Port Isabel

Port Isabel is on the point where Texas Highway 100 meets the Laguna Madre in southeastern Cameron County, sixteen miles northeast of Brownsville. It is connected to South Padre Island by the two-mile-long Queen Isabella Causeway (Park Road 100). The first settlement in the area, Brazos Santiago, was on nearby Brazos Island. In 1788 water sellers traveled to the area to obtain water. The site was also used as a summer resort by 1800. Jean Laffite is said to have had a fifteen-foot well dug near the site of present Laguna Vista, five miles northwest of Port Isabel. Official claim to the land was not made until 1828, when it was granted to Rafael García as part of the Potrero ("Pasture") de Santa Isabel. During the 1830s a small community developed at the site, known as El Frontón de Santa Isabel. Later that name was changed to Punta de Santa Isabel, that is, Point Isabel. A post office was established in the community under the name Point Isabel in June 1845. The name of the post office and community were changed to Brazos Santiago in 1849, when the Oblates of Mary Immaculate arrived in the community and established Our Lady by the Sea Church. Also that year the community suffered an outbreak of cholera, and it was several years before it recovered fully. In 1850 Port Isabel was the second largest town in the area, which by 1859 was exporting $10 million dollars worth of cotton annually. The Port Isabel Lighthouse was built in 1853 at a cost of $7,000; it served as a lookout during the conflict with Juan N. Cortina known as the Cortina War. During the first three years of the Civil War Port Isabel was known as a haven for blockade runners due to its proximity to Mexico. All the ships in the harbor were destroyed or captured during a Union attack on May 30, 1863. The first railway in the area was the Rio Grande Valley Railway, a narrow-gauge line connecting Port Isabel to Brownsville, funded and built by Simón Celaya of Brownsville, which began operation in 1872. The name of the post office was changed from Brazos Santiago to Isabel in 1881.

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 Isabel is classified as a Town

Associated Names

  • [Isabel]
  • [Point-]
  • [Punta de Santa Isabel]
  • (Brazos Santiago)
  • (Fronton)


  • Latitude

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Port Isabel by the Numbers

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Population Counts

Port Isabel
Pop. Year Source
5,028 2020 United States Census Bureau
5,130 2019 Texas Demographic Center
5,006 2010 United States Census Bureau
4,865 2000 United States Census Bureau
4,467 1990 United States Census Bureau
3,769 1980 United States Census Bureau
3,067 1970 United States Census Bureau
3,575 1960 United States Census Bureau
2,372 1950 United States Census Bureau
1,440 1940 United States Census Bureau
1,177 1930 United States Census Bureau