Monday, January 30, 2012

Big Cities and Vanishing Towns

Corpus Christi Bay ViewWe’re enjoying our stay here on the Texas Coast; there’s a bit of everything to see and do, from the big city to quiet rural areas.  We frequently make the 25 mile drive down the road to Corpus Christi, a typical large town with the usual strip malls and crowded roads.  What sets Corpus Christi apart is the waterfront – miles of parks and marinas provide great places to take the kids, have a picnic, or just watch the abundant shorebirds and occasional dolphin as they hunt for fish.  
Port Aransas HarborAnother of our favorite places to visit is Port Aransas, a short (and free) ferry ride across the bay.  Port Aransas has the usual tourist spots, and a large marina next to the ferry landing.  From an observation Port Aransas Ferrytower, we watched as the ferries worked their way back and forth – we’ve never waited more than 10 minutes to drive on.  There are at least eight ferry boats, with crews both on board and on the loading areas, all to cross a short distance – we wonder why they don’t just build a bridge? 
A short distance from the ferry landing is a birding center – a good sized lagoon with a wooden walkway and observation tower.  Port Aransas AlligatorThis time of year the water is covered with ducks; mostly Teal, Pintail, and Shovelers, but on our last visit we were surprised to see a large, and I mean LARGE, alligator prowling the pond.  He was around 10 feel long, with a massive head, and we watched Brenda w Alligator Signas he worked his way through the shallow water and mud.  The waterfowl didn’t seem too alarmed, but they didn’t get too close, either.  Since the reeds were crowded with sleeping ducks, he probably didn’t have to work too hard to find a meal.  I guess there’s a reason for the cute sign warning of alligators after all!

On one of our road trips we came across the interesting story of the town of Indianola.  A few years ago we came across the tiny town of Pana Maria, and found that it is the oldest Polish settlement in the United States, settled by immigrants that landed in Galveston.  This surprised us, since like most people, we assumed that European immigrants all entered the U.S. at Ellis Island.  Indianola (known as Indian Point until 1848) provided us another surprise – in it’s day, it was the second largest port in Texas, and one of the first ports in the U.S. that Germans immigrated through.   The story of Germans and Indianola is not well known, but should be - in short, over four thousand immigrants landed in December, 1844 expecting an easy trip to their new land in San Antonio and New Braunfels.  Instead, they found no transportation, buildings, potable water, or supplies, but plenty of mosquitoes, rain, and cold.  In the next two years, of the little over 5000 total immigrants that landed, over 2000 lost their lives to cholera, typhoid, and meningitis.  Even the Pilgrims at Plymouth Rock fared better.  In 1849, the town’s name was changed to Indianola and by now, most of the immigrants had moved on, although enough stayed to bolster the town’s population to over 1000 by 1860.  Indianola soon became the primary destination for supplies destined for the West, including the camels for the ill-fated US Camel Corps.  Civil war battles were fought here, a hospital and a railroad depot were built, and the population swelled to 5000.  But in 1875 a hurricane struck the town, pushing water 20 miles inland, destroyed 75 percent of the buildings , and killed 176.   Much of the town was rebuilt, but in 1886 an even stronger hurricane struck, devastating the town and forever ruining the harbor.  The town was abandoned. 
Indianola TodayToday, there are just a few beach houses where the town once stood.  We found the site of the original courthouse, and visited the cemetery where entire families are interred from the hurricanes.   Indianola Courthouse MarkerIt’s hard to believe looking around that this was once such a vibrant town and important seaport, and it’s too bad that there isn’t more information available about the lives of the people here.  Can you imagine a time when a hurricane appeared without warning?  What would we do without “Storm Tracker Doppler High-definition Weather Radar”?  Whatever that is.

Stay tuned, we’re still exploring the area – come back and visit!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the interesting tour and history lesson. It's hard to imagine some of the hardships early settlers endured.