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Port Lavaca: Little town that could

By Trysta Eakin
April 2, 2011 at 7:02 p.m.
Updated April 1, 2011 at 11:02 p.m.


Places to visit

Halfmoon Reef Lighthouse - Operating on Matagorda Bay from 1858 to 1935, the lighthouse survived through the Civil War, several hurricanes and numerous restorations. It now sits next to the Bauer Community Center in Port Lavaca.

Main Street Theatre - Located in downtown Port Lavaca, the theater boomed in the '30s and '40s. Deserted and in disrepair, it was revitalized in 1994, once again bringing entertainment to the coast.

Shellfish - Positioned off the Lavaca Bay, the Shellfish has been bringing elegance and fine dining to the Golden Crescent area since March 2009.

Magnolia Beach - Great for fishing, picnics, swimming and more, this beach is located just outside of town. Combined with Indianola Beach, this area was once bustling with travelers and settlers throughout Texas history.

Matagorda Bay - This estuary is home to plenty of wildlife and provides fertile farm land to the area. A historic port, the bay is now a tourist magnet with its 160-year-old lighthouse and majestic ecosystem of birds and fish.

Port Lavaca has a lot more to offer than meets the eye.

By just driving through on the way to Port O'Connor or Matagorda Bay, the hidden gems of the small Calhoun County community may never be revealed.

While its history may not be unique to the south Texas coastline, it's just as interesting, rife with Native American tales, famous European settlers, Civil War battles and more.

American Indian roots

The first residents to cultivate Port Lavaca's land and hunt its vast coastal prairie were the Karankawa Indians. According to the Calhoun County Museum, the nomadic native tribe was also suspected of occasional cannibalism during a ritual to kill their enemy captures.

By the early 1800s, the Karankawa had all but disappeared. Their existence is evident in artifacts and early settlers' accounts.

Another Native American tribe, however, is credited with Port Lavaca's population boost in 1840.

According to the museum, Comanches burned and pillaged nearby Linnville, driving survivors to Port Lavaca, or "Port of the Cow," which became the county seat when Calhoun County was founded in 1846.

Industry

With seven wharves, the town exported cotton, wool, tallow, pecans and copper, along with the hooves, hides and horns of cattle.

By land, the San Antonio Mexican Gulf Railroad connected Port Lavaca to Victoria, according to the museum, and on to the north, connected to the smaller town of Indianola.

With European settlers on the rise and port needs increased, the county seat was moved to Indianola for the next 40 years, until a series of events and a devastating hurricane wiped out the town, restoring Port Lavaca's claim to the seat in 1887.

Today, Calhoun County exports cattle, rice, corn, cotton and seafood.

Notable visitors

French explorer Rene Robert Cavalier, Sieur de la Salle and Spanish explorer Alonso de Leon traversed the Calhoun County area in the 1680s, making their marks respectively on the landscape of South Texas.

Information compiled from the Calhoun County Museum, Port Lavaca Chamber of Commerce and Lighthousefriends.com.

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