Including Bay City, Palacios,
Matagorda and Sargent
In 1685, Robert, Cavalier de La Salle sailed from France with four ships and about 300 people to plant a colony at the mouth of the Mississippi. Misled by inaccurate charts, the fleet sailed too far west, and entered a bay named by the French San Bernardo, since called Matagorda. He attempted to establish a settlement there but disease, Indians and bad weather led to its failure. One of his ships, La Belle, was lost in the bay during a storm. It was rediscovered in 1995 and artifacts from the ship can be seen in the museums at Palacios and Bay City.
In 1721, the French explorers, Belisle and La Harpe, attempted to form a settlement on Matagorda Bay but we're driven out by Indians. Even before the French arrived, Spain had claimed the territory but never established any settlements and the area remained largely unoccupied until the 1820's.
Moses Austin had dreams of establishing a colony in Texas and in 1821 was given permission by Spain to do so. However, he died before his dream could be realized and his dying wish was that his son Stephen carry out his plans. Between 1824 and 1828, Stephen F. Austin brought in more than 1000 families and many of them settled in Matagorda County. During the Texas War of Independence most of the settlers abandoned the area, but soon returned after the Texian Army defeated Santa Anna at
San Jacinto in 1836.
The Town of Matagorda was established in 1829 at the mouth of the Colorado River and by 1834, it was the third largest town in Texas. In 1836, it was made the county seat. During the Civil War, it was blockaded and fired on by Union ships. In 1854 and 1875 Matagorda was devastated by powerful hurricanes, and so in 1894, the county seat was moved to Bay City.
By the early 1900s, the railroad had come to Matagorda County, oil was discovered and the cultivation of ricefields began. More towns were established, such as Collegeport, Markham, Blessing, and Palacios.
In 1926, Camp Palacios was established outside Palacios as a training facility for the Texas National Guard. In 1930, the name was changed to Camp Hulen and in 1940, the facility was taken over by the U.S. Army. By 1942, the camp had facilities for over 14,000 military personnel. In 1944, part of Camp Hulen was converted to a prisoner of war camp for German prisoners. In 1946, the camp was closed and its air base eventually became the Palacios Municipal Airport.
Matagorda County has one of the longest and richest histories of any County in Texas. Explore the links below to learn more.