outbound shrimpboat passes an incoming tanker on the Sabine River estuary which
connects Sabine Lake with the Gulf of Mexico.
TE Photo March 2007
To get to Sabine Pass, you would head
south from Beaumont on Highways 89/96/ 287. After
passing numerous prisons and the site of Spindletop
on your right, you'll pass the Nederland exits and come to the intersection with
highway 87. Take a right and drive until it intersects with highway 82. To the
south you'll see the easy-to-spot MLK
Bridge. Turn right here on highway 82 and this will take you into Sabine Pass.
Turning left would take you to downtown Port Arthur.
Long before you come to Sabine Pass, you'll start noticing torn and twisted debris
with an occasional stranded boat on the horizon. As you enter Sabine Pass, you
can see that a lot of debris has been removed - based on the numerous bare foundations
and empty posts that once held signs.
the main intersection, a small park is to your left (look for the old lighthouse
lantern and watchroom) and the cemetery is about a quarter of a mile to
the right - on the south side of the road.
Sabine Bank Lighthouse lantern in Bert Karrer-Lions Park. The still-functioning
lens is on display in a Port Arthur Museum. TE photo, March 2007
Bank Lighthouse Marker|
Click on image to enlarge text.
TE photo, 2007
the way to the cemetery (also on the south side of the road) you will see the
granite marker erected by the Texas Division of the United Daughters of the Confederacy
to commemorate Dick Dowling's
lopsided defeat of the invading Union gunships in 1863.|
Sabine Pass Cemetery|
Pass Cemetery is just to the west of the town's main intersection while the battleground
is several miles south.
The cemetery, which is still in use, has
a deep and wide vacant spot in the middle. Although there are no tombstones, Mr.
Block informed us that an estimated 100-150 people are buried in several mass
graves here - hastily dug during a Yellow Fever epidemic.
The area abounds
in wildlife and during our visit Ken Rudine, who is an avid birder, identified
a large flock of white and black Egyptian Ibis that were wading in large puddles
looking for food.
|According to the historical
marker, the cemetery contains the remains of both Confederate and (at least two)
Union soldiers as well as veterans of the War of 1812, the War for Texas Independence
and the reason for our visit, the final resting place of Kate
Dorman, the "heroine of Sabine Pass."|
Among the Yellow Fever
victims and fallen soldiers, there also the remains of a young man who died in
1901 as a result of of shooting into a pit of unexploded ordnance left in an abandoned
gun emplacement. His remains were covered and a cenotaph placed in Port Arthur's
While the cemetery isn't fenced in black iron or
rich with funereal statuary, it's a memorable cemetery to visit for its typical
coastal flora and fauna - and for its somber timelessness.
Pass Cemetery - more images
view of the Sabine River Estuary at Battlefield Park|
TE photo, July 2003
was Here. Barnacles had time to form on this once partially submerged shrimpboat.
(On the way to Sabine
TE photo, March 2007
Pass Battleground State Historic Site |
To get to the
battleground park, return to the intersection and go right on 3322. This road
follows the Sabine River estuary and is plied by ships entering Port Arthur, the
gas terminals and refineries or the Neches River which passes alongside downtown
Beaumont. Damage from Rita is evident in many forms - including the barnacles
on this shrimpboat (above).
The battleground boat ramp and parking lot
is open although most of the visitor's area (including Dick Dowling's statue)
is currently surrounded by ugly flexible orange construction fencing. The status
of the once-numerous historical markers is not known. The thing least affected
by the storm is the grouping of WWII era ammunition bunkers.
south from the Battlefield is a potholed unpaved road that eventually reaches
the site of Sabine City, a ghost town that once had a railroad connection. The
decommissioned Sabine Pass Lighthouse (on the Louisiana side) is visible access
the marshes and the faded paint and weathered cement give it a watercolor effect.
A painting of the lighthouse in better days is hanging in the Museum of the Gulf
Coast in Port Arthur.
Pass Battleground State Historic Site
old lighthouse on the Louisiana side of the channel is visible from just south
of the SPBSHS. TE Photo March 2007|
you're planning a visit to Sabine Pass, you might consider waiting awhile. Highway
87 between Sabine Pass and High Island has
been shown on TxDoT maps as "temporarily" closed since 1989. Mr. Block corrected
our guess that the damaging storm was Carla. Specifiaclly it was damaged in August
of 1989 by a "very small" storm named Chantille, repaved shortly after
and then damaged heavily by Hurricane Jerry in October of that same year. |
Our visit had the best guide imaginable and a bird expert to boot. Even in
the current state, it's a drive worth taking for a picnic or ship or lighthouse-spotting.
See what you can and try to squeeze in a visit to the first-class museum
in downtown Port Arthur.
Your Hotel Here & Save
Note: On a beautiful Spring day after a heavy downpour, TE photographic contributor
Ken Rudine and TE editor decided
to visit author, historian and columnist W.T.
"Cannonball" Block at his home in Nederland. Mr. Block was kind enough to
guide us to the Sabine Pass Cemetery (which we had missed during our Pre-Hurricane
Rita visit in 2003) so that we might get a photo of the marker erected to Kate
Dorman. Mr. Block had been instrumental in having the official marker installed
- as well as manually punching out aluminum plaques for many of the unmarked graves
in the cemetery. The cemetery, which had been unkept for years, had a new THC
marker erected recently and now receives a yearly cleaning by county workers and
Pass, The Town
Population: 1,500 in 1984 – now included in the Port
One of the Eight Corners of Texas
History in a Pecan Shell|
The town dates from 1836. The
town’s future as a major port once seemed very promising.
The post office
was granted in 1846 and the town was incorporated just before the Civil War. Fort
Sabine and Fort Griffin were constructed nearby to prevent Union incursions into
in 1862 caused an exodus of locals, but prevented the Union Army from occupying
the town. The battle of Sabine Pass in 1863 was one of the most lopsided victories
of the entire war. It made a hero of Houston saloonkeeper Richard
Dowling and his victory left him with a bronze
statue at the battleground and a marble
statue (and a street named after him) in Houston.
who was held in high regard by Texas society – was buried in the State
Cemetery in Austin, although her father rests in Houston's St. Vincent's Cemetery.
The 1880 population was 460 people - making Sabine Pass Jefferson County’s
The Sabine and East Texas Railroad
that appeared in 1881 replaced a prewar line that had been abandoned.
towns limitless future was dimmed when a hurricane in 1886 destroyed the town
and killed 86 residents. Storms struck again in 1900 and 1915.
late 1800s, The Kountze brothers, who owned vast acreage in Jefferson County,
refused to negotiate with developer Arthur Stilwell. Stilwell decided to pour
his money and energy into Port Arthur instead.
As Beaumont, Orange
and Port Arthur grew - Sabine Pass traded
its promising potential for guaranteed tranquility.
The 1900 population
was a mere 363 people.
eventually annexed the town in 1978, although the town maintains an entirely separate
Marker - Sabine Pass Lions Park, Sabine Pass|
of Sabine and Sabine PassThe
first known settlers in this area were John McGaffey and Thomas Courts, who arrived
in 1832. Sam Houston assisted Manuel de los Santos Coy in acquiring a land grant
here in 1833. Two years later Houston and two partners purchased Coy's property
holdings. On January 19, 1839, Gen. sam Houston signed the charter that established
the city of Sabine. Houston was active in promoting the sale of 2,060 town
lots. The city soon flourished. Houston and his partners lost title to the town
when the General Land Office determined that John McGaffey held original claim
to the lands.
The city of Sabine developed into a major port. In 1860
the State Legislature, in approving a new charter for the city, changed the name
to Sabine Pass. It was the scene of a major Civil War engagement in 1863,
with Confederate forces preventing a Union attempt to capture the port and gain
major inroads into Texas. The Federal Harbor Act
of 1882 led to construction of jetties here and development of inland ports along
the Neches and Sabine rivers. By the early 20th century Sabine Pass began to decline
due to hurricane damage which prevented railway maintenance.
ante-bellum house, said to be the Pass' oldest home, undergoes repair. It has
weathered worse storms than Rita. TE Photo 3-2007
Sam Houston makes up part of a larger sculpture in the city park.
Port Arthur Tourists
The Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce
4749 Twin City Hwy, Suite 300
Arthur, TX 77642
The Port Arthur Convention & Visitor's
3401 Cultural Center Drive Port Arthur, TX 77642
Website - http://www.portarthurtexas.com/
Jefferson County map showing Sabine Pass|
(Below "N" in "J-E-F-F-E-R-S-O-N")
Texas General Land Office