No immigrants arriving in Indianola were quite as exotic as the seventy-five camels that came ashore in 1856 and 1857 from Algeria, Tunisia, Egypt and Turkey. As early as 1836, politicians, diplomats and the military were considering the importation of camels for use in North America's desert wastelands. In 1853, Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, a man familiar with harsh desert conditions, proposed to congress the use of camels as pack animals in the desert southwest. Congress approved the request on March 3, 1855.
After a three-month voyage from the Mediterranean, the Fashion entered Matagorda Bay on May 13, 1856 and landed the camels at the wharf at Powder Horn. Thirty-four camels, ranging from Bactrians (two-humped variety), Arabians (one-hump variety) and a hybrid-cross between the two, came ashore. Many residents of Indianola recalled the unusual sight of the camels being led through the streets.
By February 1857, a second government shipment of forty-one camels arrived in Indianola. Military camel caravans carrying supplies became more common in the Texas Hill Country between the camels' home of Camp Verde and San Antonio. The camels, along with traditional livestock, were used in the summer of 1857 to survey the great wagon road between Arizona and California, now known as Route 66. The camels were
also used in 1859 and 1860 for reconnaissance in west Texas, surveying routes to the U.S./Mexico border. In 1861, upon the outbreak of the Civil War, all U.S. military assets, including the camels, came into possession of Confederate troops and, after the war, the camels were auctioned off.