It’s a Saturday morning and a family is packing the SUV for a weekend outing. The previous evening as the family enjoyed their dinner, it had been agreed to drive to the beautiful coastal town of Linnville. The beautiful bay town with a boardwalk by the sea side, displaying its colorful signs, promoting five star hotels and restaurants. Not to mention souvenir shops of all sorts to one’s delight. An amusement water park, with lighted fishing piers that brings in tourists from all over the state.
By now most people that are reading this commentary are googling “Linville” Texas, wondering where this wonderful place is. Well, sad to tell you, Linville does not exist. What I wrote in the beginning of this read is only an allusion in my mind. What once was, and what could have been, is my direct or inferred reference to a place that died in its infancy.
Linville was a town in the Republic of Texas at a site, then in Victoria County, and now in Calhoun County. Linville was founded in 1831 and was located off the coast on Lavaca Bay. Linville was named for John Joseph Linn, a merchant from Victoria that had built a number of warehouses, and by 1840, Linville was the second largest Port in Texas.
Linville became victim of “The Great Raid of 1840.” The young port was totally obliterated by a band of angry Pontica Comanches led by war chief “Buffalo Hump.” This assault occurred on August of 1840 after the burning of Victoria. The harsh action the Comanches took in the merciless attacks were due to retaliatory vengeance from the Council House Massacre that took place in 1840 in San Antonio.
Before this incident occurred, on January 10, 1840, after several years of war and a major smallpox epidemic, three Comanche emissaries entered San Antonio and asked for peace, offering to send a large contingent of their chiefs in 23 days to secure a peace treaty. The meeting took place under an observed truce with the purpose of negotiating the exchange of captives and ultimately facilitating peace after two years of war. The Comanches sought to obtain recognition of their boundaries of the comancheria, their homeland. The Texans and Tejanos wanted the release of captives taken by the Comanches. The Comanches brought only a few prisoners, namely several Mexican Tejano children and Matilda Lockhart, a sixteen year old white gir1 that had been physically and sexually abused. She also said that fifteen other captives remained in Comanche hands. When Texan commissioners demanded the release of the other captives, the Comanches told them that these prisoners were being held by Comanche Bands beyond their authority. The commissioners rejected the explanation. Then Texas soldiers entered the Council House, and the Commissioners informed the assembled Comanche chiefs that they were to be held as hostages until the remaining captives were released.
That’s when the Comanche chiefs attempted to escape and called to their fellow tribesmen outside the house for help. Then all heck broke loose. The council ended with thirty Comanche chiefs and warriors, three women, and two children killed by Texas Troops, on March 19, 1840 in San Antonio. The Council House fight was very brutal, and referred to as “The Council House Massacre.” It was decidedly a lopsided fight. The unfortunate event further hardened Comanche hostility towards whites in Texas.
This bloody event sparked what we now know as “The Great Raid of 1840.” Tradition tells us that Linville never recovered from the onslaught caused by the Comanches. However, old records prove otherwise and prove to be not quite accurate.
In July and September of 1841, records show that three material bills were paid to a customs house in Linville. This is clearly a year after the Comanche attack. The first bill was for $222.50, for part of a lumber order; the second was for $2,080; and the final was for $193.44. Then in 1845 a receipt was issued for twelve chairs for Linville customs house. So, without a doubt a customs house in Linville was rebuilt.
Just to define the meaning of a customs house we must understand that these buildings were traditionally used for jurisdictional government whose officials oversaw the functions associated with importing and exporting goods into and out of a country. A customs house was typically located in a Seaport. Due to advances in electronic information systems, the International Trade, and introduction of air travel, the term “Customs House,” became a historical anachronism.
We must assume that family housing and other businesses that a community is made of were not part of rebuilding the dilapidated hamlet of Linville. There are no records that we know of that would suggest otherwise. Now according to records known, we know that a customs house was rebuilt, but whether or not it was rebuilt at the old location is unknown. The possibility of rebuilding on the old location would be unlikely due to records indicating a silting problem at old Linville. So, it’s possible that the new customs house was close to old Linville, not at the original location. Perhaps the name Linville was kept to continue receiving supplies from those that were familiar with the Linville name.
Most people aren’t aware of this historical early seaport that existed 190 years ago. A historical sight that has been subsequently forgotten by most. Today, there is no visible evidence that Linville ever existed. Often what’s not seen, isn’t mentioned, I say.
The bright side of this litt1e story is that the people of Linville had early warning of the attack, and were able to escape in boats and watched the onslaught from safety.
I’ve personally asked people in Port Lavaca if they know about Linville, and most with a bewildered look will say, no. I had some answer, “Linville, the restaurant?”
Our local history is rich with information of our past. I would like to encourage our Port Lavacans to visit our local museum. You’ll see beautiful artifacts, stories, and photos of our past. Everything is well chronicled with exhibits of the past. Some people have lived here all their lives and have never taken the time to explore our past that is so well chronicled with beautiful exhibits and stories in our museum.
Thank you for reading this somber narration on our ghost town of Linville. The only sounds you’ll hear at the location of Linville are the squawking of seagulls as they gracefully glide by the salt water winds of Lavaca Bay.