Indianola was the gem of the west. The city, however, was destined to become a ghost town. From her humble beginnings as a camping site for the Karankawa Indians, to the landing site of one of the first Europeans to Matagorda Bay, to a way station for German immigrants, to a town of thousands, Indianola’s climb was a frenetic race against time although the residents were unaware the end would come so soon.
The birth of Indianola was a direct result of economic, political, and religious problems in Germany. The Aldesverein, a society of nobility in Germany, was created to provide assistance to emigrants choosing to leave their homes for the Republic of Texas. The group was meant to include representatives from all crafts and professions necessary to start a colony including farmers, mechanics, artisans, and doctors. The Aldesverein would purchase the land and each family deposited with them a sum of about $240 for a family group and $120 for each single individual. For this, the Aldesverein would take half of that to supply transportation to the site of the colony and housing once there. The remainder of the money was to be used by the families and individuals for tools of their trade and for farming as well as to buy food until they became established.
Problems developed from the first, when Prince Karl zu Solms-Braunfels sailed to Galveston in May 1844. Without his knowledge, a boatload of colonists was to arrive right behind him. He had no permanent settlement for them. Braunfels left them behind and started to search for a permanent point to disembark on Matagorda or Lavaca bays. Finally, Prince Karl settled on a place the locals called Indian Point and decided it would be the most suitable place to move everyone westward. Solms-Braunfels and Samuel White, the owner of the property, came to an agreement and thought they had time before the first settlers were due. Unfortunately, the ships Johann Detardt and Apollo arrived at Indian Point that summer and fall.
That winter was a terrible time for the immigrants. They had no buildings, no water and very few supplies. For their survival, they had to build temporary shelters. Fortunately, their stay at Indian Point was short. They were under way after the turn of the New Year. The immigrants spent their first Christmas at Indian Point. The Prince found the perfect place for them on a site called “Las Fontanas” at the confluence of the Guadalupe and Comal Rivers. They named the town Neu Braunfels in honor of the Prince. Indianola became the destination of many thousands for German Immigrants.
In 1846 the great German influx continued. They created the County of Calhoun from pieces of both Victoria County and Jackson County on April 4. A plat was done of the town and building on homes and warehouses commenced. During the year 1847, the town acquired its first post office. In 1849, the town changed the name from Indian Point to Indianola. However, when the town started to grow down near Powderhorn Lake, it eclipsed the early section of Indianola progress.
One of the noted citizens of Indianola was Angelina Belle Eberly, the heroine of the Archives War in Austin in the year 1842. Leasing a tavern house and some lots she moved to Lavaca (later Port Lavaca) on April 16, 1847. Angelina leased Edward Clegg’s Tavern House to see if the financial prospects were good in the area. She saw the wisdom of moving to the point and was running a hotel in Indianola by 1851. She died in Indianola on August 15, 1860, and is buried in a cemetery near the community.
Harris & Morgan steam shippers were having a great deal of trouble sending their ships to Lavaca. Because the larger ships had great difficulty getting into port, this made Indianola’s deeper water a much better proposition. The larger ships kept going aground on the reefs surrounding Lavaca. This necessitated goods being transferred to smaller ships known as lighters, and taking them to shore, not at all economical to the shippers. Then, when the port charges in Lavaca started to go higher, Morgan moved his steamships to Indianola near the mouth of Powderhorn Lake. Indianola became one of the largest ports in Texas from this point forward. It was actually larger than Galveston in the years 1869 and 1870.
Indianola was a shining star in the history of Texas, a town of great events and great people. Although its presence was cut off in its prime, Indianola opened the western portion of Texas to settlement and expansion. Indianola became the eastern end of the southern Chihuahua Trail, the road to such places as San Antonio, Austin, and Chihuahua, Mexico, the shortest overland route to San Diego and the Pacific.