Port Arthur, TX History
The lovely Gulf Coast city of Port Arthur, TX has a rich history. This prosperous city’s development is largely thanks to an oilfield boom a few years after the town was incorporated. Texas had already been around for a bit before this town was settled, but people began looking to this region in hopes of expanding the railroad down this way.
The City’s Earliest Days
The city of Port Arthur, TX began as the community of Aurora, now known as the historic part of the city. The community wasn’t really profiting or growing, so eventually it was abandoned and became a ghost town.
Port Arthur was eventually established by Arthur E. Stilwell. The community began in 1895 thanks to Dutch investors’ financial help, and the fact that they thought the area had a lot of railway potential. The potential for tourism and trading led Arthur Stilwell to create the Port Arthur Channel and Dock Company to oversee and take charge of the port being built at Sabine Lake. The canal for the port ran along the lake’s western border. The port formally opened for business in 1899 when Saint Oswald, a British steamer, arrived.
The town was officially incorporated in 1898. After the port opened for shipping, many settlers began flocking to the area. More homes were built, and a wider variety of businesses opened in the town. Stilwell provided a hotel (Sabine Hotel) for the residents as well as a pier dedicated to exporting products. Many Dutch colonists moved to the area and contributed greatly to the culture of the town.
Discovery of Oil in Port Arthur, TX
Port Arthur didn’t start out as the central part of the network for oil refinery in the whole world. In 1901, at Spindletop, the Lucas Gusher erupted. The discovery of oil in this region was huge for the town and led to the creation of many major oil companies including Magnolia, Gulf, and Texaco. After important oil refineries were built in the port, petroleum could be shipped directly through the canal. Petroleum was a very valuable export, increasing the overall value of the entire port.
In 1914, Port Arthur was officially the second biggest oil refining region in the nation. To give an idea of the immense growth this city underwent, here is a small timeline of the city’s population:
- In 1900, the city had 900 residents.
- In 1910, the city had over 7,500 residents.
- In 1930, the city had over 50,000 residents.
Modern Port Arthur, TX
Many of the new residents to the city were following the oil boom, and the growing refineries were more than happy to employ new people. The prosperous city incorporated other communities over time, including Griffing Park, Lakeview, and Pear Ridge. The city is neighbored by Nederland, where much of the Dutch influence remains.
Port Arthur continues to grow and make innovative strides in its economy, despite a decline of interest within the oil industry. The city currently has some major energy infrastructure projects underway. Citizens and visitors both enjoy and learn from the fascinating history of the city.