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Jefferson County was one of the original Texas counties established by the Republic of Texas in 1836, with Beaumont as the county seat. The county was named for U.S. President Thomas Jefferson. The city of Beaumont was founded by Henry Millard in 1835 on land he had purchased from early settler, Noah Trevis. Beaumont may have been named for Millard's friend, Jefferson Beaumont, or it may have been named for a small hill near the townsite which bore that name. One of the oldest buildings still standing in Beaumont is a trading post and homestead built in 1845 by John Jay French, who moved on after Beaumont became too crowded for him. Oil had been discovered elsewhere, but the oil industry in Texas really got its start at Spindletop, outside of Beaumont, in January of 1901. An oil promoter by the name of Padillo Higgins had formed the Gladys City Oil, Gas and Manufacturing Company nine years earlier, and planned to discover oil in the salt dome at Spindletop and to use the money to build a dream city. Mining engineer, Anthony Lucas, took over the operation in 1889. After two or three unsuccessful attempts to complete a well, he called in the Hamils of Corsicana to take over the drilling. The drillers were changing bits on the morning of January 10, 1901 when oil erupted through the bottom of the hole, exploding into the largest gusher anyone had ever seen up to that time. The boom that followed helped create the Gulf Oil Company and several other petroleum companies. There is a monument at the site of the Lucas gusher on Spindletop Avenue, now in southeastern Beaumont. The boomtown that grew from the gusher of 1901 was not the dream city that Padillo Higgins had imagined, although it briefly bore the name of Gladys City. It consisted mostly of flimsy frame buildings lining muddy streets. Although the real Gladys City vanished long ago, the Beaumont Bicentennial Commission built a replica of Gladys City on the campus of Lamar University, near the site of the Lucas gusher. Nederland, in Jefferson County, was founded by people of Dutch descent, hence it's name; but Nederland also had a number of settlers of Cajun background, descendants of French settlers dispossessed by the British when they took over the Maritime Province of Canada. Many of the settlers from the Acadian region of Canada moved to French Louisiana, while others moved to southeastern Texas. The Maison des Acadiens, adjacent to the Windmill Museum in Nederland, is a replica of a typical French Acadian home. Port Arthur was founded in the 1840's, when it was known as Aurora. The water in Sabine Lake was not deep enough for a port, and hurricanes were a constant threat. The settlers depended on fishing and farming for a living, and most had moved elsewhere by 1890. Then Arthur E. Stillwell, looking for a place to transfer cargo to and from the trains on his Kansas City Southern Railroad and ocean-going ships, decided that the area in and around Aurora was just right. Stillwell bought the land, laid out a townsite, and dredged a ship channel. Unfortunately, he lost control of the railroad to John W. Gates, a famous speculator and financier known for taking chances. Gates build a large home in the new city of Port Arthur. Although only the foundation of his home exists today, the home that his wealthy associate, Isaac Ellwood, built next door is a showcase of Port Arthur. Ellwood had made a fortune in barbed wire. After having so much trouble with John Gates violating his barbed wire patents, he decided to make him a partner in self defense. Ellwood, who lived in Chicago, had thought that the villa at Port Arthur would make a summer home but, upon bringing his wife down from Chicago to see it shortly before it was completed, the mosquitoes were so bad that she decided the place was uninhabitable; Ellwood never got to spend a night in his Port Arthur home. Sabine Pass was developed in 1836 by Sam Houston and Philip Sublett. Originally called Sabine City, the name was changed to Sabine Pass after rival developers built a town nearer to the mouth of Sabine Lake, which they called Sabine. Both towns were intended to become major ports, and Sabine was on its way to becoming a resort when a series of hurricanes in 1886, 1900, and 1915 almost halted development in both communities. In 1863, during the Civil War, Union General William Franklin had sailed from New Orleans with 20 gunboats and 5,000 troops, intending to land at Sabine and capture Texas. The mouth of the Sabine was defended by Confederate Lieutenant Dick Dowling, with 41 other Irishmen from Houston. Dowling had been a bartender before the war, and most of his men had been dock workers. They had 6 cannons in an earthen encampment which they called Fort Sabine. The first two Union gunboats that tried to get past the little fort were disabled by cannonfire, prompting General Franklin to abandon them and return to New Orleans. There were no losses on the Confederate side. Dowling captured 2 Union gunboats and 315 prisoners.


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