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Robert Wooster

SABINE PASS, TEXAS. The town of Sabine Pass is on State Highway 87 at Sabine Pass, thirty miles southeast of Beaumont in extreme southeastern Jefferson County. The townsite, first known as Sabine City, was perhaps laid out as early as 1836. The Sabine City Company, which organized the town, eventually included such notables as Sam Houston, Philip A. Sublett, George W. Hockley, John S. Roberts, Albert G. Kellogg, Niles F. Smith, and Sidney Sherman. The town was projected to be a major Gulf seaport. The first steam sawmill in Jefferson County was built there in 1846, and the Sabine City post office was established the next year. By the time of the Civil War the town had a newspaper (the Sabine Pass Times) and a connection on the Eastern Texas Railroad. Cattle and cotton were among the port's major shipments, and the post office had adopted the more commonly used name of Sabine Pass. On June 15, 1861, the town was incorporated. During the Civil War, forts Sabine and Griffin were constructed to fend off Union attacks at Sabine Pass. An outbreak of yellow fever in 1862 led most residents to evacuate but dissuaded Union troops, who had landed near the city and destroyed the sawmill, from permanently occupying the area. Another projected federal invasion was blunted in the battle of Sabine Pass in 1863. Sabine Pass had 460 inhabitants by 1880, making it the second largest town in Jefferson County. The construction of the Sabine and East Texas Railroad in 1881 replaced the older rail line, which had been abandoned during the Civil War, and seemed to bode a bright future for the city. Several factors, however, led to the decline of Sabine Pass in the years to come. A hurricane in 1886 killed eighty-six persons and destroyed the town, and storms in 1900 and 1915 further emphasized the locale's exposed position. Also significant was the refusal of the Kountze brothers, who owned most of the choice tracts in the area, to make a deal with prospective developer Arthur E. Stilwell. The subsequent growth of Port Arthur, as well as the construction of additional deepwater ports at Beaumont and Orange, attracted major investors to these rival cities. As a result of these difficulties, Sabine Pass never achieved the prominence its founders had anticipated. Its population was 363 in 1900. Though the Sun Oil Company built docks and a pumping plant there in the wake of the boom caused by the Spindletop oilfield, these operations were discontinued in 1927. Commercial fishing and marine repair remained the major local industries, and small quantities of oil were discovered at the Sabine Pass oilfield in 1958. Though Port Arthur annexed the community in 1978, the town of Sabine Pass retained a distinct identity during the 1980s. The population of Sabine Pass had grown to 1,500 by 1984, when thirty-nine rated businesses were reported there. By the early 1990s, however, the Texas Almanac no longer reported separate population figures for Sabine Pass.


W. T. Block, ed., Emerald of the Neches: The Chronicles of Beaumont from Reconstruction to Spindletop (Nederland, Texas: Nederland Publishing, 1980). W. T. Block, A History of Jefferson County, Texas, from Wilderness to Reconstruction (M.A. thesis, Lamar University, 1974; Nederland, Texas: Nederland Publishing, 1976).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Robert Wooster, "SABINE PASS, TX," accessed August 13, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hjs02.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on February 11, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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