Friday, February 13, 2009

A Texas Ghost Town

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A Texas Ghost Town
For several years now, I’ve been fascinated with and researching an old ghost town. She was once a thriving seaport along the Texas Gulf Coast. Her life was brief; spanning only forty-two years, but her legacy to Texas was gigantic.
She was known as the “Dream City of the Gulf”, “The Mother of Western Texas” and “Galveston’s Sister.” I am a native Texan and had never heard the name of this old town until a few years ago, when I stumbled across her, quite by accident, while surfing the web.
Her name changed several times over her short life, like a woman widowed and remarried more than once. She was born with the German name, Karlshaven (meaning Carl’s Harbor) in honor of Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels. But she also became known as Indian Point and eventually Indianola. (That even sounds like a woman’s name, doesn’t it?)
As an infant, Karlshaven opened her empty arms to German immigrants landing on Texas soil in the early 1840’s. The Adelsverein (Germany’s society of nobility) promised German citizens wishing to settle in Texas, transportation, a protected colony and housing. An average household was required to deposit 600 gulden (approx. $240) and single persons 300 gulden. Half of their money would be used for expenses for promised items, while half would be placed on a line of credit in the new colony. The credit could be drawn on for food, tools and farming equipment.
The Adelsverein, however, sent the first shiploads of immigrants westward before the colony was ready. When the voyagers landed along the swampy Texas coast, they had more of an adventure than they expected. The colony was non-existent. There was no housing. And the line of credit had evaporated like the dew on a hot Texas morn.
Many immigrants didn’t make it past the first two to three years. Cholera, typhoid fever and starvation were just a few of the enemies found in this new land. Of those who survived, many moved inland. But some stayed along the bay waters deficient in trees, shelter and income. They worked hard. They wouldn’t give up. They placed their trust in “der liebe Gott” to see them through.
The “Dream City of the Gulf” was born.
Over her short life span, she would see floods of immigrants, American settlers, invasion of U.S. military troops, hordes of camels and prosperity. She would become the County seat, the home of a famous shoot-out in one of Texas’ most notorious feuds and the target of wind-ravaging hurricanes.
I’ve read and studied about my old friend, Indianola, for quite some time now. Tomorrow, we shall meet for the first time. She rests only a short two to three hour drive from my home. My husband and I will rise early in the morning and travel to visit the ghost of a civilization that once thrived in history.
I promise to take pictures, to report to you what I find and to share more with you in future blogs about “The Mother of Western Texas.”

Sketch of Indianola c 1850.


  1. It sounds like a wonderful trip, wish I could go. OH I am going wow.

  2. Hi Judy,

    Thanks for commenting on my blog. Your trip to the ghosttown sounded wonderful! It's always fun to hear from others who had wed on Valentine's Day! Happy Anniversary. ;)

  3. Very interesting... My family on my mother's side came over from Spain, landing at Indianola. They moved on to Gonzales and eventually Port Arthur, where I am near today.

  4. The Texas History Museum in San Antonio I think has a video on Texas towns. Indianola is on it.
    I used to show the series to my 4th grade class. You might check them for further information. There is also a children's book written about a lady's grandmother who came from Germany and landed on the Texas coast. The grandmother's mother was buried on the coast there. You might check Eakin Press in Austin. I am so sorry I can't remember the name of the book. The family ended up settling near New Braunfels.

  5. Very interesting. I'd never heard of this town. Good post.

  6. Hi Judy... Your hubby posted your blog site on the class email exchange/newsy letter and I was so excited to see what you were writing about Indianola... I was born in Calhoun County and spent the first years of my life there while my dad was stationed at the Airforce base on Matagorda Island... its best known for the mosquitoes there that are the size of small chicken hawks... not really , but it seems like it if you are mapping...Matagorda is a spooky place, in and of itself... every so often they turn up an old live munition shell dropped during practice runs on the beach near there during the Korean war... I remember a few of the stories he brought home from guys who had been stationed there for a long time... the place always has intrigued me... there is just something different about how it feels there... the only way i can describe it is a profound feelings of loss and lost...the one that remains the clearest to me is about a 15 year old girl that was shipped overseas with other young girls that were basically street urchins and would be missed by no one... this particular girl was especially pretty, they say, long, jet-black hair... unusual green eyes and the fairest of skin that contrasted startlingly with her naturally red lips and rosy cheeks... she was brought with these other girls to broker into marriage... sort of like mail order brides as i understood it... a much older sea captain took a fancy for her and took her in marriage(some say it was 20 years difference in their age, some say 40)... he had a large home built for her with a widows walk that could view his coming and going when he sailed between there and New Orleans and Florida on a regular basis... the young girl was kept like a prisoner in her home because of the Captain's jealousy and insecurity about keeping a young wife happy... he employed a woman to keep her constant company and to report everything that she did to him... but even though the woman had come with fine references and from a decent family... she led a rather fast and secretive life, late at night, at a rather rough and tumble bar and keep on the outskirts of town... almost in know time, feeling sorry for her mistress, she began to sneak her out at night with her... and even though there was staff in the home that knew what the young women were doing they were to afraid to ever tell the captain anything and pretended not to know anything at all... it didn't take long before the young german girl found herself the focus of affection of a phantom man who would appear with a number of other sailors at the pub almost every week especially if he knew she would be there... as it always goes in those kind of tales... he was dashing, handsome and quite a bit nearer her age than her captain husband and she became quite smitten with him or the idea of him... he claimed he was madly in love with her as well and managed to have his way with her.... she soon found out that she was carrying his child... under the influence of her female companion, who was terrified of what would become of the both of them... the young girl stopped meeting her lover immediately... leaving him desperate to see her and understand what had happened... the girl's companion arranged to let the young man into see her mistress while the captain was still away because he threated her with her very life... in tears she told him that she was with child and that her husband would kill them both should he ever find out the child wasn't his... so she told him to leave and never return... he begged her to run away with him... they were at an impass... grief stricken the young pirate contrived a plan to pirate the old captain's ship when it returned to Indianola... his shipmates were game... so the plan was struck and when the time came they cast off to take the captain's ship and the young pirate planned to kill the old man or at the very least make him conveniently suffer a fatal accident and disappear for good during the confrontation... in the midst of all this the young german girl went into premature labor giving birth to a perfectly formed little boy who did not survive and in turn she died shortly after... this all happened at approximately the same hour and day of the siege... that found both boats at battle and caught by a storm... all members of both crafts were lost... its been said that the young woman has been seen in a gauzy white old fashion night dress carrying her baby running as though very afraid and looking over her shoulder... she has been seen crossing roads in the area appearing as a misty form screaming and disappearing as quickly as she was seen... one can only imagine who it is she runs from and who she runs too or if she will ever find the young pirate and escape the captain and ever find peace... she is only one amongst many ghosts in that stretch of lonely beach and sea grass... another version of the story claims that the Captain managed to kill the young pirate never knowing who he was... at the same time in his home, the companion delivered her charges child and smothered them both so that when the Captain returned she claimed the child had been his and they had both died... getting her off the hook... supposedly the Captain eventually married the young wife's companion who ironically died giving birth to his child... if either story be true... it would seem that there would be many unsettled souls as a result

    Anyway, that's one amongst many stories I remember being told... hope you found it interesting... I'm so happy to see someone writing about that part of Texas... there is so little told about it... I hope to hear more about what you find out... great luck and many smiles,

    Caroline Eveningstorm/Marth Beaty