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.
Bert Karrer-Lions Park
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.
The 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
|Sabine Bank Lighthouse
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
Sabine Pass Cemetery
Sabine 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.
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 Evergreen
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.
Cemetery - more images
of the Sabine River Estuary at Battlefield Park
TE photo, July 2003
|Rita 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
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.
The road 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
|The old lighthouse
on the Louisiana side of the channel is visible from just south of
TE Photo March 2007
| If 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
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
Pass, The Town
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 East
Yellow fever 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.
Dowling’s niece, 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.
The 1880 population was 460 people - making Sabine Pass Jefferson
County’s second city.
The Sabine and East Texas Railroad
that appeared in 1881 replaced a prewar line that had been abandoned.
The towns limitless future was dimmed when a hurricane in 1886 destroyed
the town and killed 86 residents. Storms struck again in 1900 and
In the 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.
Port Arthur eventually annexed
the town in 1978, although the town maintains an entirely separate
Marker - Sabine Pass Lions Park, Sabine Pass
City of Sabine
and Sabine Pass
The 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.
TE Photo, 7-2003
The Port Arthur
Chamber of Commerce
4749 Twin City Hwy, Suite 300
Port Arthur, TX 77642
The Port Arthur Convention & Visitor's Bureau
3401 Cultural Center Drive Port Arthur, TX 77642
Website - http://www.portarthurtexas.com/
| Jefferson County
1907 postal map showing Sabine Pass
Courtesy Texas General Land Office
in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing Texas,
asks that anyone wishing to share their local history and vintage/historic
photos, please contact