Samuel Parr became the area’s first permanent settler in 1838 when he surveyed and claimed a league of land. Developers Archibald Wynn and William Lawrence purchased land and platted a town named Ishmael. However, when the first post office was established, it was named Gabion. In 1893, the community was renamed Port Bolivar.
Port Bolivar, ca. 1911
From the Melanie Wiggins Collection, courtesy of Ora Kahla
In 1896, the Gulf and Interstate Railroad was built to connect Galveston and Beaumont. Port Bolivar began taking cargo ships and loading freight for transport on this line, and the town’s economy surged. After declines in shipping after World War I, and damages caused by the 1915 hurricane, many port facilities were not rebuilt. Although regular ferry service remained, the town’s economy switched to commercial fishing and tourism.
Train ferry between Galveston Island and the Bolivar Peninsula, pre 1900
Courtesy of Ralph W. Stenzel
Santa Fe train at Patton, 1908
From the Melanie Wiggins Collection, courtesy of Ora Fredericksen