Port Neches

Port Neches, once known as Grigsby's (or Grigsby) Bluff, is located in eastern Jefferson County on Farm roads 365 and 366 and State Highway 347, ten miles southeast of Beaumont. The area was formerly the site of an Atakapa Indian village, relics of which were excavated in 1841. Thomas F. McKinneyqv located his land claim there during the 1830s and went so far as to survey a townsite to be called Georgia. His plans, however, never materialized, and he sold two-thirds of his league to Joseph Grigsbyqv in 1837. Grigsby and his family, who established a plantation and boat landing on a bluff overlooking the Neches River, were the earliest Anglo settlers of the area. In the antebellum era Grigsby's Bluff was an important landing for Neches River traffic. John T. Johnson and Samuel Remley established a gristmill and steam sawmill there in 1856; in 1859 they employed six men and cut one million feet of "planks and scantlings." In 1862 Confederate troops hastily constructed Fort Grigsby to block a possible Union thrust up the Neches River, where they successfully repulsed Union forces in October 1862. The fort was abandoned in January 1863. George F. Block erected a shingle mill in 1866. The post office, originally opened in 1859 and closed during the Civil War,qv was reopened in 1877 and closed again in 1893. About fifty people lived at Grigsby's Bluff in 1880.

The turn of the century brought sweeping changes to the lower Neches River area. In 1902 the Central Asphalt Company set up a plant near Grigsby's Bluff. A townsite on the new Kansas City railroad was drawn up the same year and called Port Neches. The Texas Company (later Texacoqv) purchased and remodeled the plant in 1906, bringing in the refineries and oil-related industries that would provide Port Neches with much of its lifeblood, although in 1915 the town, with a population of 600, was still mainly dependent on the cultivation of rice and oranges. The community's voters, after defeating an incorporation measure in 1926, agreed by a 212-80 margin to incorporate their town in 1927. The location of Port Neches on the heavily industrialized upper Texas Gulf Coast encouraged steady growth. The population grew rapidly during and after World War II,qv rising from 2,487 in the early 1940s to 8,696 by 1960. A 100,000-ton butadiene plant built by the federal government at Port Neches during World War II was sold to Goodrich-Gulf and Texas U.S. Chemical in 1955. By 1988 more than 14,000 people lived at Port Neches. Despite a severe economic decline caused by lower oil prices, the city had 157 rated businesses. In 2000 the population was 13,601 with 327 businesses.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: W. T. Block, A History of Jefferson County, Texas, from Wilderness to Reconstruction (M.A. thesis, Lamar University, 1974; Nederland, Texas: Nederland Publishing, 1976). Lorecia East, History and Progress of Jefferson County (Dallas: Royal, 1961).

Robert Wooster

Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. "," http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/PP/hep8.html (accessed March 3, 2008).

(NOTE: "s.v." stands for sub verbo, "under the word.")

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