LINNVILLE, TX (CALHOUN COUNTY)
LINNVILLE, TEXAS (Calhoun County). Linnville was on Lavaca Bay twenty miles from Victoria at a site then in Victoria County and now in Calhoun County. It was one of the most important ports of entry during the early period of the Republic of Texas. The town, originally called New Port, was established by John J. Linn in 1831. It was in De León's colony on a quarter-league grant belonging to Pedro Gonzales. Linn was perhaps assisted in the founding by William G. Ewing, another prominent merchant. Like Cox's Point, Dimmitt's Landing, and Texana, the other ports around Lavaca Bay, Linnville grew up around a core of warehouses. In structures owned by Linn, Ewing, and others were stored goods unloaded from ships and destined for inland markets such as Victoria, Gonzales, and San Antonio; eventually Linnville also became the site of the customhouse for the District of Lavaca.
The population of Linnville was estimated at 200 about 1839. Linn listed 130 town lots for taxation in 1840. That year's census listed eleven slaves in the village. The port also received much attention that year in various emigrants' guides to Texas (see EMIGRANTS' GUIDES TO TEXAS). Orceneth Fisher, in Sketches of Texas in 1840 (1841), called Linnville "a place of considerable business." George W. Bonnell wrote about Linnville as one of the four Lavaca Bay ports "where a great many goods have been received. It is finely situated for the commerce of the up country, and will no doubt be a place of considerable importance. The custom house for the district of La Baca is located at Linnville." According to Francis Moore, Jr., in Map and Description of Texas (1840), the port "is now attracting some attention, as it is the point to which most of the goods and merchandise are shipped for Victoria and other `settlements' on the Guadalupe and Lavacca."
Among the prominent residents or landowners of Linnville besides Linn and Ewing were Elijah Bennett, who acquired a warehouse, wharf, and hotel in 1837; district judge James W. Robinson and Samuel Maverick,qqv both of whom owned warehouses; Col. John Forbes, who was commissary general of the Texas army in 1836; John H. Harry, acting quartermaster of the Texas army in 1840; county judge John Hays, who also owned a warehouse; and Hugh Oran Watts, customs collector for the district of Lavaca beginning in 1839.
Linnville was the ordnance arsenal and depot for the Federalist armies of Mexico during their attempt to defeat Centralist forces under Antonio López de Santa Anna; nearby Victoria was the headquarters of the short-lived provisional government of the Republic of the Rio Grande of Jesús Cárdenas and Antonio Canales in March and April 1840. It was this association, together with the rich stores of merchandise, that prompted Comanches, incited both by a desire for revenge after the Council House Fight and by Mexican Centralists working to defeat Canales, to attack Linnville and Victoria in August 1840. Their attack destroyed the port town (see LINNVILLE RAID OF 1840).
Only one building remained after the Comanches sacked and burned Linnville on August 8, 1840; Linn, Ewing, Maverick, Robinson, Hays, and Bennett were among those who lost small fortunes in the destruction. Afterward, there was some attempt to rebuild the village. Records indicate that land purchases occurred in 1841 and that merchants such as Lane and West Company, a mercantile that had a wharf in July of that year, were active; but most residents fled and gathered at a site called Labbacca (La Vaca), 3½ miles southwest of Linnville near the mouth of Linn Bayou. The body of customs collector Watts, who had been killed during the raid, was the first buried in nearby Ranger Cemetery. Labbacca, or Port Lavaca as it is called today, continued to grow in importance as a port, and its prosperity contributed to the final decline and abandonment of Linnville. The deserted locality became part of Calhoun County when it was established in 1846.
The site of Linnville, which is now partly covered by water, is on Lavaca Bay in Calhoun County at the end of East Martin Road, 3½ miles northeast of Port Lavaca and just off Farm Road 1090. A granite marker was placed there during the Texas Centennial in 1936, and a historical marker was erected in 1964.
T. Lindsay Baker, Ghost Towns of Texas (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986). Donaly E. Brice, The Great Comanche Raid (Austin: Eakin Press, 1987). Calhoun County Historical Commission, Shifting Sands of Calhoun County, Texas (Port Lavaca, Texas, ca. 1980). Paul H. Freier, A "Looking Back" Scrapbook for Calhoun County and Matagorda Bay, Texas (Port Lavaca, Texas: Port Lavaca Wave, 1979). John J. Linn, Reminiscences of Fifty Years in Texas (New York: Sadlier, 1883; 2d ed., Austin: Steck, 1935; rpt., Austin: State House, 1986).