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PORT ISABEL, TEXAS

Cameron County, Texas Gulf Coast
State Hwy 100 at Laguna Madre
Connected to South Padre Island
by the two-mile-long Queen Isabella Causeway (Park Road 100)
16 miles NE of Brownsville

Population 4,865(2000) 4,467(1990)


Port Isabel Area Hotels > South Padre Island Hotels

Port Isabel, Texas Topics of Interest:

  • History in a Seashell
  • Port Isabel Chronicles
  • Port Isabel Lighthouse next page
  • The Queen Isabella Causeway next page
  • Port Isabel Vintage Images
  • Scenes

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    South Padre Island Hotels | Brownsville Hotels
  • Port Isabel lighthouse
    Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson
    The Port Isabel Lighthouse
    History in a Seashell
    A timeline of significant events:

    The first settlement in the area, Brazos Santiago, was on nearby Brazos Island. In 1788 water sellers traveled to the area to obtain water. Jean Laffite is said to have had a fifteen-foot well five miles NW of Port Isabel.

    During the 1830s a small community developed at the site, known as El Frontón de Santa Isabel. Later that name was changed to Punta de Santa Isabel, that is, Point Isabel.

    1845: A post office was established in the community under the name Point Isabel in June. The name of the post
    1849: name of post office and community changed to Brazos Santiago
    1849: Cholera epidemic occurs
    1850: Port Isabel is the second largest town in the area
    1853: Port Isabel Lighthouse is constructed
    1859: $10 million dollars worth of cotton is shipped through the port annually
    1863: All the ships in the harbor were destroyed or captured during a Union attack on May 30
    1872: The narrow-gauge Rio Grande Valley Railway, connects Port Isabel to Brownsville
    1881: Post Office name changes to Isabel
    1904: the town had one school with two teachers and eighty-one students.
    1915: the town officially becomes Point Isabel.
    1928: town was incorporated as Port Isabel on March 23
    1929: Population reaches 750
    1930: the post office changed its name to Port Isabel.

    In 1933: the ship channel was dredged to a depth of twelve feet and a width of 125 feet. That year Port Isabel had an estimated population of 1,177 and forty-five businesses.

    In 1934 the first annual Texas International Fishing Tournament was held in Port Isabel by the International Game and Fish Association. The first modern use of Port Isabel as a seaport occurred on July 27, 1935.

    In 1937 a six-foot channel was dredged from Port Isabel to a point two miles east of Harlingen.

    In 1941 the Port Isabel and Rio Grande sold its track connecting Port Isabel to Brownsville to the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway. The channel connecting Port Isabel to Harlingen was full of silt by 1942 and was no longer in use.

    In 1952 the community had a population estimated at 2,372 and seventy businesses.

    By 1956 Port Isabel was served by the Missouri Pacific Railroad.

    The Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, completed during the 1950s, increased trade and improved the economic health of Port Isabel, but it also caused problems. A spoil bank from its construction polluted the community, and the city's board sought the assistance of the United States government to solve the dust problem.

    1954: A swing bridge was built between Port Isabel and South Padre Island.

    1960s: During the 1960s, 65 percent of the state's shrimp production, came from the Port Isabella vicinity.

    1967: Hurricane Beulah detroys a good portion of the city in September.

    1974: The new Queen Isabella Causeway replaced the original Causeway, which became the "Old Fishing Pier."

    Book hotel Here > South Padre Island Hotels
    Port Isabel TX - People Getting On Boat,  old photo
    A scene at Point Isabel
    The Robert Runyon Photograph Collection, Image RUN08724, Courtesy of The Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin

    Port Isabel Chronicles:

  • Fishing in Port Isabel by Mike Cox ("Texas Tales" Column)
  • Sea Monster of Port Isabel by Mike Cox ("Texas Tales" Column)
    The monster showed up in the Gulf of Mexico off the small fishing village of Port Isabel in the summer of 1938. That Aug. 10, in a short article buried on a back page, the Brownsville Herald devoted five paragraphs to “the sea monster that is attracting so much attention in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico.”...
  • Port Isabel Wireless by Mike Cox ("Texas Tales" Column)
    When Gen. Zachary Taylor’s Army arrived at the southern tip of Texas in 1846 shortly before the outbreak of the Mexican War, it took Old Rough and Ready two weeks or more to get his orders from Washington. In 1915, only 69 years later, the U.S. military had plans to install at Point Isabel a state-of-the-art radio facility that would provide virtually instantaneous communication as the government prepared for the possibility of a second war with Mexico...
  • Nearly a Second Alamo: First Shots of the Mexican War by Mike Cox ("Texas Tales" Column)
    "What prevented the 1846 siege from becoming another Alamo was Taylor and the rest of his army. When he and others heard cannon fire echoing across the sand flats from the fort to Point Isabel, the future president ordered most of his force to march immediately to reinforce the besieged garrison on the river."
  • Port Isabel Vintage Images

    Gulf Cafe
    Port Isabel Lighthouse
    The Robert Runyon Photograph Collection, Courtesy of The Center for American History, The University of Texas at Austin
    Champion Building
    The Queen Isabella Causeway

    South Padre Island Hotels
    Port Isabel Scenes
    Port Isabel Lighthouse
    The Port Isabel Lighthouse
    Photo courtesy Reba Warbington
    Fishing boats in Port Isabel, Texas
    Fishing boats
    Photo courtesy Terri Taylor, March 2005
    Fishing boats in Port Isabel, Texas
    Fishing boat
    Photo courtesy Terri Taylor, March 2005
    Fishing boats and sunset,  Port Isabel, Texas
    Sunset in Port Isabel
    Photo courtesy Terri Taylor, March 2005
    Lighthouse in sunset, Texas  gulf coast
    The Lighthouse at sunset
    Photo courtesy Terri Taylor, March 2005
    Port Isabel Texas Forum
  • Subject: FOND MEMORIES
    MANY YEARS AGO, BEFORE BUELAH, I WAS FORTUNATE TO HAVE LIVED IN BOTH PORT ISABEL AND ON SOUTH PADRE ISLAND, WHEN WE WERE IN PORT ISABEL, WE MANAGED THE YACHT HOTEL AND THE QUEEN ISABEL INN. WE ALSO HAD A COMMERCIAL SNAPPER BOAT THAT THE FAMILY TOOK A 5 DAY TRIP OUT TO THE FISHING GROUNDS AND CAME BACK LOADED WITH FISH, AHH THOSE WERE THE DAYS!

    JUST BEFORE THE BUELAH STORM, WE WERE LIVING ON SOUTH PADRE ISLAND NEXT DOOR TO ILA LOETSCHER AND I WAS FORTUNATE ENOUGH TO PARTICIPATE IN THE GREAT RIDLEY SEA TURTLE PROJECT ON THE BEACH WITH HER AND HER TEAM. I WAS DEEPLY SADDENED TO LEARN OF HER PASSING AND ONLY HOPE THAT SOMEONE IS CARRYING ON HER WORK.

    WE ALSO STARTED AND OPERATED THE PORT ISABEL CAMERON COUNTY AIRPORT, WHICH IS WHERE WE SPENT THE HURRICANE ALONG WITH ILA AND SEVEN OF HER BABIES (TURTLES ), 2 DOGS, 3 CATS AND 10 PEOPLE. THAT HAD TO BE ONE OF THE SCARIEST NIGHTS OF MY LIFE. SHORTLY AFTER THE STORM, WE MOVED TO BRAZORIA COUNTY IN THE FREEPORT TEXAS AREA AND HAVE BEEN THERE EVER SINCE.

    LOVE THE PICTURES YOU HAVE OF THE TOWN, IT BRINGS BACK FOND MEMORIES, IS THE WELL THAT ZACHARY TAYLOR BUILT STILL BEHIND THE CHAMPION BUILDING, WHAT ABOUT THE YACHT AND QUEEN ISABEL INN ARE THEY STILL THERE, I MAY HAVE SOME PICTURES IN MY FILES THAT I CAN DREDGE UP, MY SISTER DID SOME PUBLICITY MODELING FOR THE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE WAY BACK THEN.

    OH BY THE WAY, PRESENTLY I AM WORKING IN KUWAIT WITH A GOVERNMENT CONTRACTOR, GUESS SOME OF US ARE DESTINED TO PLAY IN THE SAND ALL OF OUR LIVES. THANKS FOR THE MEMORIES - Ronald Sandlin, Kuwait, June 03, 2006

  • Subject: South Padre Island
    Our family lived in Weslaco, TX in the late 40's. One of my fondest memories was our family arriving at Port Isabel with our beach umbrella, folding chairs, Coca Cola "ice chest" and a picnic lunch. We, along with others, waited at the dock for the converted Navy boat to take us to Padre Island, where we climbed into an Army half-track which drove down the beach delivering the eager beach lovers. As the truck drove down the beach, we would look for a place to spend the day. To get the truck to stop, you rapped on the top of its cab and the driver knew to stop so you could unload. The trucks went up and down the beach all day long delivering and picking up people. - Peter H. Hamel, Houston, TX, September 17, 2005
  • Port Isabel, Texas
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