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    PORT ARTHUR , TEXAS

    Jefferson County, Texas Gulf Coast
    Highway 87
    On West Bank of Sabine Lake
    17 miles SE of Beaumont
    90 miles E of Houston
    5 miles E of the Neches River Rainbow Bridge

    Population 57,755 (2000)

    Where to Stay
    Port Arthur Hotels

    Sabine-Neches Ship Canal, Port Arthur , Texas
    The Gulfgate Bridge in Port Arthur over the Sabine-Neches Ship Canal

    "The Bridge only has a 136 vertical Clearance and is a restriction to the Height of which a ship can safely pass under." - Photo courtesy Capt. David R. Byrnes, Sabine Pilots
    History in a 55-Gallon Drum

    Arthur Edward Stilwell was born in Rochester, New York in 1859. As a teenager he ran away from home to "seek his fortune." His gentile upbringing endeared him to the movers and shakers of the period and they shared their knowledge with the young man. By 1886, he had gone from traveling salesman to belt-line railroad promoter. His first major project was a railway from Kansas City to Sabine Pass, Texas, but Stilwell got sidetracked in Port Arthur.

    In December of 1895 Stilwell and Co. acquired property in Jefferson County and began platting a city, which he modestly named after himself.
    Port Arthur, Texas livery stable
    A livery stable in early Port Arthur.

    Photo courtesy Museum of the Gulf Coast
    Port Arthur depot, Texas
    The Port Arthur Depot today is in use as a residence.

    TE Photo, 5-03
    The Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad (which later became the Kansas City Southern) arrived in Port Arthur in 1897. Late that year Port Arthur had nearly 1,000 residents. To become a seaport, Port Arthur needed a canal, so in April 1897 the Port Arthur Channel and Dock Company began dredging a canal to the to deep water at Sabine Pass (completed in 1899). Stilwellís railroad went bankrupt in 1899 and he lost interest in his dream.

    In 1900 Stilwell announced an even more ambitious project: to connect Kansas City to the Pacific Coast (through Mexico). He founded Port Stilwell in the state of Sinaloa, Mexico. After bankruptcy and another quest for a Pacific railroad connection, Stilwell turned to writing books on finance. He then turned to poetry and novels. In his stories he let it be known that his Port Arthur dreams had been advice from "brownies."
    Arthur Stilwell bust
    Bust of Arthur Stilwell
    Photo Courtesy Museum of the Gulf Coast
    Protrait of John Gates in the Gates Memorial Library
    Photo Courtesy Gates Memorial Library
    Stilwell was replaced by John W. (Bet-a Million) Gates, a man who had made a fortune in barbed wire and who didnít believe in brownies. Gates arrived in December 1899 just as Stilwell was leaving. Gates didnít live too many years longer and in 1918, Gates Memorial Library, was established by his widow as a memorial to her husband (and her son).
    Grain elevator and ship in Port Arthur, Texas

    Grain Elevator and Ship at the Port

    Photo courtesy Museum of the Gulf Coast
    Port Arthur became a port of entry in 1906 and two years later the canal was extended up the Neches River to Beaumont and Orange.
    Port Saloon, Port Arthur, Texas
    A 1902 painting shows that Port Authurians had Business Priorities

    Courtesy Museum of the Gulf Coast
    Stilwell and Gates gave Port Arthur its start, but Spindletop guaranteed its future. On January 10, 1901, the first big Texas oil boom blew in. The household names of Gulf, Magnolia, Humble, and Texaco were all born with Spindletop. Pipelines and refineries were built and their workers required housing and stores. By 1914 Port Arthur was the second largest oil-refining point in the U. S. The population jumped from 900 in 1900 to 7,000 in 1910. By 1930 it was over 50,000.

    Port Arthur refineries area employed some 12,000 workers in 1950. Their salaries directly accounted for half of the cityís economy.

    After the late 1960s, when the population reached a zenith of 69,000, a decline began.

    Port Arthur annexed Sabine Pass in 1978.

    Where to Stay
    Port Arthur Hotels
    PortArthur TX - Keyhole Klub Neon
    Photo courtesy Carl Owen, October 2010
    Downtown Port Arthur
    Port Arthur's Past as seen by Carl Owen

    Bridges

    The Neches River Rainbow Bridge, (1939) crosses the Neches River on State Highway 87 between Port Arthur and Orange.

    The Gulfgate Bridge (since renamed the Martin Luther King Bridge) was built in the 1960s to connect Port Arthur with Pleasure Island and Louisiana.

    Where to Stay
    Port Arthur Hotels

    Port Arthur TX Draw Bridge

    Draw Bridge in Port Arthur, Texas
    Postcard courtesy Will Beauchamp Collection
    More Texas Bridges

    Janis Joplin portrait
    Janis Joplin
    Perhaps Port Arthur's most famous personality, Janis Joplin now has a memorabilia display in the Museum

    Photo courtesy Museum of the Gulf Coast
    PEOPLE
  • Tulip Transplants To East Texas:
    The Dutch Migration To Nederland, Texas, 1895-1915
    by W.T. Block
    To the East Texas of 1900, whose non-native population can be delineated as the overflow of the Anglo-Saxon Lower South, a Dutch colonization scheme must have appeared somewhat phenomenal. To the promoters...
  • "Babe" Didrikson by Archie P. McDonald
    The outstanding woman athlete of the twentieth century.
  • The Port Arthur/Lapland Connection by Christy Nilluka Broussard
    "Great Grandpa MIK Nilluka did not just herd reindeer; he made two incredible journeys with the reindeer."
  • Looking for Grandfather in Port Arthur
  • * * * * *
    Posf Office, Port Arthur, Texas

    Port Arthur Chronicles

    The Eagle
    Befriends the Stork


    Port Arthur's
    legend of F. B. Wright


    A Hurricane Story

    by John Troesser
    * * * * *

    Port Arthur Tourists Information

  • The Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce
    4749 Twin City Hwy, Suite 300
    Port Arthur, TX 77642
    (409) 963-1107
  • The Port Arthur Convention & Visitor's Bureau
    3401 Cultural Center Drive Port Arthur, TX 77642
    1-800-235-7822
    Website - http://www.portarthurtexas.com/

  • Where to Stay
    Port Arthur Hotels

    Texas Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their local history, stories, and vintage/historic photos of their town, please contact us.

    Port Arthur, Texas Area Destinations:
    Sabine Pass, Texas
    Beaumont
    Houston
    More Texas Destinations & Hotels:
    Texas Gulf Coast
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    This page last modified: April 15, 2011