Yellow Fever in Indianola, Texas
A Modern-Day Ghost Town
The yellow fever epidemic of 1867 first made its appearance in the port town of Indianola, Texas in early July. The fever first reached Indianola when the disease traveled from Vera Cruz, Mexico to the port town via boat. Upon arrival, a gentleman and his family notified the officials that the yellow fever was raging in Vera Cruz, and that it might be among them. A drayman named Hunter hauled all the baggage off of the ship and carried it to the Magnolia House. Soon thereafter, he became sick and perished from the yellow fever. Another man who lived opposite of the Magnolia house, who was identified only as Cook, also became sick and died from the fever. A Mexican man who arrived on the ship from Vera Cruz and was staying at Mr. Wagner’s House then became sick and died from the fever, and soon after two others died inside the house as well. Some blankets and luggage of these victims were sold and then distributed among the citizens, causing the fever to be introduced into the general population as a result. This is thought to be the reason that the fever spread and continued to grow. Toward the end of October, a small detachment of the 35th infantry was sent to Indianola. 29 of the soldiers contracted the disease and 14 perished from it.
From Indianola, the fever spread directly to other cities along the coast such as Corpus Christi, Goliad, Victoria, and Galveston. The epidemic hit these towns hard—especially Galveston. The fever then followed busy travel routes into the interior of Texas, affecting many cities such as Houston, Millican, LaGrange, and Huntsville. During the time of the epidemic, Indianola had a population of around 6,000, which ranked it as one of the largest Texas port cities, second only to Galveston. Today Indianola is recognized as a ghost town and will forever be remembered by its tragic history of fires, epidemics, and hurricanes.