The Doctor’s Wife

My latest historic fiction, The Doctor’s Wife, is the story of Amelia Anton, a teacher who leaves Germany in 1845 on an immigrant ship bound for Texas. After the death at sea of the child she is hired to tutor, her employer abandons her. Amelia quickly accepts the marriage proposal of the much-respected shipboard physician, Joseph Stein, only to discover that he is not the husband she expected.

Dr. Stein takes Amelia to the temporary settlement on Matagorda Bay where hundreds of disease-ridden Germans huddle in tents—stranded during the Mexican-American War—waiting for wagons to transport them inland. This story of heartache, betrayal, and business success of Amelia and Dr. Stein is woven into the struggle of the Germans who choose to remain on that barren shell beach and create the burgeoning seaport of Indianola. The village flourishes  as the jumping off place for dreamers heading to the California gold fields. The U.S. Army, destined for military posts as far west as El Paso, land personnel and equipment at the piers stretching into the shallow bay. Hundreds of freighters from the mines in Chihuahua, Mexico, haul silver to the port for shipment to the mint in New Orleans.

The Doctor’s Wife is a prequel to Stein House, my award-winning historic fiction that continues the story of Amelia and Dr. Stein as they welcome Amelia’s sister Helga and her family to Indianola in 1853. The family saga–tragedy of slavery and yellow fever, alcoholism and murder and the choices presented by the Civil War and Reconstruction–continues until the final storm turns Indianola into a ghost town.

The Doctor’s Wife is ready on Amazon for pre-orders in softcover and e-book. If you prefer a signed copy, I will have books available starting the week of May 16.

mcilvain.myra@gmail.com

 

Millions in Silver Hauled Across Texas

Hundreds of freight wagons, each drawn by six to eight mules, and brightly colored Mexican carretas, each pulled by four to six oxen, formed dusty weaving trains on the Chihuahua Road from the silver mines of

Mexican Carreta in El Paso, c. 1885  Photo courtesy SMU

Mexican Carreta in El Paso, c. 1885
Photo courtesy SMU

northern Mexico to the port town of Indianola on the central Texas coast. The trail across Texas opened in 1848 at the end of the Mexican-American War when the U.S. laid claim to Texas and the entire southwest all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The following year, the California Gold Rush set the get-rich-quickers into a frenzy looking for a shorter route across the country than the old Santa Fe Trail that ran from Missouri to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Port of Indianola

Port of Indianola

The new port of Indianola on Matagorda Bay offered dockage for U.S. military personnel and equipment bound for the western settlements of Texas as far as El Paso (future Fort Bliss), and it provided the perfect jumping-off place for settlers and gold-hungry Americans heading west. The ships, anchored at piers stretching out into the shallow bay, took on the Mexican silver and transported it to the mint in New Orleans. The vessels returned with trade goods destined for the interior of Texas and the towns developing in the west and the villages of Mexico.

The Chihuahuan Road headed northwest from Indianola, made quick stops in San Antonio and Del Rio, twisted north along the Devils River, forded the steep ledges along the Pecos River, and then plunged southwest through the Chihuahuan Desert to cross the Rio Grande at Presidio, entering the mineral-rich state of Chihuahua, Mexico.

The Spanish, as early as 1567, had discovered northern Mexico’s mineral wealth—gold, copper, zinc and lead—but silver was overwhelmingly the richest lode. By the time Mexico opened its commerce with the U.S. after the Mexican-American War, there were six mines in the area near Ciudad Chihuahua, capital of the Mexican state of Chihuahua.

The raw outcroppings of the richest mine, Santa Eulalia, had been discovered in 1652, but persistent Indian troubles chased away the Spanish explorer who had found the site. Fifty years later, three men who were fugitives from the law, hide in a deep ravine tucked into Santa Eulalia’s steep hills. They stacked some boulders to create a fireplace, and as the flames grew hotter, the boulders began leaking a shiny white metal, which they recognized as silver. Knowing their fortune awaited, they sent word via a friendly Indian to the padre in the nearby mission community of Chihuahua, offering to build the grandest cathedral in New Spain if the padre would absolve their sins and pardon them of their crimes. It worked. The fugitives received absolution and pardon; they became fabulously wealthy; and they built the Church of the Holy Cross,

Church of the Holy Cross, Our Lady of Regla, Ciudad Chihuahua

Church of the Holy Cross, Our Lady of Regla, Ciudad Chihuahua

Our Lady of Regla, the finest example of colonial architecture in northern Mexico. Miners flocked to the Santa Eulalia mine and Ciudad Chihuahua grew into a large and wealthy city.

Millions of dollars in silver and trade goods were hauled over the road between Indianola and Chihuahua, except for the years of the Civil War. The road served as the corridor for western settlement until 1883 when the Texas and Pacific Railroad from the east met the Southern Pacific from California. The new southern transcontinental railroad opened a direct route between New Orleans and California. The final blow to the Chihuahua Road arrived with the devastating hurricane of 1886 that turned the thriving seaport of Indianola into a ghost town.

Route of the Southern Transcontinental Railroad

Route of the Southern Transcontinental Railroad

Angelina Eberly, Innkeeper/Cannoneer

Famous for firing the howitzer that started Texas’ “Bloodless War,” Angelina Eberly was really a smart businesswoman.  Born in Tennessee in 1798, Angelina Belle married her first cousin Jonathan C Payton in 1818 and began a journey that ended in 1825 in San Felipe de Austin, headquarters of Stephen F. Austin’s colony.  The couple operated an inn and tavern with the help of several slaves.  After Jonathan died in 1834, Angelina continued running the inn and raising their three children until the Texas War for Independence from Mexico when the town was burned to keep General Santa Anna’s army from benefiting from its stores.

After Texas won independence from Mexico in 1836, Angelina married Jacob Eberly and moved to Austin the new capital of the republic, which sat on the far western edge of Texas settlement.  They opened the Eberly House, an establishment that must have been the best in the little village because on October 18, 1839, the president of the republic Mirabeau B. Lamar and his cabinet had dinner at Eberly House.  When Sam Houston won the presidency for the second time in 1841, he moved into Eberly House rather than live in the president’s residence.  Despite being widowed again in 1841, Angelina continued operating her hotel.

Austin residents were kept on alert because of potential Indian attack, and because Mexico had never accepted Texas independence, frequent reports reached Austin of Mexican forays into Texas.  The remote location provided President Sam Houston with an excuse to begin moving the congress, the courts, and the embassies back toward his namesake town of Houston.  Austin residents realized that with Houston removing all the government offices, the only hope of retaining their little town as the capital lay in keeping the land records that detailed how the republic had been paying its bills through the issuance of land titles.  After Mexican troops occupied San Antonio for the second time in December 1842, President Houston sent two officers with eighteen men and two wagons to Austin with instruction to quietly remove the records from the General Land Office.

Austin, 1844, A. B. Lawrence, Courtesy Dorothy Sloan-rare books

Austin, 1844, A. B. Lawrence, Courtesy Dorothy Sloan-rare books

Who knows why Mrs. Eberly was out in the middle of the night, but she saw the wagons pulling away from the land office, ran to the cannon Austin used to protect itself from Indian attack, and lit the fuse.  One account says she blew a hole in the Land Office Building, but did not injure anyone.  Warned of the impending loss of the records, Austin residents gave chase.  Houston’s men made it as far as Kinney’s Fort, outside present Round Rock where they spent the following night.  When they awoke the next morning, the Austin residents had surrounded the fort and had the cannon ready to fire.  Without a single shot being exchanged, Houston’s men gave the records back to the angry Austinites.  By 1845 when Texas voted to join the Union, Austin was again named the capital of Texas.

Angelina Eberbly, like many other business people, cast her eyes south to Matagorda Bay on the Central Texas coast where the huge influx of German immigrants had increased the development along the coast.  She moved first to Lavaca (present Port Lavaca) and initiated a one-year lease for a tavern, paying $180 every three months for the property while charging the owner $30 a month for his family to remain on the premises.  At the end of that year, it was clear that Indian Point (soon renamed Indianola) was the place to begin a new business.  She promptly moved to the thriving seaport and opened the American Hotel.

The census of 1850 listed the forty-six year old widow as the principal property holder of Indianola with assets of $50,000.  In March she was acknowledged as a force in the community when she was publically thanked for serving as hostess for the celebration held for the United States Boundary Commission tasked with establishing the border between the United States and Mexico.  Despite stiff competition from other hotels that attracted travelers, the American Hotel catered to families and remained in constant demand.  Community events, including a March 2nd celebration of Texas Independence that started with flags flying on ships in the harbor and a parade of military officers, the Sons of Temperance, and the local residents, ended at the American Hotel with the reading of the Declaration of Texan Independence.

After a nineteen-day illness in 1860, the sixty-three year old Angelina died of “oscillation of the heart.”  She left her entire estate to her ten-year-old grandson, Peyton Bell Lytle, whom she had raised since his mother’s death.

Today Austin honors Angelina Eberly with a seven-foot, 2,200-pound bronze statue near the corner of Congress Avenue and Sixth Street.  The gigantic, barefoot woman, created by Pat Oliphant, the widely syndicated Pulitzer Prize winning cartoonist, is lunging forward to light the howitzer that led to saving the capital for Austin

Angelina Eberly, Cannoneer

Angelina Eberly, Cannoneer

War Clouds Gather Over Indianola

Indianola was a southern town with a seaport’s connection to the broader cosmopolitan world of commerce, business

Indianola Port in 1860

Indianola Port in 1860

cooperation, and a diverse blend of residents newly arrived from all over Europe.  The soil—gritty shell beaches cut by a crisscross of shallow bayous and lakes—did not lend itself to cotton growing.  The vast slave plantations thrived much further east and north in the rich bottomlands of East Texas.  The slaves sold on the front porch of the Casimir House, an elegant hotel and social center that used slaves to serve its guests, generally were taken inland by planters who came to Indianola to purchase supplies.  Most of the blacks in Indianola were free—having bought their freedom or been freed by generous owners.  They worked the docks and they operated pig farms out on Powderhorn Lake.  Unlike most southern towns, the residents of Indianola accepted the presence of free blacks, and they were allowed to go about their business without interference.

As secession talk grew, and a few agitators arrived from the north, Indianola residents expressed confidence that Southern saber rattling would force the North to back off.  However, after a newly arrived gentleman was forced onto an outbound ship following accusations of being an abolitionist, the city appointed a “vigilance committee,” a patrol to maintain order in the town.

During the fall of 1860 merchants continued to thrive, and talk of Lincoln’s possible election caused little concern and no apparent disruption in the cooperation between northern business people pouring into the port and local shipbuilders producing steamers at a brisk pace. The newspaper editor touted the rosy financial picture, expecting it to continue indefinitely.

News trickling in of Lincoln’s election stirred patriotism for the former Republic of Texas.  Caution was thrown aside as newspapers across the state called for secession instead of living under the evils of Lincoln’s “Black Republicanism.”

On the night of November 21, a well-advertised mass meeting took place at the courthouse, preceded by a parade.  Sam McBride, who owned one of the shipyards on Powder Horn Bayou, led the parade, carrying a flag emblazoned with a Lone Star, the symbol of the former Republic of Texas.  Sewn by local women for the event, the flag drew such wild applause it drowned out the band’s rousing march music. Participants carried twenty-eight poles topped by huge, transparent pieces of glass with candle or kerosene lamps illuminating phrases like The Issue is Upon Us; Who is not for us is Against us; The Time Has Come; States’ Right; Millions in Number, One in Sentiment; and The North has Broken the Symbols of Union.

The crowd filled the courthouse to overflowing. Judge J.J. Holt gave a rousing speech saying they must take decisive action.  Then he appointed a committee to draft resolutions representing the views of Indianola citizens.  While the crowd waited for the resolutions to be written, the band played the French national anthem, a stark symbol of revolution.  After another loud and emotion-laced speech, the committee returned with support of a secession convention and demands for Texas to reclaim its right to retake the powers it delegated to the federal government when it accepted statehood.  The dye was cast.

Civil War wood engraving by Thomas Nast is titled Union Troops in the Streets of Indianola, Texas.  It was published in the New York Illustrated News, April 6, 1861.  From the collection of the Calhoun County Museum, Port Lavaca, Texas

Civil War wood engraving by Thomas Nast is titled Union Troops in the Streets of Indianola, Texas. It was published in the New York Illustrated News, April 6, 1861. From the collection of the Calhoun County Museum, Port Lavaca, Texas

Even before the war officially began, United States military personnel that had manned the posts along the western edge of Texas settlement to protect colonists from Indian attack, began marching through the streets of Indianola to the docks where federal ships waited to carry them away.  Families living on the edge of Texas’ western frontier were left to protect themselves from the Comanches who soon took advantage of the opportunity to reclaim some of their hunting grounds.

Most Germans and other European immigrants that settled in Texas did not want the South to secede.  First, most of the new arrivals did not have land suitable for cotton or sugar cane production and did not need slave labor.  Second, they felt a loyalty to the United States, the country that had just welcomed them to its shores.  Finally, most immigrants did not believe in slavery, having come from countries where peasants worked for such meager livelihoods, that they yearned for the opportunities that freedom offered.  But, like other Unionists such as Sam Houston and Robert E. Lee, they felt a loyalty to their new home and did not leave the South.

Indianola merchants soon realized that they had been wrong in their belief that they could continue business as usual.  The federal government quickly began a blockade of all the Gulf Coast, which resulted in the nightly adventure of blockade runners moving into the Gulf with cotton bound for trade with European, especially British, ships eager to take the Confederacy’s “white gold” in exchange for essential Winchester rifles, medical supplies, clothing, and ammunition.  The dangerous blockade routes through bayous and backwater canals that were used to transport the valuable cotton could no longer sustain the commercial traffic.  Business in Indianola and in the towns it supplied in western Texas came to a sudden halt.

Invasion and occupation will be the topic of next week’s blog post.

Indianola Thriving

If anything proved to the citizens of Indianola that their seaport was making a name for itself in Washington D.C., it was not just the arrival of thirty-three camels on May 14, 1856, but a second shipment of forty-one camels the following February. The entire affair was an experiment initiated by the Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis, to test the viability of camels as beasts of burden in the Southwest.  Davis believed, like so many others of that day, that the Southwest was mostly uninhabitable land.  He wanted to see if camels—known for carrying tremendous weights, for traveling long distances without water, and for foraging off anything that grew in their path—might serve the military outposts spread across Indian country.

The War Department secured $30,000 from Congress, and President Franklin Pierce assigned Maj. H. C. Wayne to oversee the whole operation.  A naval storeship, the USS Supply,

USS Supply transported camels to the port at Indianola.

USS Supply transported camels to the port at Indianola.

tracked along the North African coast as Wayne purchased camels and hired three Arabs and two Turks to handle the beasts.

When the camels arrived, Indianola—known for its serious business climate with ships clogging its docks and freight wagons and Mexican carts milling in endless throngs along its streets—came to a complete halt.  Merchants and shippers, businessmen and crowds of children filled the streets and hung out of upstairs windows to watch and to laugh at the gangly camels.  After three months at sea, the seven-foot tall beasts—both one- and two-hump varieties—stepped on solid ground and began rearing and kicking.  They cried, and they broke their halters while frantic handlers fought to regain control.  Some of the males even tried attacking each other before they were finally saddled.

After hours of entertaining the townsfolk with their antics, the new arrivals, wearing colorful blankets adorned with tiny bells tingling in rhythm with every step, allowed the handlers to lead them along the coast road to old Indian Point where a corral had been built to house them until they became accustomed to their new surroundings.  Like the throng following the Pied Piper, townspeople, still whooping and laughing at the sight, trailed the train of slowly plodding animals.  The camels’ natural odor was so strong that freight drivers meeting the entourage were forced to turn their frightened mules away, even driving them into the edge of the bay to avoid runaway freight wagons.  Some horses, seeing and smelling the approaching animals, reared and threw their riders over nearby fences.

Some accounts claim that the builders constructing the corral for the camels had run out of lumber and resorted to piling the plentiful prickly pear cactus up to complete the fence. One of the qualities that made camels desirable for the arid West was that they would eat anything.  They ate the prickly pear fence.

For three weeks, residents enjoyed following the camels as their handlers led them about town to prepare for the long trek to Camp Verde, south of present Kerrville.  On one occasion a camel was led to the Quartermaster’s forage house to get four bales of hay, each weighing over 300 pounds.  A skeptical crowd watched the animal kneel, and some people began having sympathy for the terrible weight being placed on its back.  With the addition of each bale, onlookers became more confident of observing a failure.  When the four bales were secured, the camel rose and walked away without noticing it carried over 1,200 pounds.

When the camels finally plodded off toward the West, residents watched them go, assured that Washington, D.C. recognized Indianola as a fitting place to land its most extraordinary experiment.

Camels at the Camp Verde Store.

Camels at the Camp Verde Store.

A second shipment of forty-one camels arrived in 1856, and the great, lumbering beasts made their way to Camp Verde.  Twenty-five camels were used to survey a wagon road from Fort Defiance, New Mexico, to the Colorado River and on to California.  The Camel Corps proved successful again in 1860 as it carried the equipment for a survey team mapping the Big Bend.  The Rev. John Wesley Devilbiss, a Methodist circuit rider, wrote an account of a brush arbor meeting he was holding just south of Camp Verde.  He said that just as the singing began, six camels appeared carrying wives and children of military officers from Camp Verde. After spending the day at the camp meeting, the families boarded the camels and rode back to Camp Verde.

During the Civil War, the posts in the west fell under Confederate control, and the camels were scattered.  Some were used to carry bales of cotton to Brownsville for transport to British ships anchored at the mouth of the Rio Grande.  One infantry commander employed a camel to carry the baggage for his entire company.

The end of the camel experiment came, not from the camels’ failure to fulfill their mission as beasts of burden.  It ended because the camels smelled terrible, they frightened horses and mules, and their American handlers detested them because they were not as docile as mules.  They were auctioned off to private owners and allowed to wander off on their own.  Feral camels were still being sighted in the early 1900s in the Southwest.

The next blog post opens with the gathering of war clouds over Indianola, the seaport accustomed to welcoming ships and travelers from all over the United States.

Indianola Rising

Matagorda and Lavaca bays, tucked behind barrier reefs edging the central Texas coast, teemed with commercial potential, and sea captains took note as ships carrying thousands of German immigrants precipitated the beginnings of the thriving seaport of Indian Point.  The United States War Department built a wharf and opened its Army Supply Depot to serve as the disembarkation point of personnel destined for posts as far away as El Paso del Norte (future Fort Bliss) and along the western edge of Texas settlement.

Charles Morgan, the shipping tycoon who dominated Gulf coast trade, established his shipping terminus at Lavaca, which lay about ten miles further up the coast from Indian Point.  However, when Lavaca raised its wharf fees, Morgan showed his displeasure by moving his ships down the coast to the mouth of Powderhorn Bayou, near the four wharves at Indian Point.

By 1849 Indian Point residents began a serious discussion centered on changing the name of their new town to convey the proper image of the burgeoning port.  Mrs. John Henry Brown, whose husband had opened a stagecoach line between Indian Point and Victoria and had joined in laying out streets to front the Morgan Line’s new port facilities, suggested adding the Spanish word ola, meaning wave.  Thus, Indian Point acquired the melodious name of Indianola.

My historical novel, Stein House, which will be available by next week, tells the story of Indianola in its heyday and opens in 1853 as Helga Heinrich and her children get their first view of their new home.  We see Indianola through their eyes as they are met at the docks by Helga’s sister, Amelia, their only relative in the new world:

As they stepped off the long pier onto the dock, Hermie said, “All the buildings are made of wood. They’re so small.”

The port at Indianola

The port at Indianola

“We don’t have stone here. Ships bring in our lumber. Those warehouses by the docks are made of cypress. It weathers to that handsome silver color.” Amelia’s voice held pride, and when she saw Hermie looking skeptically at the buildings, she playfully tousled his already lawless brown hair.

“What’s that white dust?” Paul asked as he skipped to catch up with Amelia bustling along ahead of them.

“We have oyster shell all along the coast. Our streets are all shell, and many buildings have shell foundations. When it’s dry, wagons crush the shell to dust.”

Huge mule-drawn wagons clogged the street. Large carts that looked like open-sided baskets balanced between giant wheels painted in bold reds, yellows, and greens, crept behind sluggish yokes of oxen. The snorts and grunts of animals added to the bedlam of shouts and curses.

Paul stepped up beside a cart painted like a flower garden of bright colors. The wheels rose taller than the top of his head. Hitched to the cart, eight yoke of oxen stood silently, their heads hanging low. Helga didn’t notice the fierce-looking cock, its leg secured with a rusty chain, until its screech made Paul jump back and stare transfixed into the intense, beady eyes and sharp beak of the bright orange rooster. Its comb was gone, making its head look like a ball of blood.

Amelia laughed. “That’s a carreta, a Mexican cart. They always carry a fighting cock for games at the end of the day. Those carts come in here loaded with gold and silver from the mines in Mexico.”

“Gold and silver?” Hermie breathed in shocked awe.

“Sometimes there are 150 Mexican carts or freight wagons in a long train. They ship the gold and silver to the mint in New Orleans.”

“Do they get robbed?”

“Sometimes. That’s why you see men with rifles everywhere. They ride with the wagons and carts on the Chihuahua Trail to Mexico. The stages headed for California all have a man with a Winchester sitting up on the seat beside the driver.”

Paul and Hermie could hardly walk for staring at the milling, whinnying, shouting activities jamming the streets. Men wearing grotesquely colored shirts fringed with silver tips that swayed along the edges of their sleeves hid deeply tanned faces under wide-brimmed hats stained with greasy circles of sweat. They sat atop jittery, prancing horses like grandees, impatiently kicking their mounts with jangling spurs to press them forward between the maze of wagons and carts.

Amelia leaned close to Helga and shouted above the din, “They are cowboys. They’re riding Spanish ponies, way livelier than our German plow horses. The mules pulling freight wagons haul supplies from the ships to the towns and farms and even the military bases out west.” Amelia obviously delighted in pointing out things that made Indianola different from Oldenburg.

Paul rose on tiptoe to peek into the back of an open freight wagon. “I’d like to ride in that.” His pure blue eyes held the same dreamy excitement Helga had seen so often in Max.

All the activity stirred the dust, and it settled on everything, turning the colorful buildings lining Water Street to a faded gray and making Helga’s lips and tongue feel gritty.

Amelia led them over to Main Street, where they stepped onto a wooden walkway built high against two-story buildings. The second floors extended over the walk, offering welcome shade from the springtime heat. Wagons and animals milling so close together stirred the fishy odor from the dock, blending it with a manure smell so strong Helga wanted to cover her face.

It felt safer to be on the walkway, well above the nervous, pawing animals.

Street in Indianola

Street in Indianola

Next week’s blog post continues with the story of Indianola, a seaport that rivaled Galveston after the Civil War.

Indianola: Gateway to the Southwest

Ghost town of Indianola. Diorama created by Jeff Underwood, Philip Thomae photographer, Courtesy of the Calhoun County Museum, Port Lavaca, Texas

Ghost town of Indianola. Diorama created by Jeff Underwood, Philip Thomae photographer, Courtesy of the Calhoun County Museum, Port Lavaca, Texas

Waves lap the sunbaked shell beach of a ghost town that never should have been.  Despite its locale at near sea level, people built the thriving seaport of Indianola that rivaled Galveston as a major shipping point on the Texas coast.  Its shore became the landing site for thousands of Germans escaping poverty in the old country; its port served as the debarkation point for military personnel headed west to protect settlers from marauding Indians; and its wharves hosted tons of gold and silver from the mines in Northern Mexico destined for the mint in New Orleans.

Long before Indianola sprang up on the flat, treeless shore overlooking Matagorda and Lavaca bays, the future of Texas took shape as the result of events that occurred there.  In 1685 the Frenchman, René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de la Salle, missed the mouth of the Mississippi River where he had planned to establish a colony and sailed another 400 miles to the central Texas coast.  He moved his ships through the treacherous sand bars and shifting currents of Pass Cavallo, the opening from the Gulf of Mexico into Matagorda Bay.  The Spanish Colonial government was so inflamed by LaSalle’s presence that it sent eleven land and sea expeditions in search of the intruders.  When the Spanish found LaSalle’s abandoned Fort St. Louis in 1689, the Frenchman had been dead for two years—murdered by his own men.  Nevertheless, the Spanish began constructing missions and presidios along the eastern border of Texas, intending to convert the Indians and provide a bulwark against French incursions from Louisiana.

One hundred years before Mexico won its independence from Spain, the Spanish padres built a mission and presidio on the site of LaSalle’s Fort Louis.  The Indians were not receptive, which forced the Spanish to move the facilities two more times before finally settling about fifty miles inland at present Goliad.

The calm waters of the inland bays encouraged the dream of protected ports.  John Linn, a Victoria merchant, established a warehouse on Lavaca Bay in 1831 that grew into Linnville a port that served, along with Galveston, as a major point of entry for goods coming into Texas.  Tragedy struck in August 1840 when 1,000 Comanches, including warriors and their families, furious at what they regarded as insulting and cruel treatment by white authorities at the Council House meeting in San Antonio the previous March, swept down across the Texas prairie stealing horses and murdering.  When they reached the shore at Linnville, they killed a few and captured two women and a child before the startled residents escaped into boats and sat helplessly offshore as they watched their town pillaged and burned. The attack, the largest against any U.S. city, became known as the Great Comanche Raid.

The next chapter in the saga of Matagorda and Lavaca bays began in Germany in the 1840s where a group of twenty-one noblemen, seeing an opportunity to ease the political unrest sweeping the country; to reduce the overcrowding of peasant farmers; and to make a fortune for themselves, organized the Adelsverein or Society for the Protection of German Immigrants in Texas. The Adelsverein appointed Prince Karl of Solms Braunfels, a fellow aristocrat, as the emissary to lead the settlers to the new land.  When Prince Karl landed in Galveston to complete plans for the colony, he discovered that the 9,000-acre site the noblemen had purchased was too far west of Austin and San Antonio for colonists to get supplies; it occupied land that was too poor for farming; and it lay in the middle of Comanche territory.  Before Prince Karl could make other arrangements, four shiploads of Germans were dumped on the cold shell beach at Indian Point, an empty spit of land jutting into the waters where Matagorda and Lavaca bays converge.

In the coming weeks this blog post will tell the story of the development along the coast of a new port city that welcomed German immigrants, hosted two shipments of camels, and thrived economically as war clouds began to form.