Gulf Coast Lighthouses
Matagorda Island, Texas
Issue Date: July 23, 2009
City: Biloxi, MS
The serene beauty of the lighthouse on Matagorda Island, Texas, conceals its stormy past. But pushing aside tall grass and brush, modern visitors find evidence of the damage caused by man and nature decades ago. Yet the Matagorda lighthouse still stands – a sentinel to watch over mariners and history.
Matagorda Island lies seven miles south of Indianola, a ghost town that was once a thriving port city second only to Galveston. The Republic of Texas recognized the need to mark the nearby channel; however, construction was delayed when the United States annexed Texas.
In February 1861, Texas became the seventh state to secede from the Union. The lens was removed from the Matagorda lighthouse so its light couldn’t aid Union blockades. When it appeared the lighthouse would be seized by Union troops, Confederate soldiers were ordered to destroy it. Fortunately, the explosives caused only minor damage.
Indianola was heavily damaged by a hurricane in 1875 and rebuilt, only to be destroyed eleven years later. Matagorda Island was seized by the federal government during World War II for use as an Air Force base. After falling into disrepair, the Matagorda lighthouse has been renovated and is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.