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San Patricio County TX
San Patricio County

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San Patricio County, Texas Gulf Coast

2752'59"N 9719'14"W (27.883117, 97.320466).

Highway 181
North of Corpus Christi across Nueces Bay
17 miles W of Aransas Pass
22 miles SW of Rockport
ZIP code 78374
Area code 361
Population: 20,383 (2020)
15,099 (2010) 14,827 (2000) 12,224 (1990)

Book Portland Hotel Here > Portland Hotels

Portland Texas bay view
Portland bay view
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, May 2007

History in a Seashell

John G. Willacy, purchased 1,920 acres of land from the Coleman-Fulton Pasture Company in 1891. Willacy had formed an investment company by uniting the New England Land Company of Portland, Maine and the Portland Harbor and Improvement Company of Wichita, Kansas.

A post office was granted in March of 1891and lots went on sale that July. Potential buyers were brought across the bay by a chartered boat to a hotel built especially for the occasion. Others arrived by train from San Antonio. By the following year the population had reached 500 and a 1,200-foot wharf was built.

Boom times disappeared with the panic of 1893 and the now vacant hotel was converted into Bay View College - an institution that operated until it was destroyed in a 1916 hurricane.

Since Portland had no water supply of its own, water was piped in from a well in Taft.

In 1911 Willacy tried again by negotiating with the Coleman-Fulton Pasture Company for the land that it had repossessed.

Competetion from the Rio Grande Valley (for agriculture) and the hurricanes of 1916 and 1919 dashed Portland's dreams of becoming a port.

Portland's growth since then has been from an overflow from Corpus Christi. The city limits of Portland now extend into Nueces County.

Historical Marker: FM 893, 0.1 mile N of FM 1074, W of Portland.

Site of
White Point Mass Graves of 1919 Hurricane Victims

On Saturday, September 13, 1919, the last swarms of vacationers who packed the Corpus Christi beaches were warned that a massive hurricane, which had gathered strength in the Gulf for two weeks, was approaching the shore. Most ignored the warnings in favor of the last weekend of the summer season.

By Sunday afternoon the buildings on North Beach, battered by winds up to 110 miles per hour and storm tides up to 16 feet, began to break up. By Monday morning, bodies and debris had begun to wash up on the shore at White Point. Black oil from the storage tanks near Port Aransas covered everything. Over the next few days, more than 200 people worked to rescue survivors and retrieve the dead. Bodies were taken to the West Portland schoolhouse on this site. Identifying the remains proved difficult; the bodies were broken, covered in oil, and in some cases whole families had perished, leaving no one to identify them. The remains were weighed on a cotton scale and taken almost a mile back toward the beach where they were found. They were laid to rest in a mass grave dug with a slip scraper.

More than 30 separate graves were dug from Indian Point near Portland to a spot about 20 miles up Nueces Bay. Some of the larger graves measured 1400 feet wide and 3200 feet long. Evidence indicates that all the bodies were moved to Rose Hill Cemetery in Corpus Christi and to other sites about a month later. The official death toll was 284; estimates place the actual number, including those lost at sea, at about 1,000. Property damage from the 1919 storm was estimated at about 20 million dollars. This gravesite and the others serve as a reminder of the power of the elements. (2000)

TX San Patricio County 1920s Map
San Patricio County 1920s map showing Nueces Bay, Portland, Rosita (White Point) and Corpus Christi
From Texas state map #10749
Courtesy Texas General Land Office

Portland Texas Bay View College  marker
Bay View College historical marker
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, May 2007

Historical Marker: 154 Elm Street and 1st Avenue, Violet Andrews Park

Bay View College

An important school of the coastal region, founded for scattered South Texas ranch children, by Thomas M. (1856-1943) and Alice Yantis Clark (1857-1913), of the family that founded Texas Christian University. The Clarks utilized 2-story "Hotel Portland", opened 1891 but soon idled by national business recession. With Mrs. Mollie Allen Turner as associate, they opened Bay View College in Sept. 1894, teaching primary through junior college subjects. Mrs. Clark, who also managed "The Home" for boarders, taught painting; Clark, music and literary subjects. Recreation included riding (on student-owned horses), house parties at patron George Fulton's Rincon Ranch (12 miles northeast), and an annual San Jacinto Day sail on Corpus Christi Bay. The first Bachelor of Letters degrees were awarded to a class of three: Wallace Clark, Lucille Long, Ed Rachal.

In time, a 2-story boys' dormitory, a gymnasium, and a 2-story chapel stood on campus. Students came from 70 Texas counties, 12 other states, and Mexico. Some Bay View graduates went on to senior colleges and entered professions, many remained in ranching. In 1916 , a hurricane destroyed most of the buildings. A day school session was held the next winter in the chapel, but the college formally closed in 1917. (1973)

Portland Texas Violet Andrews Park
Violet Andrews Park
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, May 2007

Portland Texas city limit sign
Portland city limit sign
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, May 2007

Portland Texas water tower
Portland water tower
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, May 2007
More Texas Water Tower

Portland Texas pump jack
Photo courtesy Ken Rudine, May 2007

Take a road trip

Texas Gulf Coast

Portland, Texas Nearby Destinations:
Corpus Christi the county seat
Aransas Pass
See San Patricio County

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