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).
- Handbook of Texas Online, s.v.
(accessed March 3, 2008).
(NOTE: "s.v." stands for sub verbo, "under the word.")