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History of Port Isabel & Lighthouse Square

port isabel lighthousePirate's Landing is located at the original "Point" of the Laguna Madre with a 30-foot bluff where the Port Isabel Lighthouse now stands. The point's strategic location was instrumental to the settlement of Point Isabel and early maritime industry.

The Coahilitecan Indians originally inhabited this land. During the 1500's, Spain sent explorers to this area, but land remained inhospitable to European settlements until the mid- 1700's when Spain awarded land grants to new colonists. Doña Rosa Maria Hinojosa inherited several land grants including the Santa Isabella Land Grant on the Texas Coast. Her son, Padre Nicholas Balli, later obtained the grant to what is now Padre Island.

The Texas coast gained importance to Mexico, the U.S., and smugglers from both countries during the 1800's. Legend has it that pirate Jean Lafitte took refuge in this area and dug a well in Laguna Vista. Local ranchers formed business alliances with pirates who sailed their contraband between the Rio Grande and Corpus Christi. During the 1830's, Don Rafael Garcia established El Fronton de Santa Isabel (Point Isabel) to become the base for the growing Port of Matamoros and the privateer fleet.

In 1846, Fort Polk, named in honor of President Polk, was established on the site as a supply unit for the U.S. / Mexican War. Many notable men, including Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant, and Robert E. Lee, were stationed at this fort. In 1952, the Point Isabel Lighthouse was built to serve the maritime industry. It survived the Civil War and numerous hurricanes, finally becoming Texas' smallest state park in 1952.