Quasquicentennial Celebrates 125 Years of Port Arthur

port arthur's celebratory logo honoring its 125th year in port arthur texas

Hard to say, fun to celebrate

It’s been 125 years since Arthur E. Stilwell claimed “brownies” suggested he create this railway stop and port town that eventually bore his name. Our history has included tankers, an oil boom, refineries touting “We Oil the World,” the lovely Pleasure Island, a Cajun influx and enough famous folk that we had to create Museum of the Gulf Coast to honor them. Port Arthur celebrated with Quasquicennial events throughout 2023.

A Little History

Martin Luther King Bridge in Port Arthur Texas

Dutch investors helped Stillwell settle the city in 1895. The founder of what is now Kansas City Southern Railroad envisioned Port Arthur as the southern terminus for his new railway, a center for trade and tourism. The city dates its official beginnings to its incorporation in 1898. By that time Stilwell had established the Port Arthur Channel and Dock Co., which began cutting a canal along the western edge of the lake to deep water at Sabine Pass. Then the port opened for shipping as British steamer Saint Oswald arrived in August 1899.

Learn about the connection to Spindletop Oil Boom of 1901 and John W. Gates here. 

How we Quasquicentennial

The future is the key to preserving the past, says the “Q Team.” These city leaders collected history for events throughout 2023. Verna Rutherford, committee member, shared this thought in Port Arthur News:

“The Quasquicentennial Celebration is one that brings opportunities for us to bring in a diverse blend of citizens and community representatives that are from all walks of life. That is one of the most important things that we get to do is to bring in that blend of rich culture and history and help to share what ha happened over the last 125 years in this city with people who are here now who will be here long after us.”

The first official event was the January Greater Port Arthur Chamber of Commerce banquet. It included a video of area educator Dwight Wagner singing his upbeat tribute “City by the Sea.” The Q Team also observed Lunar New Year with Port Arthur’s Vietnamese Community.

More to Come

woman looks at quasquicentennial display at the public library in port arthur, texas
Teonna Buckley, student assistant at Port Arthur Public Library, arranges historical display cases. Photo courtesy of Port Arthur Convention & Visitors Bureau

Events have included a Cultural Heritage Showcase in October. Be sure to visit our historic areas, drive along the seawall, go birding on Pleasure Island and research our history at Port Arthur Public Library during our big year.

Our Pride Flag

The Martin Luther King Bridge, symbols of energy and production and an oleander adorn Port Arthur’s city flag. Port Arthur’s city colors are gold and white. Gold represents “the wealth of natural resources and talent inherent in the city and its people.” White represents “purity of purpose in the government and its citizens working together for the betterment of the city.”

Lookin’ Good Logo and Website

Port Arthur’s Mayor Thurman Bartie chose a logo including palm trees, reference to a tanker, railroad and our Martin Luther King bridge to Pleasure Island. It sure looks like us. A website will serve as a living document and serve as a photo gallery. The timeline begins in 1528. Visitors will be able to reference historical markers in the city. Submit your photos and catch up on history at this official site.


Cultures of Port Arthur

Fiesta Girl
Mexican Heritage Society’s Fiesta! features folklorico dancing. Photo by Morgan Jones

People is what makes any community great. Port Arthur’s myriad cultures thrive and celebrate with festivals, churches and music. In 1927, many Cajuns came from Louisiana to work in refineries, bringing their gumbo, boudain and crawfish recipes. Vietnamese found our waters good for shrimping and have established Catholic and Buddhist places of worship on our faith trail. They built an “area of peace” to thank residents for the Port Arthur welcome they received. African-American, Hispanic, Italian and other cultures also found homes in Port Arthur. Read up on some of our cultures here, and come celebrate our 125th birthday!

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