train had reached McCoy Creek, seventy-eight miles from Indian Point. Fortunately, Prince Carl was able to purchase a tract of land in Comal County. The immigrants journey came to an end on March 21, 1845 in a town to be known as Neu Braunfels, which was divided in small farm tracts.
Prince Carl was replaced by (Baron) von Meusebach, who was appointed commissioner general by the Verein on February 24, 1845. Meusebach visited Indian Point and traveled to Neu Braunfels to discover the Verein had financial troubles. Meusebach purchased land for the establishment of Friedrichsburg. During 1845-1846, 5,247 men, women and children arrived at Indianola in 36 ships.
Dr. Joseph M. Reuss reached
Indian Point in 1845 and settled there where he practiced medicine and
opened an apothecary. He met and was charmed by German fraulein Anna G.
Stubbeman, who arrived alone. He married her on December 2, and for the
next thirty years they were leaders in the business and social life of
Henry Runge was a young German who played a leading role in the development of the Port at Indian Point. He opened a bank in a tent in 1845, the first in the area and one of the early banks in Texas. Henry Huck was another young German who established a lumber yard in Indian Point in 1845, and assisted many German settlers.
By March 1846, von Meusebach had made arrangements for the movement of immigrants from Indian Point. About 100 teams arrived that month and the people were over-joyed. The transfer of the Germans to Neu Braunfels proved to be difficult, as the wagons would sink to the axles in the mud on the prairie. Some of the immigrants left the wagon trains in Victoria.
As weather conditions improved in March 1846, the immigrant’s hopes of crossing a dry prairie to Neu Braunfels rose. War broke out between the U.S. and Mexico in May. The immigrants became stranded because the U.S. Army hired every available team and wagon by paying more to the teamsters. German volunteers were organized for the U.S. Army at Indian Point by Augustus Buchel, a former officer in Europe.
The congress of the U.S., on December 29, 1845, admitted Texas into the union. The end of the republic came on Feb. 19, 1846. Those events received little attention from the stranded German colonists. In March of 1846 von Meusebach, hired the Torrey brothers of Houston, to move the immigrants inland. 100 teams arrived in March and the people were overjoyed.
Epidemics of typhoid, cholera and spinal meningitis took the lives of adults and children. The number of dead rose and mass graves were filled with bodies. Entire families were wiped out, and the number of deaths in the summer of 1846 ranged to near 2,000. Many began the trek inland on foot and over 200 died along the way. Some Germans abandoned the Adelsverein, and settled at Indian Point.
In 1846 Germans continued to move inland and the legislature in Austin passed a bill that created Calhoun County on April 4. Theodore Miller was elected Chief Justice and Henry Huck, probate judge. There was a movement for the establishment of a town of Indian Point in 1846. The town plat included 733 building lots on 82 blocks, and four streets paralleled the bay.
Commercial and passenger traffic into and out of Matagorda Bay increased and it was noted by the U.S. government. A post office was established at Indian Point on September 7, 1847, and John W. Pope was postmaster. H. Runge & Co. operated as commission and forwarding agents. Other forwarding agents were Charles Eckhardt, David Murphree and John Henry Brown. Murphree was a veteran of San Jacinto.
A formal agreement was signed by Samuel A. White and Theo. Miller on Jan, 20, 1848. The latter acting as agent of the German Emigration Co. It was the successor of the bankrupt Adelsverein. In Jan. 1848, John B. Brown of Victoria established a weekly stagecoach service to Indian Point. Harrison & McCulloch extended their stage service from Lavaca to Indian Point. Edward Clegg was the first agent at Lavaca.
Harris & Morgan’s steamship yacht was on a weekly schedule between Galveston and Matagorda Bay ports. Indian Point received another boost, this one from the widely read book by the author Viktor Bracht. His book compared Matagorda Bay favorably with Galveston Bay, as to navigation. Indian Point developed into a center from which merchants of inland towns could be supplied.
Indian Point had developed with a port of four wharfs. This was achieved in three years from the ports beginning. In 1848, a steady movement of European immigrants continued through Indian Point, destined for the inland. The Adelsverein went bankrupt in 1847, but the flow of immigrants continued into the port from Europe, and western Texas was the goal of the thousands of refugees who entered the port.
An adequate supply of potable water was to remain a constant problem at Indianola. There were no fresh streams nearby which could be used for households and for the boilers of steamships. Green Lake and its abundance of fresh water was 20 miles away. Rain water was collected in above-ground cisterns and huge concrete reservoirs underground. Rainfall was usually sufficient to maintain the cisterns.
Charles Eckhardt and Theo. Miller, representing the merchants of Indian Point and the German Emigration Company, arranged a survey by John A. King, of DeWitt County, of a new and shorter route from New Braunfels to Victoria. The purpose was to save time for the wagoners, stages, immigrants, and the general public. The new route reduced the distance from Indian Point to New Braunfels by 25 miles.
The trade routes from here went far beyond the central Texas towns. Much of the U.S. Government traffic moved thru Matagorda Bay as a result of the war with Mexico in 1846. It was soon followed by shipments of commercial and military goods as far west as El Paso. Dr. Levi Jones in 1848 boosted a road from Indian Point to the Pacific. Dr. Jones treated Stephen F. Austin, just prior to his death.
Sailing ships from Boston,
New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Pensacola, Mobile, & New Orleans
crowded the four wharves at Indian Point in 1848, to discharge their cargoes
for the interior of Western Texas and to take on raw materials to the industrial
north. Eckhardt became the main exporter of wool grown in the region around
Fredericksburg. Eckhardt also shipped native grass hay from the Guadalupe
River valley to New Orleans and Mobile.
Indian Point in 1848 presented a near and well-ordered appearance. Oleanders had been introduced from Galveston and grew in the town. The influence of the large German population was apparent, and was a bilingual community from the start. Many of the older immigrants who settled at Indian Point lived out their span without learning English. Schools of Indian Point were bilingual until June 1860.
The Presbyterians and Methodists had congregations in Indian Point by the summer of 1848. A Lutheran church was organized there in 1854. The Rev. Daniel Baker, D.D., pioneer Presbyterian missionary minister, visited Indian Point in 1848. Sam. A. White promoted a sale of land in 1848. German residents of the town were not enthusiastic about White’s plans to entice more “Americans” to invest in and settle at Indian Point.
The war between the U.S. and
Mexico ended on Feb. 2, 1848. The exodus of American troops from Mexico
was a boost to Indian Point. There was an uninterrupted flow of homeward
bound troops. The treaty gave the U.S. more land which would benefit the
Port of Indianola. Goods would flow through the port from the territory
the U.S. acquired from Mexico.
In October 1848, a contingent of U.S. troops reached the port in route to San Antonio. These troops garrisoned the new fort of El Paso. Shortly thereafter, gold was discovered in Northern California and the seekers entered the port to take the overland route to the gold fields. Angelina Eberly moved from Lavaca to Indian Point on April 15, 1848, and opened the American Hotel on Main Street.
Discussion was increasing of the need to change the name of Indian Point. After some debate by citizens, the name “Indianola” was proposed by Mrs. John Henry Brown. Her reasoning for the name was the first part of the current name (Indian) and the other part would be (ola), which is the Spanish word for wave. “Indianola” was approved on February 1, 1849. A sharp increase in the number of vessels entering Matagorda Bay began late in 1848.
James D. Cochran, H.H. Rogers, and S. A. White, in December 1848, opened a beef canning plant. It had only moderate success. Live cattle on foot continued to be shipped to the distant beef markets. It would be twenty years before mechanically refrigerated beef began to be shipped out of Indianola. Harris & Morgan, after a tiff with Lavaca, built a landing below Indianola as the terminus for the Harris & Morgan line.
Indianola businesses were delighted with Morgan’s move, and an addition to the established town was commenced. The addition included a part of the German immigrant camp, Karlshafen. The addition became known as Brown’s Addition to Indianola. The planners envisioned that the Main Street of Indianola would continue down the beach and be designated by the same name in the addition. The waterfront street of the addition was named “Water”.
The plan included a cemetery, a church, a school, a market square, four public squares, a military square, and a courthouse square. A space for a courthouse was set aside in both the Indianola and Brown’s Additions. Most of the streets were named after Texas leaders and heroes. The City of Indianola, as Brown’s Addition later became to be known, covered 834 building blocks, 64 wharf lots, 142 farm lots, ten acres in size.
In the early 1850's Old Indian Point, known as Indianola and Brown’s Addition, was referred to as Powder Horn. With the passage of a few years the Powder Horn portion of the community, the former Indian Point would be known as Old Town and the Powder Horn area would be Indianola Proper. Some would call them Upper and Lower Indianola.
In 1850 the U.S. Army selected Indianola as a depot through which supplies would be brought in for the military outposts. Ships were placed in regular service to bring in horses, mules, wagons, and teamsters. These and other supplies were landed at what was known as the government wharf. It had a length of 250 feet reaching into 6 ½ feet of water. A narrow gage railroad laid on the wharf, extended to the warehouses on shore.
In 1850 Angelina Eberly, a hotel owner, became the principal property holder in Indianola. Her assets being valued at fifty thousand. Mrs. Eberly’s hotel catered to families, and her rooms being a constant demand. Her principal competitor was the Alhambra, operated by Casimir & Matilda Villeneuve. Their bar furnished wines, ale, Porter, cider, brandies, and other liquors. The Oyster Saloon served up every variety and the Billiard Room was very comfortable.
In April 1850 Indianola was a beehive of activity. The wharves were at capacity with sailing vessels, and steamers tied up bow to stern while others rode at anchor in the bay waiting their turn to come in. The streets were crowded with wagons and Mexican carts, and those unable to reach the warehouses and wharves, stayed in camps nearby.
Nearby, Dr. Levi Jones began the promotion of his projected port, which was to be located across Powder Horn Bayou and on the shore of Matagorda Bay. As agent for the LaSalle City Co., he advertised in the newspapers of Texas, New Orleans, and New York, of the advantages of his planned town. Dr. Jones was a clever salesman, so much so that he was successful in persuading several Indianolians to transfer their business houses to LaSalle.
The steamer Portland arrived on Aug. 29, 1850 with Commissioner John R. Bartlett of Rhode Island, and the balance of the men assigned to his command. He had been apt. by Pres. Zachary Taylor as the U.S. Commissioner charged with the responsibility of surveying and marking the boundary between the U.S. and Mexico. He was to meet his Mexican counterpart, Gen. Pedro G. Conde, at El Paso del Norte, and they would establish the boundary line from that point to the Pacific Ocean.
In Sept. 1850, the postmaster general announced the establishment of new mail routes in Western Texas. Directly affecting Matagorda Baytowns and Victoria were: “From Indianola, via McGrew’s to Victoria. From Victoria, via Mission Valley, King’s and Sulphur Springs to San Antonio. From San Antonio, via Eagle Pass and Presidio del Norte, to El Paso and Dona Ana. From Goliad to Cibolo Springs, Bexar County. From Lavaca to Texana, Jackson Co. From Texana, via Wharton and R. J. Calder’s, to Columbia.
A leading source of revenue in Indianola was the lumber trade. In Oct. 1850, there were seven vessels running regularly from Mobile and Pensacola to Indianola solely engaged in the movement of lumber. The transportation of lumber from Indianola to the inland towns provided employment for a number of teamsters and laborers. In 1850, mail boats were placed in service between Indianola, Saluria, Corpus Christi, and Brownsville. Mail from these ports was shipped overland to their destination.
To meet competition from the LaSalle wharf, Capt. John A. Rogers purchased the entire interest in a new wharf at Indianola in Oct. 1850, and laid plans to extend it to a water depth of 10 ft. It would then be the longest that had been built, to that time, on Matagorda Bay. Rogers’ wharf helped turn the tide and hold for Indianola the ship traffic that was beginning to be diverted to the town of LaSalle.
Harris & Morgan announced that two steamers were to be added to those of the line running between New Orleans and Matagorda Bay in Nov. 1850. Their steamers had luxurious staterooms and public saloons. The steamship company operated on schedule of arrivals and departures every 5 days out of New Orleans to and from Indianola, via Galveston.
In Feb. 1851, the congregation of the Indianola Presby. Church awarded the contract for the erection of the first church in the town. The Presbyterians made their new church available to other religious groups for use in worship. The Saltmarsh Stage Line, which transported mail from Indianola to San Antonio, increased the number of trips in March 1851. It used an improved route, via Lavaca, on an improved road by Green Lake to Victoria.
On June 25, 1851, a short and severe storm passed through Matagorda Bay. The storm caused widespread wind and water damage to buildings at Saluria. The tides were the highest in the memory of the citizens, and waves injected salt water in the cisterns in the city. Every wharf at Port Lavaca was destroyed. The storm also did severe damage to Indianola and the wharves were badly damaged.
Beginning in the summer of 1851, and continuing without break, Indianola was supplied with ice harvested on New England ponds and transported south by refrigerator ships. At Indianola, it was placed in an icehouse whose walls were insulated with packed sawdust. Ice became a novelty for home use, hotels, cafes, bars, drug stores, and confectionaries, where ice cream and chilled drinks were offered for sale. Indianola’s prosperity was not being matched by the town of LaSalle.
Jan. 1852 brought the establishment of the “Indianola Bulletin”, a weekly newspaper with John Henry Brown as editor. The Bulletin became a highly respected paper in Western Texas with above average news coverage and editorial content. By Dec. of its first year, circulation exceeded 700. When Andrew Marschalk succeeded Brown as editor and publisher, he placed under the masthead, “Independent in Everything, Neutral in Nothing.” John Henry Brown became the author of several notable historical works.
The Western Texas Lodge, Independent Order of Odd Fellows under Grand Master Anson Jones, was organized on June 30, 1852. Elected as officers were A. K. Peiser, Noble Grand, and H. E. Boehner, Vice Grand. In 1852 a petition was presented to the Commissioners Court by Indianolans proposing that the Calhoun County Courthouse be moved from Lavaca to Indianola. An election determined that the courthouse for the county seat would be moved to Indianola.
The county commissioners decreed that all public offices and the archives of the county be moved to Indianola on or before Aug. 21, 1852. A public square had been set aside in the plan of Indian Point in 1846 to accommodate a courthouse. Block 162 (now Indianola) was intended to be the site of the county jail and workhouse. The Chief Justice at the time was Jefferson Beaumont. Indianola was incorporated on Feb. 7, 1853.
Two firsts at Indianola were noted in Aug. & Sept. 1852. One was that the Presbyterians were to be hosts for the meeting of the Presbytery of Western Texas. It would be a three day conference. Secretary of War Charles M. Conrad recommended that Congress appropriate $20,000 for a test of the practicability of using camels for the transportation of government freight in Western Texas, the New Mexico territory and on to the Pacific Ocean.
Progress in Indianola in May 1852 was not confined to landbased operations . The brig Russell had arrived and her cargo was the prefabricated parts for the cast iron lighthouse to be placed on Matagorda Island at Pass Cavallo. The lighthouse was assembled and on completion, was a 79 foot tower painted red, white & black with horizontal stripes, stationing a Third Order lens 96 feet above sea level. The light lamps were fueled by colza oil. The light was visible for 16 miles.
Hugh W. Hawes petitioned the court in Nov. 1852 for the right to operate ferries, and to charge toll between the mainland at Alligator Head & Saluria on Matagorda Island. Hawes’s petition was conditioned on the court approving Dr. Levi Jones’s petition to construct a road between the two towns. Hawes’s proposal was approved & ferry toll rates were set: “Wagons with 6 oxen or horses, $1.00; pleasure carriages, .75 cents; horse & rider, .50 cents; pedestrians, .25 cents; horses & cattle, .10 cents each.
The six month period which Indianola citizens furnished quarters to Calhoun County officials free of charge ended March 1, 1853. The court signed a lease agreement with August Fromme on Feb. 21, 1853 to continue occupying the building on the property, then serving as the courthouse. For the use of the structure & lot, plus cistern privileges, the county paid Fromme $25 per month. Actual construction of a courthouse was to be delayed for several years.
Yellow fever reared its head in epidemic form in 1853. When it became evident yellow fever was spreading & posing a serious threat, the city appointed a Board of Health. Members were H. E. Boehner, Henry Runge, A. K. Peiser, Dr. William H. Dallam, Dr. J. C. Lawrence, & Dr. F. E. Hughes. The Indianola City Hospital was established, with Dr. Hughes as physician. The yellow fever epidemic continued to rage unabated because no cure was known.
The War Dept. maintained a depot which was used by the U.S. Army, and was situated in the town of Indianola. The buildings of the depot consisted of five structures for supplies, a small blacksmith shop, and a stable, 32 x 70 feet. The U.S. Army paid a monthly rent of $80 for the use of a wharf, 250 feet long. The Quartermaster’s Dept. was normally in charge of such facilities, but the facilities were under the jurisdiction of 2nd Lieut. George C. Barber, 8th Infantry. Lieut. Barber died of yellow fever in 1853.
By April 1854, James and A. C. Ashworth had joined the migration to the Powder Horn area, and were grocers and commission merchants. They had moved from Indianola Proper, now being referred to as “Old Town” to distinguish it from the portion developing rapidly in Brown’s Addition, and which was being called Indianola. Fletcher S. Stockdale moved his law office from Old Town to the Powder Horn section. He took an active role in promotion of the commercial & religious interests, and he represented the 26th District in the Texas Senate in two legislatures.
If you have any comments or suggestions, please Email Mr Rhodes.