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November 6
First European Visitors

Ship commanded by Cabeza de Vaca cast up on shores of upper Texas or Louisiana Gulf Coast, becoming the first Europeans to visit the area.

July 25
Storm Lands Group Near Lake Sabine

A giant storm sweeps the expedition of Hernando De Soto ashore in the vicinity of Lake Sabine. De Soto had died in 1542 but the expedition continued under the command of Luis de Moscoso de Alvarado.

La Salle Comes Ashore

French explorer La Salle lands on the Texas Gulf Coast.

French Traders Visit SE Texas

French traders from Louisiana come to Southeast Texas to trade with Native Americans.

Courts Receives Land Grant

A land grant, which included the present site of Port Arthur and southern Jefferson County is issued to Thomas Courts.

March 2
Texas Independence

Texas declares its independence from Mexico.

April 21
Texas Victory at San Jacinto

Sam Houston leads the Texas army to victory over the Mexican forces of Gen. Santa Anna in the Battle of San Jacinto.

Aurora Settlement Established

Aurora was an early settlement attempt near the mouth of Taylor Bayou on Sabine Lake. The town was conceived in 1837 and by 1840, town lots were for sale. After little success attracting buyers, the area became known as "Sparks" after John Sparks, who moved his family to the shores of Sabine Pass. The Sparks settlement, along with Aurora, eventually disappeared after the Civil War forced the removal of a rail line near Sparks, and a devastating hurricane forced residents to move to Beaumont. By 1895, Aurora had become a ghost town.

Jefferson County Established

The boundaries of Jefferson County, organized in 1836, are defined and include all of what is now Orange County and parts of Hardin and Chambers counties.

New Customhouse

Customhouse built at Port of Sabine.

October 19
City of the Pass Envisioned

Stephen H. Everett, an attorney in Jasper County, files intention of laying out a city to be known as the City of the Pass on 1,650 acres near Sabine Pass. The proposed city was to have 2,500 lots.

Sabine Pass Surveyed

Dr. Niles F. Smith surveys the first townsite of Sabine Pass for Sam Houston (pictured), president of the Republic of Texas.

Arthur Stilwell Arrives

Arthur Stilwell led the resettling of the area as part of his planned city as the southern end of his Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad, the predecessor to the Kansas City Southern Railway. Stilwell named the city "Port Arthur" after himself.

September 13
Hurricane of 1897

Celebrations in Port Arthur on completion of the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad between Kansas City and Port Arthur occurred Saturday, September 11, 1897. The celebrations brought additional people into town. The next day, a major hurricane hit Port Arthur. Water flowed five feet deep in the streets. People loaded into the unfinished railroad roundhouse seeking shelter; the building promptly collapsed, killing four. In the end, 13 people died, homes were destroyed, and a pleasure pier was severely damaged.

March 30
City of Port Arthur Incorporated

When a group of concerned citizens realized its town was beset with infrastructure problems, they gathered together and incorporated the City of Port Arthur. Under the new city government, Port Arthur began to undergo a period of rapid growth and development, focusing on improving public services and attracting new business to the region. The City's first mayor was Nat R. Strong, who served from 1898-1899.

Pleasure Island Comes To Life

The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers created Pleasure Island from deposits dredged while constructing the Port Arthur Canal, completed in 1899, and the Sabine Neches Intracoastal Waterway, completed in 1908.
In 1913 a dance hall and roller coaster were constructed. In 1941 a private investor built the Pleasure Pier Ballroom, a midway, an Olympic-size swimming pool, and the largest roller coaster in the south. A fine 18-hole golf course was enjoyed for years. Pleasure Island was Port Arthur's playground for decades until the Pleasure Pier bridge, which opened in 1931 and was frequently hit by ships, was taken out of service in 1967, making it difficult to reach the island. Storms, fires, and erosion eventually destroyed all of the existing facilities.
The Martin Luther King, Jr. Bridge and the Sabine Causeway now connect Pleasure Island to Port Arthur and Louisiana. Residents and tourists alike are enjoying the development of Pleasure Island.

January 10
Spindletop Erupts

The eruption of the Lucas gusher at Spindletop ushered in the Texas oil boom.

John W. Gates Makes His Mark

Industrialist and entrepreneur John W. Gates recognized the potential of the Port Arthur's deep-water port as a strategic location for the shipping of oil and other natural resources. He formed the Port Arthur Channel and Dock Company in 1901, with the goal of improving the infrastructure of the port and making it more accessible to larger ships. Under Gates' leadership, the company undertook a number of ambitious projects, including the construction of a new deep-water channel and the expansion of the city's railroad system.

Port Arthur Refinery Opens

Gates also played a role in the development of the Port Arthur Refinery, which was one of the largest oil refineries in the world at the time. He served as a director of the refinery and helped to secure the financing for its construction.

May 30
First "Gates Day" Celebration

First "Gates Day" celebration in memory of John W. Gates held in Port Arthur. The annual event was discontinued in 1920 at the request of his family.

Drawbridge opens

The first steel Strauss-Bascule drawbridge opens to Pleasure Pier.

December 13
Natural gas lamps

The first natural gas lamps in Port Arthur are lighted at Hart's Drug Store.

December 16
Rail Line Completed

Interurban rail line completed between Port Arthur and Beaumont and regular service begins.

Griffing Park

Griffing Park laid out as residential subdivision of Port Arthur.

March 30
Working Together

As one of the conditions of a strike settlement, Black and white dock workers labor together for the first time.

June 26
Babe Zaharias Born

Babe Didrikson Zaharias is born in Port Arthur. She would later move to Beaumont and eventually become one of the greatest female athletes in history.

St. Mary School Opens

St. Mary School opens in a two-story brick building on Sixth Street as Port Arthur's first Catholic school. It closes in 1988.

Pleasure Pier Built

A Pleasure Pier was erected, stretching 3,000 feet into Lake Sabine. The cost of the construction was $200,000 (nearly $6 million in 2023 dollars).

Among the Best in the Country

Port Arthur is ranked as the No. 12 port in the nation and the second largest oil refining site in the country.

First School Librarian

The Port Arthur School Board hires the city's first library, setting aside two rooms on the second floor of the high school and authorizing $1,000 (more than $29,000 in 2023) for books.

June 5
Rotary Club Organized

The Port Arthur Rotary Club is organized with 36 members. Frank Imhoff is the first president. It's the 13th club established in Texas.

August 15
Hurricane Floods PA; Six Killed

A hurricane and storm surge hit Port Arthur and water stands more than four feet deep in downtown and almost seven feet at the Gulf Refinery. Six are killed and damages recorded in the millions of dollars.

January 23
Donation Creates Memorial Library

Mrs. John W. Gates donated $55,000 to build a library and $5,000 for equipment for the Mary A. Gates Memorial Hospital.

November 20
Evelyn Keyes is Born

Actress Evelyn Keyes, who starred in the 1939 film classic "Gone With The Wind," was born in Port Arthur. During her career, she appeared in 47 movies.

February 1
Weather Station

The first weather station for Port Arthur is built.

April 23
Founders Lions Club Established

The Port Arthur Founders Lions Club is organized with A.W. Dycus serving as president. It is among the first 25 clubs in Lions International.

July 1
Post Office Upgraded

The Port Arthur Post Office advances to first-class status.

May 18
Library Dedicated

Gates Memorial Library is dedicated.

September 1
Local 23 Chartered

The Local 23 is chartered by the AFL Oil Workers International Union.

November 28
Mrs. Gates Passes

Mrs. John W. Gates, nee Dellora Baker, dies in New York.

First Boy Scout Troop

The first Boy Scout troop in Port Arthur is organized by Rev. Otho R. Morris, pastor of the First Methodist Episcopal Church.

November 11
Armistice Day Celebrated

Port Arthur marks Armistice Day at the end of World War I with repeated barrages from a six-pound cannon fired by Charlie Coleman. The explosive celebration wound up breaking half the windows in the downtown area.

Lincoln Bond Issue

A $167,000 (~$2.9 million/2023) bond issue is approved to build Lincoln School. Lamar School is also built.

March 27
Booming Population

Population figures show 22,276 residents. It was estimated that the local population was increasing by 300 persons a month.

January 1
Lincoln Opens

Lincoln School completed, officially opens.

June 5
VFW Post Organized

The Veterans of Foreign Wars post is organized in Port Arthur.

Local 1175 Founded

The Local 1175 of the International Longshoremen's Association is founded.

June 16
SWB Purchase

The Port Arthur Telephone Exchange is purchased by Southwestern Bell.

July 1
School Bond Issue Passes

Voters by a 2-to-1 margin approve $675,000 in bonds for school improvements, including two wings to the high school building.

January 17
Fire Destroys Club

The Elks Theater Club is destroyed by fire.

July 4
Jubilee Celebrated

The Silver Jubilee celebration marks the 25th anniversary of Port Arthur.

Start of Port Acres

Port Acres is platted by Tyrell-Combest Co. of Port Arthur.

January 14
Refinery Explosion

A Texas Company explosion kills 10 and seriously injures 28.

New Department Club Clubhouse

The new Department Club clubhouse is constructed in the 1900 block of Lakeshore Drive. The building receives a Texas Historical Subject marker in 1981, designated as a Texas Historical Landmark in 1982.

Port Acres School

A two-room school building is constructed in Port Acres.

April 25
PA-to-Galveston Road

"Hug-the-Coast Road" opens, linking Port Arthur and Galveston. The new road replaces an old one dating back to the Civil War.

October 22
Rauschenberg Born

Robert Rauschenberg, who became an internationally renowned artist, is born in Port Arthur. He graduates from Thomas Jefferson High School in 1943.

12-Grade School System

Superintendent George M. Sims implements a 12-grade school system in Port Arthur, the first school in Texas to offer 12 years of schooling.

Adams Building Constructed

The six-story Adams Building is constructed for $750,000 ($12.675 million/2023) in downtown Port Arthur by John R. Adams. The building is renamed the World Trade Building in 1971.

April 12
Explosion Kills 29

The Gulf tanker Gulf of Venezuela explodes while loading high test gasoline in Port Arthur. Twenty-nine men are killed and scores more are injured.

May 8
Free Ferry Opens

A free ferry service across the Neches River begins as the Port Arthur-Orange state highway opens. More than 10,000 are on hand for the ceremonies.

March 15
Fresh Water Flows

Fresh water from the Neches River flows into a $425,000 (~$7.3 million/2023) Port Arthur filtration plant.

Bond Issue Approved

Voters approve a $1.5 million ($25.785 million/2023) school bond issue. Improvements include a $570,000 junior high school and three elementary schools.

June 15
Armory Dedicated

The Memorial Armory is dedicated.

Temple dedicated

The Port Arthur Masonic Temple is dedicated.

September 26
Arthur Stilwell Dies

Arthur E. Stilwell dies in New York. On October 9, his widow, Jennie Wood Stilwell, commits suicide.

March 17
Hospital Groundbreaking

More than 2,500 people attend a groundbreaking for St. Mary Hospital.

July 14
Vaughn Hotel Opens

The Vaughn Hotel, later to become the Sabine Hotel, opens.

August 22
Goodhue Hotel Opens

The Goodhue Hotel, built for $550,000, opens. It is demolished in 1990.

October 6
Eddingston Court Opens

Eddingston Court opens at 3300 Procter Street as the city's first apartment house. Built by Captain A.T. Eddingston, it cost $250,000 and featured a wall constructed of 6,000 conch shells barged in from the Cayman Islands.

November 13
Griffing Incorporates

Residents of Griffing, also known as Griffing Park, vote to incorporate as a city.

November 27
Major Annexation

Port Arthur voters approve a $1.3 million bond issue. They also vote to annex Edgemore, Del Mar, Lakeview, and Griffing. Griffing residents later obtain an injunction preventing their annexation.

Jackets State Co-Champions

Just a year after reaching the UIL State Football Championship, the Yellowjackets returned to the title game where they tied 0-0 with Breckenridge, finishing as co-champions that season. In 1928, Port Arthur lost to Abilene High School 38-0. Tom L. Dennis served as head coach of that team.

May 1
St. Mary Hospital Opens

St. Mary Hospital, owned and operated by Sisters of Charity, opens on Ninth Avenue, replacing the old Gates Hospital.

May 17
Gulf Highway Completed

A celebration takes place at the Bolivar Ferry Landing, marking the completion of the new Gulf Highway linking Port Arthur and Galveston.

May 20
Rudolph Lambert Comes Home

The body of Rudolph Lambert, the first Port Arthur soldier to die in World War I, is returned to the city to be buried with full military honors in Greenlawn Cemetery. A Port Arthur American Legion Post is named in his honor.

Trinity Methodist Organized

Trinity Methodist Church is organized with 40 charter members.

October 24
Big Bopper Born

J.P. Richardson Jr., who achieved rock and roll fame as the "Big Bopper" is born in Sabine Pass. He died in a 1959 Iowa plane crash with Buddy Holly and Richie Valens.

Two New Schools

Stephen F. Austin and Robert E. Lee Schools are constructed.

April 3
Birth of the Rainbow Bridge

The State of Texas contributed $325,000 for a bridge over the Neches River at the Port Arthur-Orange Highway, with Jefferson and Orange counties to pay the other half of the cost of construction.

April 9
Subcourthouse for PA

Gov. Ross Sterling signs a bill providing for a subcourthouse in Port Arthur, the only one of its kind in Texas. The building would be completed in 1936.

Seawall/Levee Completed

A $1.75 million seawall and levee are completed along the Sabine-Neches Waterway to an elevation of nine feet above sea level.

June 2
Women's Club Chartered

The Port Arthur Noon Business and Professional Women's Club is chartered with 50 members. Lucy Teuton is the group's first president.

Kiwanis Club Organized

The first Port Arthur Kiwanis Club is organized with Ed Laughlin as its first president.

Barbara Jean Jacket born

A 1954 Lincoln High School graduate, she coached for 27 years at Prairie View A&M University and was the 1992 Olympic women's track and field coach for the United States. She was also athletic director at PVAMU. A Port Arthur park is named in her honor.

Port Arthur Port Ranking

Official announcement made that Port Arthur tanks seventh amongst United States ports.

December 12
Approval of Pleasure Pier development

Voters approved $600,000 in Pleasure pier development bonds.

Airport Opening

Jefferson County Airport opens.

NAACP Chartered

Port Arthur chapter of National Association for Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) organized.

An Outright Title for the Jackets

After tying 0-0 vs. Breckenridge in 1929, the Yellowjackets finally made it back to the state championship game, taking a 20-7 win over Dallas Highland Park to claim the title. 

Bishop Byrne High School Opens

Bishop Byrne High School was the consolidation of two area schools, St. James and St. Mary High Schools. The school closed nearly 40 years later in 1983.

Rose Hill dedicated to City of Port Arthur

Woodworth Mansion, also known as Rose Hill, was deeded to the City of Port Arthur by Phebe Woodworth, following the wishes of her mother who died in 1946.

Delta Sigma Theta Chapter Chartered

Port Arthur Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated chartered.

Port Arthur's Golden Jubilee

Golden Jubilee celebration marks Port Arthur's 50th Anniversary. 

June 27
Hurricane Audrey

In June 1957, Hurricane Audrey made landfall just east of Port Arthur in Cameron Parish, Louisiana, as a category 3 hurricane. The storm caused extensive wind damage around the city and significant storm surge flooding just east in Southwest Louisiana.

James Gamble Becomes Bees' Basketball Coach

When James Gamble was discharged from the Army after serving in Vietnam, he set his sites on coaching Bumblebees basketball. Over the next 25 years, he won 670 games, claiming four state championships, five regional titles, 13 bidistrict titles, and 16 district championships. He came out of retirement in 1998 and led the Bees to a 29-6 record and a state finalist finish.

Port Arthur Historical Museum

Port Arthur Historical Museum, the forerunner to the Museum of Gulf Coast begins.

Bishop Byrne Catholic High School

Bishop Byrne Catholic High School opens in new facilities at Ninth Avenue and Texas 73 after Sacred Heart, Saint Mary, and Saint James high schools merge. Bishop Byrne closed in 1983.

Yacht Club

Port Arthur Yacht Club organized.

PA Schools Integration

Faculty, staff integrated Port Arthur schools in 1965. All Port Arthur schools integrated after Justice Department orders PAISD to abandon its one-grade-a-year plan and speed up the process.

April 6
Port Arthur City Hall opens

$1.5 million six-story Port Arthur City Hall formally opens at 444 Fourth Street in the downtown area. Groundbreaking had been on October 9, 1968.

August 21
Gulfgate Bridge Dedicated

Gulfgate Bridge, later to become Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Bridge. formally dedicated by U.S. Rep. Jack Brooks, providing Port Arthur with direct land access to Pleasure Island for the first time since 1968.

May 25
Pompeiian Villa listed in National Register of Historical Places

Pompeiian villa, 1953 Lakeshore Drive, listed in National Register of Historical Places. The 10-room mansion also is a Texas Historical Society site. It was built as an authentic copy of 74 AD Pompeiian home.

Fina Buys Port Arthur Refinery

Fina buys Port Arthur refinery from British Petroleum.

April 6
Port Arthur Wins All-America City Award

Port Arthur announced as winner of coveted All-America city award for 1973, one of 10 U.S. cities so honored. Port Arthur had been among 22 cities nominated for the national award in 1970.

Earl Evans Chosen Most Outstanding Basketball Player in Texas

Earl Evans of Lincoln High School chosen most outstanding basketball player in Texas by Amarillo Chamber of Commerce.

Queen of Vietnam Catholic Church

Queen of Vietnam Catholic Church founded in Port Arthur.

Sea Rim State Park Opens

Sea Rim State Park along Texas Highway 87 opens to public, with beach unit spanning five of Gulf Mexico frontage names for State Senator D. Roy Harrington of Port Arthur. Land acquired by state in 1972.

Sabine Pass Annexed

Sabine Pass annexed by Port Arthur.

August 14
Civic Center and Public Library Ground-breaking

Ground-breaking ceremonies for Port Arthur Civic Center and Public Library held at nearby Stilwell Technical School because of rain. 

December 17
Rose Hill Receives Texas Historical Marker

Rose Hill, also known as the Woodworth House, receives Texas Historical Marker and named to National Register of Historical Places.

Bobby Leopold Drafted to NFL

Bobby Leopold, former Lincoln High School grid star, graduates from Notre Dame and drafted by San Diego Chargers of NFL; goes on to play eight years with the Chargers, San Francisco 49ers, Green Bay Packers, and USFL New Jersey Generals.

Bob Hope School Named

Bob Hope School is named for the famed comedian as he takes over the promotion of vocational high school for physically handicapped students at Hughen Center in Port Arthur. Comedian Jimmy Durante donated an indoor swimming pool at the school, and Hope began periodic appearances in Southeast Texas to raise funds for the school.

August 7
Coretta Scott King Visits

Coretta Scott King, widow of slain civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., speaks in Port Arthur.

September 12
S. Sgt. Lucian Adams Honored

Staff Sergeant Lucian Adams, Port Arthur's only Congressional Medal of Honor winner, honored at banquet. A park and a street are named for him.

October 20
Marty Fleckman Selected for Hall of Fame

Port Arthur native, Marty Fleckman, who went to star at University of Houston and on pro tour, selected for Texas Golf Hall of Fame.

March 12
PA Lincoln State Basketball Championship

Port Arthur's Lincoln High School captures its fourth state basketball championship of the 1980s with 66-59 victory Wichita Falls Hirschi in Austin tournament.

May 20
Jimmy Johnson Honored in PA News Roast

1,000 attend first Port Arthur News roast honoring Port Arthur native Jimmy Johnson, coach of national collegiate football champion University of Miami.

April 21
Shirley Chisholm Speaks in PA

Shirley Chisholm, civil rights leaders and former U.S. Congresswoman, speaks in Port Arthur.

April 29
Willie Nelson Headlines Pleasure Island Music Festival

Country singing star Willie Nelson headlines Pleasure Island Music Festival staged by Service League of Port Arthur. 7,000 attend festival despite absence of blues legend B.B. King, who cancelled due to illness.

May 5
First Woman Mayor of Port Arthur

Mary Ellen Summerlin becomes first woman mayor in Port Arthur history. She had been only second woman ever on city council. 

June 22
First African American President of the Port

Raymond Johnson elected president of the Port of Port Arthur, first African American to hold the position. 

December 3
Grand Opening of Aurora Building

Grand opening held for Aurora Building, headquarters for Mardi Gras organization. Building once housed downtown J.C. Penney store.

First Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas

First Mardi Gras of Southeast Texas staged in downtown Port Arthur; an estimated 100,000 line streets for parades and event.

January 2
Bartie First African American JP

Port Arthur's Thurman Bartie sworn in as first African American Justice of the pease in Jefferson County, replacing retieed Barbara Dorman who had been first female JP.

August 2
Joe Washington Hall of Fame Induction

Retired Lincoln High School football coach Joe Washington inducted into Texas High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

October 21
Historical Marker Honoring Arthur Stilwell

Texas State Historical Marker honoring Port Arthur founder Arthur Stilwell dedicated near Stilwell Boulevard and Lakeshore Drive.

January 12
Ice Storm of 1997

Major ice storm blankets Port Arthur. Thousands lose electricity for up to one week as power lines, tree suffer heavy damage.

July 30
Marler Inducted into Hall of Fame

Stephen F. Austin High School football coach Richard Marler inducted into Texas High School Coaches Association Hall of Fame.

September 16
Lincoln High Band in Chosen for Washington Monument Anniversry Celebration

Lincoln High School Band chosen to represent Texas at 150th anniversary celebration of Washington Monument in Wshingnton D.C.

May 8
Dorothy Ingram chosen as Ms. Centennial Queen

Dorothy Ingram, retired educator and first female African American principal in the PAISD, chosen Miss Centennial Queen. She also reigned as Miss Emancipation during Juneteenth Celebrations.

September 24
Hurricane Rita

Hurricane Rita made landfall between Sabine Pass, Texas, and Johnson Bayou, Louisiana, as a category 3 hurricane. A wind gust of 116 mph was recorded in Port Arthur. The storm caused widespread significant wind damage throughout the city, with power outages lasting several weeks in some locations. Some areas of the city also received flooding due to Rita.

September 13
Hurricane Humberto

Hurricane Humberto made landfall west of Port Arthur as a category 1 hurricane. The storm moved northeast across the Golden Triangle, causing widespread wind damage; however, most of the damage was relatively minor. An 84 mph (135 km/h) wind gust was recorded at the Southeast Texas Regional Airport just northwest of the city.

September 13
Hurricane Ike

Hurricane Ike made landfall on Galveston Island as a category 2 hurricane. Due to the storm's unusually large size, effects were widespread and were felt across much of Southeast Texas. Port Arthur sustained significant wind damage and many of the city's residents lost power. The Port Arthur seawall protected the city from the major flooding that surrounding cities experienced.

August 29
Hurricane Harvey

After Harvey made a second landfall at tropical storm status, 26 inches of rain fell in a single day at the airport near Port Arthur, triggering widespread flash flooding in the city. According to the Port Arthur mayor Derrick Freeman, 20,000 homes were flooded with up to 6 ft of water. On August 30, Freeman posted on Facebook, "Our whole city is underwater right now."