Port Arthur

Port Arthur is on State Highway 87 on the lower west bank of Sabine Lake, five miles east of the Neches River Rainbow Bridge and seventeen miles southeast of Beaumont in southeast Jefferson County. It was founded by Arthur E. Stilwell, a Kansas railroad promoter, who in 1894 launched the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad. His intention was to link Kansas City to the Gulf of Mexico, and originally the Gulf Coast terminus was to be Sabine Pass. But Stilwell changed his mind, evidently because he could not reach an acceptable agreement with Luther and Herman Kountze, New York bankers who owned most of the land around Sabine Pass. By December 1895 Stilwell and his backers had acquired land on the western shore of Sabine Lake and begun platting a city, which the promoter named for himself and which became a municipality in 1895. Stilwell envisioned Port Arthur as a major tourist resort as well as an important seaport; proximity to the lake and a mild climate convinced him that visitors could be easily attracted to the area. But in his attempt to transform this marshy terrain into a tropical garden, Stilwell never lost sight of his primary endeavor. In June 1896 the Port Arthur Channel and Dock Company was established, and in April 1897 it began cutting a canal along the western edge of the lake to deep water at Sabine Pass. Legal hurdles thrown up by the Kountze bothers delayed the project, but Port Arthur finally became a port in fact as well as name in March 1899. Meanwhile, the city showed signs of steady progress. By the fall of 1897 it had 860 residents, and the following spring it was incorporated. A mayor-council government was established, but it gave way to the commission system in 1911. A city manager-commission system was implemented in 1932.

Adapted from the official Handbook of Texas, a state encyclopedia developed by the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA). It is an authoritative source of trusted historical records.

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Place type

Port Arthur is classified as a Town

Associated Names

  • (Aurora)
  • (Sparks)


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Port Arthur by the Numbers

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Population Counts

Port Arthur
Pop. Year Source
56,039 2020 United States Census Bureau
54,440 2019 Texas Demographic Center
53,818 2010 United States Census Bureau
57,755 2000 United States Census Bureau
58,551 1990 United States Census Bureau
61,195 1980 United States Census Bureau
57,371 1970 United States Census Bureau
66,676 1960 United States Census Bureau
57,530 1950 United States Census Bureau
46,140 1940 United States Census Bureau
50,902 1930 United States Census Bureau
22,251 1920 United States Census Bureau
7,663 1910 United States Census Bureau
900 1900 United States Census Bureau