In the late 1850s, Col. John M. Moore began dredging operations in the bay to create a large harbor for Corpus Christi. The U. S. Lighthouse Service purchased this site from J. Burnside and Co. on March 13, 1857, and soon built a brick lighthouse to serve as a beacon for vessels approaching the new port.
The outbreak of the Civil War interrupted plans for harbor construction. During the war Confederate forces used the lighthouse as a powder magazine. In 1863, a Federal invasion threatened, and a group of loyal Confederate youths decided, without authority, to destroy the lighthouse arsenal to prevent its capture. They filled a butter churn with gunpowder and placed it beside the structure. The resulting explosion and fire damaged the tower, but failed to ignite the storehouse of powder inside. The boys first hid in a nearby cemetery, then fled to a salt marsh north of the city. Their identities were, for years, a well-kept secret. After the war, repairs were made to the lighthouse and it returned to use.
The old beacon was abandoned in the mid-1870s and soon fell into disrepair. About 1878, city aldermen declared it a dangerous public nuisance and it was dismantled shortly thereafter.