By Myra Lee Adams Goff
“So, Indianola, has it been with thee,
Thou once fair city by the moonlit sea!
Thy fame is ended and thy beauty fled-
Bleak memory calls them from the silent dead.”
(Excerpts from “Indianola” by Jeff McLemore from the book, “Indianola” by Brownson Malsch)
The Adelsverein encouraged emigration to the Republic of Texas to relieve social and economic turmoil in Germany. The emigrants were to pay $240 per head of a household or $120 for individual passengers. For this amount they were to receive transportation to the colony, land, housing, food upon arrival and intangible services.
Prince Carl of Solms-Braunfels was appointed Commissioner General of the whole operation. It was he that was to purchase the land and make all the arrangements. Prince Carl was one of the empresarios authorized by Republic of Texas President Sam Houston to bring as many settlers as he could in as short a time as possible. The Prince had barely landed in Texas when the first group of emigrants was embarking from Bremen in Germany on their way to Texas.
Prince Carl chose a port to land at Indian Point, later called Indianola. Prince Carl renamed it Carlshafen after himself and some members of the Adelsverein. (The name did not stick) There they were to wait for their trek inland.
After landing in Galveston, the emigrants were put on schooners. Going through the Paso Caballo, then entering Matagorda Bay, and then moving to the area where it joins Lavaca Bay, the town of Indian Point furnished a perfect landing point for the schooners.
Writer Larry Bozka in an article in January 2008 for “Texas Parks and Wildlife” states that Indian Point was “cruelly indifferent to the settlers”. Due to a shortage of wood, they were forced to camp in crude shelters on the beach. Although these first emigrants had tents, soon supplies ran out for subsequent arrivals.
Even though the Adelsverein money ran out, the emigrants still kept coming. Soon they were without shelter and medical care. Spinal meningitis, typhoid, cholera, and yellow fever took their toll at the coast. In order to get away from this horrible situation, some left on foot. There were no longer any wagons for transportation. For the rest of the story see the sophienburg.com Web site Feb. 6, 2007.
Bozka says that by late 1846, 3,000 emigrants had stepped ashore at Indian Point. He says that within a few miles of the wharves, roughly a thousand of the 1846 arrivals died of disease, overexposure, and starvation.
By 1848 the port had become second only to Galveston. Indianola became a thriving, prosperous community. Even Charles Morgan (shipping magnate from New York) added Indianola as the endpoint for his steamship line
But all this prosperity and success passed when Indianola was hit by a massive hurricane in 1875. When ships arrived, they saw only ruin and devastation and immense piles of debris. Terrible stories of destruction can be found in the book “Indianola” available at Sophie’s Shop. Many left but many stayed and rebuilt.
In 1886 another hurricane totally wiped Indianola off the map. That year after a severe drought in Texas, an unusual wind became the subject of discussion. It was reported that a hurricane had passed south of Key West and into the Gulf. By the time the fast-moving hurricane reached Indianola, it was too late for residents to take steps to save lives and property. A fire broke out after the storm, destroying everything except two buildings. Water inundated the town once again. Even as far inland as San Antonio, the wind registered 72 mph.
In New Braunfels during the 1886 hurricane, the run-down log building of the Sophienburg, the once proud headquarters of the Adelsverein and Prince Carl, fell in on itself, perhaps a last reminder of its ties to Indianola.