Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Could the next Margaritaville be a ghost town?

Indianola, Texas in its prime:

And what is left of Indianola, Texas today:

Often called the Queen of Texas Ghost Towns, little remains of the port of Indianola other than that marker, the town cistern in the background, and what is left of the town grave yard on the other side of that marsh.

What happened to a major Texas city which at one time was rivaled only by Galveston?

The short answer is two hurricanes and disease, all of which wiped out the settlers in what was once Texas' second largest port, and which had luxury motels and was quite the place to be. The grand mansions of Old Indianola were either torn down or moved to nearby towns. And the foundations of the original municipal buildings are now underwater.

Founded in 1846 by German immigrants, Indianola was twice occupied by Union troops during the Civil War.

In 1869 the first shipment of mechanically refrigerated beef left Indianola aboard a ship bound for New Orleans, pioneering the technologies of both beef processing and commercial refrigeration.

The census of 1875 revealed that Indianola had a population of 5,000. In September of the same year a hurricane struck, almost completely destroying the town and killing between 150 and 300. An epidemic soon followed.

Indianola rebuilt. and in 1886 another crippling hurricane struck. Rather than rebuild Indianola the county seat moved to Port Lavaca.

What does remain is a charming, somewhat remote fishing village. Fifteen miles out of Port Lavaca, you'd better make sure that you have enough gasoline to get out there and back because the only service station in the area is up for sale.

For that matter, the only place currently selling beer (by the can) and serving food (on paper plates) is the local bait shop at the end of the road. So if they aren't open, or you don't like the beer selection, then you had better stock up in Port Lavaca and bring it with you.

This is fishin' and RV country. We had a great time hanging out at the bait store (the store closes around 10PM but they invite folks to fish on their deck as late as folks want to).

We found an excellent, small RV campground ...

With an excellent view of the beach and Matagorda Bay:

The owner of the RV campground pointed out that many, many snowbirds came down and camp right on the beach:

So this entire area is very laid back. Very. Laid. Back.

If you have an RV, or can rent one of the cabins along the coast, Indianola is very reminiscent of what Key West and the Florida Keys would have been like before the mass of tourists showed up. Just don't expect to find any chain motels out here.

And should Indianola not be your cup of fish chowder, consider wandering over to the nearby town of Port O'Connor. A bit bigger than Indianola and a bit more upscale, Port O'Connor is also on Matagorda Bay (although the "other side") and actually claims a service station, a couple of restaurants, and a bar or two. No overnight camping on the beach, but once again the fishin' promises to be excellent:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the story of Indianola is prescient of what may eventually happen to New Orleans.