Matagorda, Texas, is the 3rd oldest town in Texas. It was established in 1827 by Elias R. Wightman who was one of Stephen F. Austin’s early surveyors. At the time this area belonged to Mexico. Afraid that the French and Native American Indians would take over the territory, the Mexican government hired Stephen F. Austin to bring colonists to the area. In exchange for a free land grant, the colonists had to become Mexican citizens and Catholics. In 1828 Wightman journeyed to his native state of New York and one year later arrived back in Matagorda with a colony of 60 immigrants. These immigrants consisted of 50 from New York and 10 from New Orleans. Wightman informed Austin that the new town would be named Matagorda. The term “matagorda” is antiquated and ambiguous. In Spanish the term means “fat kill” referring to abundant game and seafood. Others think in terms of “fat mott” referring to a fat clump of trees. Matagorda flourished and by 1834 had a population of 1,400. As the second largest port in Texas, Matagorda developed transportation and industry. Immigrants by the hundreds disembarked at this port to take up land grants in the colonies of Stephen F. Austin.
In 1827 one of the first buildings to be constructed was a log cabin with a dirt floor which served as a school house until a new building was built in 1888. In 1914 the first brick and concrete school was built on Wightman and Market Streets and existed until the present day school was built in 1971. New additions and modern improvements have enabled some 200 students from K thru 8th grade to attend this exemplary school.
The oldest house in Matagorda County was built in 1832 by early colonist Samuel R. Fisher. It currently operates as a Bed and Breakfast and is located on St. Mary’s Street in Matagorda. One of the earliest cemeteries in Texas is the Matagorda Cemetery founded soon after the town was settled circa 1829. The cemetery is registered in the National Historical Register.
In 1838 The Rev. Caleb Ives established the first Episcopal church in Matagorda which is the Mother Church of Texas. This church as well as other early churches such as the Methodist and Baptist continue to conduct services today.
Historical markers and buildings are in the ball park located on Fisher between Laurel and St. Mary’s Streets. One historical building served as a post office for over 50 years and is preserved as a museum. The Garden Club occupied a building that once served as a local meat market. In 2013, the old Negro school house was moved to the park and restored. It is used for monthly meetings by the Matagorda Historical Society. It is also open to the public on historical occasions such as Matagorda Day and Black history events.
Map of Historical Markers around Matagorda
The mission of the Matagorda County Museum is to collect, to preserve and to protect the county’s cultural heritage. Through exhibition and development of educational programming we make the museum a cultural experience and destination.