United States Seaports: Texas

° Brownsville ° Corpus Christi ° El Paso ° Freeport ° Houston ° Port Arthur ° Port Galveston

Corpus Christi

October 10, 1890, San Antonio Daily Light, San Antonio, Texas

Corpus Christi, Texas
the Gem of the Texas Coast

(Image: Map of Texas. 1876) Texas. Map of Texas.

The completion of the ship channel at Ropes Pass will make it the greatest DEEP WATER PORT bordering on the Gulf of Mexico. The settlement of the rich country surrounding Corpus Christi is proceeding at an unprecedented rate. The soil is inexhaustible and is capable of producing three crops of some products per year! This charming sea-side city enjoys the double distinction of being the most superb Winter and Summer Resort in North America, and it requires on great power provision to see it the home of 50,000 prosperous and intelligent people within the next two years.

The grandest sale of magnificent Business and Residence Lots that has ever been advertised in the Southwest will take place in Corpus Christi on 


The picturesque young city adjoining Corpus Christi, where the Alta Vista Hotel, a beautiful three-story resort is now being built, to cost when completed and furnished $125,000, besides many handsome cottages that have also been contracted for and in course of construction, and surrounding which you can buy a lot at your own figure. An order for seventeen miles of shade trees has been placed with the largest nursery in the country, and in a few months this charming young city, with its broad graded streets and ocean drive and a rapid transit railway on its west and 150 square miles of dancing waves to the east will present a picture beautiful to behold.

TERMS: One-Third Cash, Balance in 10 Years.


On the 22d October, the day on which the auction sale of lots is to occur, will be held a regatta directly opposite The Cliffs, in which the fasten sailing vessel that ride the salty waves will take part, under management of Captain C. H. Butts.

El Paso

February 16, 1889, The American Settler, London, Middlesex, United Kingdom

United States Custom House Report

The statements of the Custom House officials at El Paso from 1882 to 1888 inclusive show that the ore, bullion, and silver coin imported from Mexico is gradually on the increase. In 1882 the amount imported was valued at $313,753; in 1883, $1,084,275; in 1884, $3,066,788; in 1885, $9,860,301; in 1886. $13,749,974 ; in 1887, $13,636,444; in 1888 up to June 30th, the end of the fiscal year $13,967,142; The value of merchandise imported from Mexico in 1882 was $184,465; in 1883; $817,279; in 1884, $679,820; in 1885, $559,997; in 1886, $623,890; in 1887, $492,805; in 1888, $401,021.

Most prominent of all the importations in the above list stand those of silver coin, bullion and ore. The silver coin and bullion may be regarded as finished products when they reach the United States, but the silver ore furnishes labour for a great number of men and also helps materially in the treatment of the refractory ores mined in the southwestern part of the United States. The importation of silver ore has steadily increased for several years past, and has come to be a very important factor in the industrial interests of El Paso and other places.

The value of the silver imported in 1888, however, exceeded the value for 1837 by $700,000, or nearly 25 per cent.

The number of cattle and horses imported for breeding purposes is large, and shows the favour in which Mexican stock is held for crossing with high grade American stock. There is not a very heavy demand, however, for Mexican cattle and horses for other than breeding purposes.

In the importation of breadstuffs, however, there has been a pretty steady diminution for several years past. The importation of fruits, especially grapes and oranges, has grown to comparatively large proportions. The oranges are sent from the southern part of Mexico, but the grapes are the product of the Rio Grande valley, being raised within a few miles of El Paso.

In many of the articles there are large fluctuations in successive years which are not easily accounted for. The totals for the last three years are remarkably close to each other in amount, the falling off in one article being compensated for by the increase in another.


In 1837, the 85-foot-long steamship Laura M. sailed from Galveston Bay up Buffalo Bayou to what is now Houston. (Houston's early settlers actually arrived in small boats that sailed up the bayou which connected the city with Galveston Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.) The Laura M's trip, in water no deeper than six feet, proved the bayou was navigable and established a commercial link between Houston and the rest of the world.

Like all deepwater ports, the town was plagued early on by the politics of economics when New Orleans' suppliers cut off Houston merchants' credit, then yellow fever wiped out one-tenth of the population. However, the port recovered and by the 1840s, Houston emerged as a commercial center for nearby towns. When Texas joined the Union in 1846, a flow of capital and people to the town built warehouses for storing cotton. Houston developed around the shipping industry which grew into one of the world's major seaports.

Port Arthur

Port Arthur, 90 miles east of Houston on the gulf coast of Texas, is the namesake of Arthur E. Stilwell who platted the 1895. He envisioned Port Arthur as a resort, as a port City and as the terminus of the railroad he would eventually build linking Port Arthur to Kansas City.

John W. "Bet-A-Million" Gates, gained control of the Stilwell interest and built a rice mill in Port Arthur in 1900. He spent $1.4 million to dredge the Port Arthur ship canal then ceded it to the federal government for one dollar.

This transaction was completed by Congress' designation of Port Arthur as a port of entry.

September 15, 1897, Sacramento Daily Union, Sacramento, California, U.S.A.

The Storm Which Occurred on the Gulf Coast. 
Sixteen People Are Known to Have Lost Their Lines
While Many More Are Missing
Streets at Port Arthur and Sabine Pass Covered With Wreckage, While All Houses Left Standing Show Signs of the Action of the Wind.

KANSAS CITY, Sept. 14 A special to the "Star" from Port Arthur, Texas, , says:

Here six bodies have been recovered, the result of Sunday night's storm, while at Sabine Pass the dead list numbers ten and many are missing. Many were injured, but not seriously. Telegraph and train communication was cut off until to-day. In all the streets to-day wrecked buildings, fences, household goods and debris filled the walks and roadways, and on every side were evidences of the havoc of the storm, while the houses left standing all showed signs of the action of the wind.

Many of the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad buildings were either totally wrecked or twisted from their foundations and business houses suffered considerable damage. The loss of property will reach $50,000.

Much suffering was caused among the laboring classes who live in cottages and small tents around the railroad yards. These people made a fatal mistake in seeking the railroad company's roundhouse, which was unoccupied, for protection before the storm was at its bight. The fury of the gale swept it from its foundation, burying many under the debris. May Unswith was taken from the ruins dead, but no others lost their lives, although several were severely injured.

The new terminal depot was the only building that was not damaged, and it was soon filled with homeless women and children. The men who were uninjured joined the numerous rescuing parties who made their way through who needed assistance. The depot building was converted into a hospital end the surgeons were busy all night.

In the Sabine Hotel, where many had sought refuge, a panic was narrowly averted when the storm blew the roof breaking windows and demolishing the gallery railing.

Every house left standing was soon filled with homeless women and children, and dry clothing was in demand. The driving rain which accompanied the storm continued several hours after the wind ceased, and much damage was done to goods in damaged buildings. The injured are all cared for, and the dead have been sent to Beaumont for burial.

A subscription has been circulated for the benefit of homeless people and building will be commenced at once. Great damage was done to the new export pier and all but the last 500 feet was demolished. This part was saved by the loaded granite cars which were on it. The company boats are all missing, and the launches have been found bottom side up in the lake.

Sabine Pass suffered greatly from the storm. All of the small shipping at both the new and the old town was destroyed. The old town was wrecked and many of the larger vessels badly damaged. Only the large buildings in the new town remain standing. During the storm six feet of water covered the town. Ten deaths have been reported and many persons are missing. Four tugs went down with their crews, but the United States life saving crew, stationed there, succeeded in saving many lives.

When the wind storm struck the town, it was accompanied by a driving rain, which soon made rivers of the streets. This, together with the high waves breaking over the banks of Sabine Lake, caused fear that the town was about to be visited by a tidal wave. There was a rush for the depot, end the evening local to Beaumont, Texas, was filled with excited women and children. An hour after the storm, however, the water had all drained off end to-day the streets are dry.

Reports Exaggerated

GALVESTON (Tex.), Sept. 14. Later and more accurate reports received today from points in the storm belt show that the reports that reached here were greatly exaggerated. At Sabine Pass the following are reported as drowned: Captain Green B. Moore, Captain L. L. Bettie, Captain George Wolford, Engineer. W. B. Ratcliffe.

These men were all on vessels which were sunk, and up to a late hour tonight have not been accounted for. Along the Gulf and Interstate Railway several wrecks occurred but no one was killed.

At Winnie, George Barber was badly cut about the knees and wrist. Maude Williams had her feet and hands injured, Mrs. Barber's limbs were severely injured, and people in the vicinity of Winnie were generally injured but none killed.

Port Arthur suffered the brunt of the blast, and half the town is estimated to have been destroyed or badly damaged. The wind came up about 4 o'clock, and increased in force, blowing from the south, and gradually working into the east. A number of people sought shelter from the storm in the roundhouse of the railroad, and several were severely injured and two killed when the structure collapsed. Under a restaurant a small frame structure, three more bodies were found.

The wind blew with hurricane force about two hours. There were many miraculous escapes.

At Sabine Pass the greatest damage was done to shipping, and the only loss of life was among the shipping. There was no loss of life in either new or old Sabine proper.

The tugs Fannie Guillotte and John P. Smith were sunk and the Norwegian steamship Ceres, 80 tons, was torn from her moorings at the wharf and blown five miles north, where she grounded in a few feet of water.

At the new town several buildings were blown from their foundations, and several partially constructed buildings were demolished. No one in the town was seriously injured, the casualties being confined to the shipping.

Eight miles of the Texas and Sabine Railroad north of Sabine Pass is washed away. Twenty-five hundred feet of the export pier at Port Arthur is destroyed, and the people of that town are so terror-stricken that they are leaving it as fast as they can get away.

No estimate of the damage to property at Port Arthur and Sabine Pass has been obtained. The damage to buildings and crops is severe. The losses to farmers in Jefferson County alone will approximate $150,000, which they would have had in hand within thirty days, had the storm been delayed that long but now the crops are completely ruined. The Texas and Sabine Pass Railway Company is at work building their line to Sabine Pass, and rebuilding and repairing is in progress at the town of Sabine, and as soon as the people at Port Arthur recover from their fright, rebuilding will be resumed there.

The Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railway will at once repair the damage inflicted to their property at Port Arthur and push their ship coal to an early completion. The chief officials of the road are now en route of Port Arthur.

March 26, 1899, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California, U.S.A.

The Port Arthur Canal Is Ready for Business

PORT ARTHUR, Texas, , March 25. The formal opening of the Port Arthur ship canal took place here today. Over 3000 visitors from all parts of the country, were present, and the ceremonies were participated in by Governor Sayers of Texas, Jones or Arkansas and Stanley of Kansas, practically all of the members of the Texas Legislature, a large number of the members of the Kansas Legislature, a delegation of foreign capitalists and several train loads of excursionists.

The program included an elaborate procession of barges, tugs and excursion steamers through the canal to the ducks here, followed by addresses by Mayor K. O. Strong of Port Arthur, Vice-President M. L. Martin of the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad, Governor Sayers, Jones and Stanley, Mayor Vicker of Des Moines, Iowa; Mr. Cooper of Beaumont, Texas, and Hon. Frank Dster of Kansas.

The canal is 457,700 feet long, and will connect Port Arthur, the southern terminus of the Kansas City, Pittsburg, and Gulf Railroad, which controls the enterprise, and Sabine Pass. A uniform depth of twenty five to thirty feet prevails, and it is the intention of the projectors to bring ocean vessels up from the gulf, thus creating a new outlet for freight and passenger traffic to Mexican, South American and European ports.

May 27, 1899, San Francisco CallSan Francisco, California

Steamship Company Organized.

AUSTIN. Texas, May 26. The charter of the International Trading Company, with a capital stock of $100,000, was filed in the Secretary of State's office to-day. The purpose of the company is to establish and operate a new line of steamers between Port Arthur, Texas, and European and South American ports. The principal stockholders are Edward Wagner of Berlin, Germany, and Jacques T. Nolthenius of Kansas City, Mo.

February 12, 1900, San Francisco Call, San Francisco, California

Lynched for a Murder After the Law Had Failed to Punish.
Sabbath Tragedy at Port Arthur. 
Jury's Verdict of "Not Guilty" Set Aside by a Mob of Avenging Citizens.

PORT ARTHUR. Texas. Feb. 11 James Sweeney (white) was lynched at 1 o'clock this morning. Sweeney was a cotton screwman foreman, and killed Charles Crumbach, a fellow laborer, by running a bayonet through his neck. The crime was committed on the afternoon of February 1 in a room, with no witnesses present, and is said to have resulted from a saloon fight that took place a few hours previous. On Monday Sweeney was Indicted for murder In the first degree. lie was placed on trial at Beaumont, Texas, on Friday, and last night the Jury returned a verdict of not guilty.

As soon as he was released, Sweeney returned to Port Arthur, arriving here at 12:30 this morning. Word had been telegraphed ahead that he was coming, and a mob met him at the depot, marched him up town and strung him up to a telephone pole without ceremony. In the first attempt the rope broke. The second attempt was made successful by tying Sweeney's legs, so his feet could not touch the ground, and drawing the rope taut.

Its work accomplished, the mob, which was made up of Port Arthur citizens, dispersed quietly. Sheriff Langham of Beaumont was notified and immediately started for Port Arthur. He returned to Beaumont tonight with "Jack" Martin, a boss stevedore and a fellow-workman of Crumbach's. In custody. Martin is believed to have been a ringleader In the lynching.

Port Arthur is the southern terminus of the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad. The town was built up with the advent of that railroad a few years ago, and most of its citizens are northern people. The citizens deplore the lynching, but none of them appear to condemn it.

April 28, 1901, Los Angeles Herald, Los Angeles, California

Port Arthur Terminal Not Sold

KANSAS CITY, April 27. President Samuel R. Knott of the Kansas City Southern railway today denied the reported sale to the Standard Oil company of the railroad terminals at Port Arthur, Texas. The Terminal property is now in the hands of a receiver.

By 1914, Port Arthur ranked as the twelfth largest port in the United States and the second largest refining port.

Port Galveston

The French sailor and pirate Louis-Michel Aury served in the French Navy and on French privateers until 1810 when he had accumulated sufficient funds to purchase his own vessels. In 1813, he was given command over the Grenadine Republic's privateer schooners during which time he successfully ran the Spanish blockade of Cartagena. In 1816, Jose Manuel de Herrera, Mexican rebel envoy, proclaimed Galveston a port of the Mexican republic, made Aury commissioner, and raised the rebel flag over the port city on September 13, 1816. 

Aury established a settlement of shacks on the Galveston shores including huts for pirates, a booming slave market, boarding houses for visiting buyers, a shipyard, saloons, pool halls, gambling houses.

By 1817, Jean and Pierre Laffite had built their own mansion "Maison Rouge," and established a stronghold on Galveston and Aury resigned his commission. By 1825 Galveston was designated a provision port by the Congress of Mexico and made a home port for the Texas Navy by 1835. By 1900, Galveston was the leading U.S. port for the export of cotton and the third most important for the export of wheat. 

August 26, 1898, The Galveston Daily News, Galveston, Texas.

Hon. Friench Simpson Talks on Expansion, Deep Water and Texas Sailors
Stalwart Advocate of the New American Policy-Hon. Jos. D. Sayers, a South Texas Favorite

Dallas, Texas, August 1

Hon. Friench Simpson, one of the leading democrats of Texas and widely known in south Texas business circles, was in the city yesterday en route to his home from Fort Worth . . . He said to aNews representative last night:

. . . "What about the Philippines?"

"Keep all the islands. The flag floats over Manila and Manila is the capital of the island of Luzon . . . as a Texan, as an American, as a democrat, I want the stars and stripes to float over the islands of the archipelago . . . We need them in our business. In the race for commercial supremacy we need the islands and I do not believe for a moment that President McKinley and the American congress will ever relinquish their grip on the Philippines . . . I lam an expansionist . . ."

Texas.Historical map of Galveston.

"Then you favor the construction of the Nicaragua canal by the federal government?"

"Do I. Well yes. I've been clamoring for the Nicaragua canal for years . . . Cuba and Porto Rico are practically annexed to the United States. Porto Rico we own absolutely and Cuba is certain to be annexed. Well, as American possessions in great coast wide trade will spring up and Texas will, or should, control it. The deep water ports on our gulf coast will be crowded with ships in the coast trade in season and their white suits will dot the gulf. It is coming our way. When you get a good thing, push it along."

"What about the Galveston platform?"

"It is all right. We can get around the platform all right. The men who made it were expansionists, but geographically they were not up to date. According to the new charts and new geographics, the Philippines are in the Western hemisphere and the democratic platform insists that the Dons must get out and off the western hemisphere. The Galveston platform builders are moving up the road in the right direction.

"Next, the American people want a magnificent Navy, one that will sweep the seas and proclaim Uncle Sam absolute monarch of the earth, not a despotic monarch, but the sworn foe of oppression and the torch bearer of peace in all men and civil and religious liberty for all mankind. Now, the American people are going to appropriate the money to build all the lighting machines we need to compel the nations of the earth to respect the flag of this republic and to attend strictly to their own business. With a great navy will come a merchant marine that will make the United States mistress of the seas and queen of commerce, and right here again is where Texas is interested, we should be interested in shipping and our maritime ports are certain to be the largest on the coast.


"After the Nicaragua canal has been built there will be millions of capital invested In the Texas coastwise trade. Now, what we need is a state naval reserve college on the line of the agricultural and mechanical college at Bryan. It should be located at Galveston or some other point on the coast. Two years ago and four years ago a bill was introduced early in the session at Austin. I did what I could to secure its passage, but no interest was manifested in it by the people and it was killed.

"Texas' shipping interests are bound to assume mammoth proportions owing to the absorption of Porto Rico, Cuba and other Islands in the West Indies and the certainty that the Nicaraguan canal will be built. We need a state naval reserve college. It takes three months to work over a raw recruit into a well-trained and well-drilled soldier. It takes three years to make a first-class sailor.

From Sail to Steam
Four Centuries of Texas Maritime History, 1500-1900
Texas History and Maritime History. 

Texas Maritime History.Texas History and Maritime History. Author, Richard Y. Francaviglia. Today there is no chance for a sailor in the American navy unless he is a graduate from the Annapolis naval academy, which is the finest school of its kind in the world. A naval reserve college would flit our boys for a sea-faring life and they would be turned out as well equipped for service on board naval vessels or merchant ships as the lads who are educated at Annapolis. This winter a bill creating a state naval reserve college should be introduced in the legislature and public sentiment should compel the lawmakers to make it a law. In future Texas will have great shipping as well as agricultural and manufacturing interests and now is the time to begin to educate our boys... "

Nexus of Empire: 
Negotiating Loyalty and Identity in the Revolutionary Borderlands, 1760s-1820s 

(New Perspectives on Maritime History and Nautical Archaeology)
Texas History and Maritime History.
Gene Allen Smith 
Nexus of Empire.Texas History and Maritime History. Between 1760 and 1820, many groups in North America grappled with differences of identity, nationality, and loyalty tested by revolutionary challenges. Less dramatic, perhaps, but no less important were the stories of individuals redefining themselves as they struggled to survive and prosper in times of both war and peace. Nexus of Empire turns the focus on the people who inhabited one of the continent's most dynamic borderlands the Gulf of Mexico region where nations and empires competed for increasingly important strategic and commercial advantages. The essays in this collection examine the personal experiences of men and women, Native Americans, European colonists, free people of color, and slaves, analyzing the ways in which these individuals defined and redefined themselves amid a world of competing loyalties.

America and the Sea. Daniel Finamore, Nicholas Whitman, Stephen S. Lash.America and the Sea.America and the Sea:
A Maritime History

(The American Maritime Library)
America and the Sea.
Daniel Finamore, Nicholas Whitman, Stephen S. Lash
The history of America is largely a history of the sea. This book features a selection of more than two hundred of the finest objects from Mystic Seaport that tell the history of America and its maritime heritage. Presented with accessible texts and beautiful reproductions are masterpieces of maritime painting, photographs of classic yachts, and diverse prints and watercolors. Essays written by distinguished experts describe the individual forms of expression, discuss the artists and craftsmen, and offer commentary on the ways in which America's maritime history is interwoven with its economic development and cultural history.

The Project

Maritime Nations, Ships, Sea Captains, Merchants, Merchandise, Ship Passengers and VIPs sailing into San Francisco during the 1800s.



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Sources: As noted on entries and through research centers including National Archives, San Bruno, California; CDNC: California Digital Newspaper Collection; San Francisco Main Library History Collection; and Maritime Museums and Collections in Australia, China, Denmark, England, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Wales, Norway, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, etc.

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