CAMELS ON THE COAST


The Texas coast town of Indianola  was once a major port and the county seat of Lavaca County.  Incorporated in 1853, it was a port of entry for many German immigrants and at its height had a population of 5,000.  In 1875 a hurricane destroyed the town and killed several hundred people; those remaining rebuilt.   Just over ten years later in 1886 another destructive storm struck the recovering town.  This time the residents did not rebuild but scattered as the county seat was moved to nearby Port Lavaca.

Today if you visit the area you will not find much of this ghost town left other than a stone marker for the courthouse and a Texas Historical Marker for the town of Indianola.  And there is a rather strange rustic metal sculpture of a man leading a camel.

This photo came from the Calhoun County Historical Commission website.

A few feet in front is a state marker with this title and explanation:
THE GREAT CAMEL EXPERIMENT

No immigrants arriving in Indianola were quite as exotic as the seventy-five camels that came ashore in 1856 and 1857 from Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey. As early as 1836, politicians, diplomats and the military were considering the importation of camels for use in North America’s desert wastelands. In 1853, secretary of war Jefferson Davis, a man familiar with harsh desert conditions, proposed to congress the use of camels as pack animals in the desert southwest. Congress approved the request on March 3, 1855. After a three-month voyage from the Mediterranean, the Fashion entered Matagorda Bay on May 13, 1856 and landed the camels at the wharf at powder horn. Thirty-four camels, ranging from Bactrians (two-humped variety), Arabians (one-hump variety) and a hybrid-cross between the two, came ashore. Many residents of Indianola recalled the unusual sight of the camels being led through the streets. By February 1857, a second government shipment of forty-one camels arrived in Indianola. Military camel caravans carrying supplies became more common in the Texas Hill Country between the camels’ home of Camp Verde and San Antonio. The camels, along with traditional livestock, were used in the summer of 1857 to survey the great wagon road between Arizona and California, now known as Route 66. The camels were also used in 1859 and 1860 for reconnaissance in west Texas, surveying routes to the U.S./Mexico border. In 1861, upon the outbreak of the Civil War, all U.S. military assets, including the camels, came into possession of confederate troops and, after the war, the camels were auctioned off. (2013) Marker is Property of the State of Texas”

There is not much left of the old Camp Verde  facility, located between the towns of Kerrville and Bandara in the Texas Hill Country, except for a stone marker.  About a mile away is the site of a store on Verde Creek established in 1857, mainly to supply the fort.

The original store was was washed away by the creek.  Today it is the site of Camp Verde General Store and Restaurant, a rustic Hill Country attraction.  Outside is a rather abstract metal camel sculpture as a nod to its past.   Husband and I would like to visit both sites in the fall.

Photo taken from Camp Verde General Store and Restaurant website


 

41 thoughts on “CAMELS ON THE COAST

  1. Fascinating history, Jo Nell. I’m wondering why there aren’t any camels being used in the deserts still. Seems like someone could make a lot of money breeding and selling them.

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    • For a time someone offered 1-3 day treks in West Texas on camels but they seemed to have stopped after a short time. I think I have seen camel rides offered in the Middle East for tourists. Now I will have to check it out! Thanks for stopping by!

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  2. I wrote a three-part series about the camels, their use in the Civil War, Camp Verde, and Hi Jolly the camel driver — I found the whole thing fascinating. You can find part one here.
    There are plenty of links in the three parts that will take you to other sites for more information on aspects of the scheme’s history that might interest you.

    I first started visiting the Camp Verde store when it still had a rickety front porch, a screen door that slammed, and soft drinks in glass bottles with metal caps that required use of the opener screwed next to the front door. Good times!

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    • I will definitely go back and read your posts on the camels. There is a lot of information out there and I struggled with what to include. In the end I went for a very short post but i should have put in links. I found it fascinating also! We pass by Indianola occasionally but just haven’t stopped in years and I don’t remember a camel sculpture there back then.

      What a treat for you to have been to the Camp Verde Store way back then – glass bottles with metal caps! Drinks always tasted better and were colder in them. We have visited the Kerrville area but just never made it to Camp Verde. Fall will be a better time to visit.

      May we make it through hurricane season without a major storm on the Gulf Coast this year!

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      • You might be interested in this post about Indianola and the LaSalle monument there, too. I really need to start working on some other historical posts that have been cooling their heels in my files. Since I started running the country with my camera, I haven’t spent as much time writing — as the old saying goes, so much to do, and so little time!

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    • When the fort was abandoned the camels were sold, some at auction and kept as oddities. A few many have been turned loose. If some were turned out on their own, they soon disappeared. No camels roam the Hill Country today, but one can see imported game brought in for hunting on some of the large ranches.

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    • Right! Some areas of Texas are almost desert-like though. The area between the Rio Grande River and Nueces River was called and shown on some old maps as the Wild Horse Desert. Thanks for dropping by, Marie! It seems you had a good trip to Florida.

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  3. Dearest Jo Nell, I love these vignettes from the past. In the long ago days of the past elders sat around a camp-fire and related stories to be handed down from generation to generation. They were keeping history alive. There’s isn’t any campfire, but you are telling us a story that will remain forever in the minds of those who read it. Cheers Virginia

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  4. Dear Jo.. Well I live and I learn.. and I never knew these facts.. How fascinating.. I hope you and your hubby manage to visit both sites in the Autumn..
    I hope all is well with you in your part of the world my friend..
    And thank you again for the history lesson..
    Much love your way 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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