Rio History: German Saboteurs and Ship Wrecks

Special to the PRESS

Hello Steve,
I am a transplanted Texan living in Santa Fe. I’ve been here for 15 years and really miss the lifestyle of South Texas. I have been intrigued for several years with the shipwrecks of Padre. I’ve seen one referred to on a map as “Nicaragua.” Is this accurate? I know you won’t give up all your secrets, but I am 1,000 or so miles away and would love to hear all about the facts. I am guessing that it is very difficult to reach the specific areas from north or south. Please share as much as comfortable. Thank you!

Cindy Geelan

Hi Cindy
Yes, I have heard of the Nicaragua. On August 11, 1912, she left Tampico, Mexico bound for Port Arthur. Five days later, on August 16, 1912, the Nicaragua went down on the shores of Padre Island, in that section of the coast known as the Devil’s Elbow.

Rumor has it that the ship was filled with munitions headed to the revolutionaries in Mexico. Some believe that saboteurs ran it ashore about 50-55 miles south of Corpus Christi, just a few miles north of where the current-day Mansfield Cut which would put it within the boundaries of Padre Island National Seashore.

At the time, it was believed that agents of the Kaiser of Germany were somehow involved. The Germans were thought to be stirring up trouble to keep America busy in its own backyard in the event war broke out in Europe.

In fact, a couple years later, troops were called to Texas to protect American citizens from bandit raids along the Mexican border where German agents were supplying arms to Pancho Villa. The training those soldiers received along the border would prove invaluable to the Americans when they finally entered the first World War.

Black Jack Pershing and many of the men who served under him would later become heroes in both world wars. My own grandfather and many men of the Sparta contingent of the Wisconsin National Guard served along the Rio Grande, before shipping out to France.

The boilers of the old ship are mentioned in many of the early histories of the Island. I have seen photo postcards of the wreck, though I have not actually seen the boilers myself and do not know if they still exist.

I hope I have answered your question. Be sure to visit our website for more Rio History.

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