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Texas History 101

Half Moon Reef Lighthouse served as a beacon for ships coming into Matagorda Bay.

By November 2002Comments

IN THE MID-1800’S COASTAL TOWNS of Texas were bustling with trade activity, especially in the Matagorda Bay area.  The hamlets of Lavaca and Indianola were prime ports for vessels to drop off goods that could then be shipped by land throughout South Texas and northern Mexico. To ensure the safety of incoming ships, lighthouses were built on or near the shore to guide crafts into the bay and warn sailors about the danger of the nearby shore. In 1858 Half Moon Reef Lighthouse, a three-story hexagonal structure, was constructed on the southern tip of Half Moon Reef and officially went into service as a beacon for ships coming into Matagorda Bay.

During the Civil War, Confederate troops stationed in nearby Lavaca disabled the lighthouse in an effort to aid Southern blockade runners. Luckily, the lighthouse survived the Civil War completely intact and was later restored to full service in 1868. But the Half Moon Reef Lighthouse was extinguished again in 1942, as were many other lighthouses on the coast, after the attack on Pearl Harbor. The structure was then nearly destroyed in the deadly hurricane of 1942 that ripped through Matagorda Bay and destroyed many houses and buildings in towns along the coast. The following year, the lighthouse was condemned and moved to Point Comfort.

The lighthouse remained on the business property of W. H. Bauer for more than thirty years before he donated it to the Calhoun County Historical Commission for restoration.  The commission moved the lighthouse to its current location in Port Lavaca, and the green and white building is now used as the Port Lavaca visitors center. The lighthouse finally got its due in 1980 when it was recognized as a Texas landmark and an official Texas Historical Marker was erected.

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