A partial Clovis point in the Calhoun County Museum, collected from an area within Calhoun County, gives an indication of the Paleo-American groups that might have inhabited the area. The latest of these groups were the Karankawa Indians. They ranged as far south as the site of Corpus Christi. Their northern limit was near Galveston and inland from about one-hundred and fifty miles. The Karankawa were here when the first Europeans came to the gulf coast. Unfortunately, by the beginning of the Civil war, the Karankawa, forced from the area, ultimately disappeared.
In the early 1500’s, Spanish explorers had mapped the area. Cabeza de Vaca, who was shipwrecked on the northern part of the gulf coast, made his way through the area and on into Mexico. However, because there was no gold or silver, the Spanish took little interest of the coastal bend. It was only when the French appeared that the Spanish took further note of the area that would ultimately become the Texas Gulf Coast.
In 1684, Rene Robert Cavalier Sieur de la Salle arrived and sailed through Pass Cavallo entering what is now Matagorda Bay. After the loss of his ship the L’Aimable, his colony was in dire straights. When his ship, La Belle, was lost in February of 1686, La Salle attempted an expedition to the Mississippi to get aid for the colonists. His own men killed La Salle near what is now Navasota, Texas. Some members of the crew did make it to the Mississippi, Canada and back to home to France. Those that remained at Fort St. Louis on the Garcitas Creek did not fare well. Most were killed by Karankawa or died from disease. The Indians kidnapped some of the children and the fort abandoned.
In 1689, Alonso de Leon came across the fort and buried the eight cannons that he found abandoned there. Eventually a Spanish mission and presidio were built over the ruins of the French fort. The cannons that de Leon had found and buried were recently uncovered and the site excavated.
The town of Linnville was the first major Anglo settlement on Lavaca Bay. John Linn, a German immigrant, established the colony. He built a wharf and warehouse. The town was growing and supplies for the interior made arrived at Linnville. In 1840, Comanche Indians attacked the town. The settlement burned and its inhabitants moved to the small port of Lavaca, which eventually became the county seat of Calhoun County.
The area surrounding the bay was range for the American bison. The Spanish, having no name for such an animal, called them La Vaca, hence the name of the bay and the town. Although Lavaca preceded Indianola, it was unable to maintain its presence as a major port. Indianola was closer to Pass Cavallo, large ships did not have a reef to cross and did not have to off load onto lighters to bring goods into port. The growth of Lavaca was slow.
Indianola became the major port in the area by a number of circumstances. Prince Solms Braunfels landed there and many Germans immigrants made their way through the town to German settlements to the north in 1844. The Morgan Steamship Line moved from Port Lavaca to Indian Point then further down the beach to Indianola, thus bringing most of the shipping there. Indianola’s life was short, however. In 1875, much of the town was devastated by hurricane. Although the citizens of the town tried to bring Indianola back to her original glory, the hurricane of 1886 was its death knell.
In 1887, Port Lavaca, again, became the county seat. Port Lavaca did not become the bustling port Indianola had been, it did become a haven for vacationers. Excursion trains brought groups to swim and dance at the pavilions that jutted into the bay.
Now, because of the ship channel that connects the county to the Gulf, Port Lavaca and Point Comfort are, again becoming viable ports. Calhoun County raises and exports cattle. Other exports are rice, corn, cotton and seafood. A number of large industries are now located with the county. Calhoun County has a promising future in its grasp.