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PORT LAVACA, TEXAS

Calhoun County Seat, Texas Gulf Coast

On Lavaca Bay
Highways 87, 35 and 238,
and FMs 1090 and 3084
Near Point Comfort
25 miles SE of Victoria
55 miles E of Goliad
14 miles NW of Indianola via Hwy 316
Population: 12,391 (2010) 12,035 (2000)

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Port Lavaca shrimp boats
Shrimp boats in Port Lavaca
TE photo, 2001

History in a Seashell

The town was founded after "The Great Comanche Raid" of 1840 when Comanche Indians swept down from the Hill Country and destroyed the tiny coastal town of Linnville. Only a marker remains today to mark the former town.

Former Linnvillain Thomas McConnell bought land from a De Leon's colonist and called the place Lavaca. The town succeeded in a short time, eclipsing the commerce that Linnville had seen before the raid.

Lavaca became county seat with the formation of Calhoun County in 1846.

In November of 1847 a stage line was inaugurated connecting the town to Victoria but by 1852 Indianola, with it's deepwater port became the Calhoun county seat.

By 1860 Lavaca's population was half of Indianola.

During the Civil War the city was bombarded by Union ships in late 1862, but did not surrender. In late 1863 it was occupied by Union troops. In 1864 an election gave county seat status back to Lavaca, but after the war it was returned to Indianola.

The hurricane of 1875 so damaged the railroad that Indianola, became the only area port with a railroad connection. By 1884 Lavaca's population was down to only 70 people.

But after Indianola was obliterated in the 1886 Hurricane, Lavaca's star began another ascent. Lavaca became the county seat again and railroad service was re-established.

Lavaca, now known as Port Lavaca, was shipping seafood and the railroad ran weekend excursions to the coast. Port Lavaca welcomed the seafood hungry tourists.

In 1920 a seawall was completed and in 1928 Port Lavaca shipped more shrimp than any other port in the U.S.

State Highway 35 was the only paved highway in the county in 1940 when the population was just over 2,000. Hurricane Carla damaged the causeway in 1961, forcing it to be converted into a fishing pier.
(See Texas Storms)

Port Lavaca Landmarks / Attractions

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Calhoun County Courthouse, Port Lavaca, Texas
Photo courtesy Terry Jeanson, April, 2005
Calhoun County Courthouse
Port Lavaca Half Moon Lighthouse, Texas
Port Lavaca Half Moon Reef Lighthouse
In Bay Front Park, west end of causeway on Hwy 35
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, 2004

Historical Marker Text:

Half Moon Reef Lighthouse
Constructed in 1858, this three-story hexagonal lighthouse was originally located in Matagorda Bay, at the southern tip of Half Moon reef. The beacon served as an aid to ships trading in Port Lavaca and the nearby town of Indianola (14 mi. SE). During the Civil War the light was disabled by Confederate troops in an attempt to disrupt federal efforts to capture southern blockade runners. The lighthouse was restored to full operation in 1868 and remained in service until 1943 when it was moved to Point Comfort (7 mi. NE). It was relocated here in 1979.

(1980)

Port Lavaca TX - Southern Pacific RR Depot

Port Lavaca Southern Pacific Depot
110 N. Virginia, Port Lavaca
Photo courtesy Gerald Massey, 2009
More Texas Depots

Historical Marker Text:

San Antonio and Mexican Gulf Railroad
Chartered in 1850, the San Antonio & Mexican Gulf Railroad was one of the first railroads in Texas. San Antonio investors hoped it would open trade from the Gulf. As the line was built westward from Port Lavaca, wagons loaded with goods met the train on the open prairie. In 1836 Confederates destroyed the track to keep it out of Union hands. In the 1870s the line was associated with Charles Morgan's steamship company. Southern Pacific bought the railroad in 1884. Until the 1930s weekend excursions were offered to Port Lavaca beaches.

(1979)

Port Lavaca TX - Port Lavaca Theater
Port Lavaca Theatre
Photo courtesy Gerald Massey, 2009
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Port Lavaca TX - Port Lavaca Theatre marquee
Port Lavaca Theatre Marquee
Photo courtesy Gerald Massey, 2009
More Texas Old Neon
TX  Port Lavaca Theater Mural

Port Lavaca Theatre Mural
Photo courtesy Gerald Massey, 2009
More Texas Murals

Port Lavaca Texas former county jail
The former county jail was demolished after this photo was taken
TE photo, 2001
See Texas Jails
Port Lavaca TX - Mt. Sinai Baptist Church historical marker

Mt. Sinai Baptist Church historical marker
Photo courtesy Gerald Massey, 2009
More Texas Churches

Entering  Port Lavaca Texas
Entering Port Lavaca
TE photo, 2001
TX - Port Lavaca bay view
Port Lavaca bay view
Postcard courtesy www.rootsweb.com/%7Etxpstcrd/
Cotton Farm - Port Lavaca, Texas, 1908
Cotton Farm in Port Lavaca
Photo circa 1908 courtesy Will Beauchamp
 Port Lavaca TX Boat load of Cotton
Boat load of cotton in Port Lavaca
Postcard circa 1910 courtesy Will Beauchamp
See Cotton | More Texas Cotton Scenes
Port Lavaca Hotels - Book Here

Port Lavaca Chronicles

  • Exterminator by Mike Cox ("Texas Tales")
    German immigrant J.C. Melcher of Fayette County and Port Lavaca and the Melcher family hardware store.
  • Port Lavaca Texas Forum

  • Subject: US Army Air Force Observer
    During World War II my mother was a volunteer air plane watcher. She worked out of a tower overlooking Lavaca Bay. Most everyone I mention this to think I am crazy. I was about eight years old then and I remember the tower and the chart on the wall. If a plane flew over you had to find it on the chart and call it in. She was given a pin for service that is a small set of wings that has US Army Air Force Observer around the edge and in the center is AWS. Have you [or any of your readers] ever heard of this volunteer service or know where I can find out about it? - Doris Hinds, February 25, 2006

    Texas Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their town history and vintage/historic photos, please contact us.
  • Port Lavaca, Texas
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