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ach year The Port Arthur News publishes its biggest and best edition in April. Progress 2019 is an annual series of the newspaper’s best work. We will publish a separate section of the series each weekend in April. As a follow-up to last year’s highly successful and sought after “Beyond the Flood,” the focus of this year’s series is “Plants, Ports & Pipelines.” Through its pages we will take you on a historical tour, highlighting the industry that created the very reason for our existence today. The year 2019 marks a time many people feel will be the resurgence

of Southeast Texas. Refinery expansions, directional changes in industry growth and deepening of our shipping channel all play a part in this rebirth. From this growth, thousands of jobs are expected to be created and millions of dollars driven into the local economy. This will help every resident of Southeast Texas. History, Section 1 of our series of four editions, which you are currently reading, publishes on Saturday, April 6. It focuses content on the history of how the industry all started. From Spindletop to today, ours has been a special journey.


Weekend, April 6-7, 2019 / The News

Workforce, or Section 2, publishes on Saturday, April 13. We take a look at where the workforce comes from, who comprises the industry. Also, we’ll report on training, pay scales and demographics. Our section on ports, Section 3, publishes Saturday, April 20. Do you know what we ship? What we import? Where we rank as an industry? You will find all that and more in Section 3. Future, Section 4, publishes Saturday, April 27. Untapped potential lies within the growth standing at the door of 2019. What is in store for Liquefied Natural Gas, ethane crack-


ers, petrochemicals and the shipping channel. Our industry plays an enormous role in making our community what it is today and what it will be tomorrow. We look forward to sharing the 2019 Progress Edition with you. We hope you enjoy it as much as we enjoyed creating it. Keep it, share it, enjoy it over and over again. Southeast Texas Progress “Plants, Ports & Pipelines” is really a story about all of us.

Rich Macke is publisher of The Port Arthur News

VO LUM E 1 W W W. PA N E W S . C O M

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Weekend, April 6-7, 2019 / The News

BUILT FOR INDUSTRY Stilwell’s vision altered but Spindletop discovery By Ken Stickney

Greater Port Arthur was built for industry. Founded by Arthur Stilwell in 1898, Port Arthur itself became the terminus for the railroad he extended from Kansas City — the heart of the American Heartland — to the docks he built a Port Arthur. Stilwell’s goal was not to look for oil, although oil quickly became the industrial focus of Southeast Texas. Stilwell’s goal was to deliver Midwestern bounties of grain, lumber and farm products to the Gulf Coast and then the world. Along the route south, he founded other towns and shipped their goods, too. The route Stilwell pursued was the shortest and one that brought it to Sabine Lake, inland enough to protect the port from fierce Gulf storms but close enough to move products from hard-pressed Midwestern farmers to distant markets. The shorter, Gulf Coast route saved Midwestern farmers from more expensive shipping costs to the East Coast. “Arthur Stilwell didn’t come here looking for oil,” said Dr. W. Sam Monroe, president of the Port Arthur Historical Society. “He was seeking a railroad outlet to deep water for Middle America.”

Third choice

He found that. Port Arthur was not necessarily his first choice to build a rail terminus. He’d considered Galveston and looked at Sabine Pass. The former fell by the wayside as a choice because Stilwell, a spiritual man, had a premonition — he might have called it a

Courtesy, Port Arthur Public Library

Drawbridge over the ship canal at Pleasure Pier.

“hunch” — that Galveston would be destroyed by a storm, which occurred soon enough. The latter itself had suffered two fearsome storms the previous year. Based on his hunch, he wrote in his autobiography, he looked to the northern Texas coast for a port. He entertained a vision, too,

of a populous city on the north shore of Lake Sabine that would connect to the Gulf of Mexico by means of a canal, seven miles long. “Here, in this landlocked harbor, safe from the most devastating storm the Gulf could produce, we would erect elevators and piers and

Courtesy, Port Arthur Public Library

Postcard shows the harbor near Texaco Island.

create a port for the shipment of the Western farmers’ export grain.” Stilwell arrived in 1895; by 1896, 4,000 acres had been purchased for a town, work was starting on a ca-


nal and on a 2,500-foot pier. By early 1898, railcars carried freight to warehouses and piers near the end of Houston Avenue and tugs towed barges to ships at Sabine Pass.


Before Port Arthur was incorporated, it was a busy shipping site. The first cargo steamer made it See ‘Industry,’ page D3

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Step by step, Jesus has engineered a promising future. Flint Hills Resources proudly recognizes Port Arthur Memorial High School senior Jesus Gonzalez. Through hard work and dedication, Jesus aims to be the best at everything while helping his classmates succeed. With his academic achievements, Juan has designed a solid foundation to accomplish his goals. From all of us at Flint Hills Resources, we salute you.

Jesus Gonzalez


Jesus and nominating teacher Bert Lamson


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Weekend, April 6-7, 2019 / The News

Courtesy, Port Arthur Public Library

Courtesy, Port Arthur Public Library

The port at Port Arthur.

Postcard shows Gulf Oil Refineries.

Industry Continued from D2

Courtesy, Port Arthur Public Library

Postcard shows Spindletop.

through Stilwell’s canal on Aug. 13, 1899, according to the “Port Arthur Centennial History.” Stilwell’s plans were altered soon enough. Stilwell lost control of his railroad to John W. Gates in 1899; on Jan. 10, 1901, the Spindletop oil gusher transformed the Texas coast into an oil hub. “Refiners brought a brand new industry to Port Arthur,” Monroe said. “They were interested in an outlet for their product.” Port Arthur had rail and a port and a canal. It all meshed with what oil refineries needed, Monroe said, to distribute their products. “That’s what kicked it off, the major discovery at Spindletop,” Monroe said of the industrial boom.

Enter refineries

Ken Stickney, The News

Spindletop depicted in a mural at The Museum of the Gulf Coast.

J.M. Guffey and his J.M. Guffey Petroleum Co. bought into the Spindletop rush at Beaumont in 1901, later expanding his business into the Gulf Oil Corp., then forming the Gulf Refining Co. at Port Arthur — now Valero. In 1903, the Texas Co. also built a refinery in Port Arthur, capitalizing on the foundation that Stilwell had established. The Texaco plant is now Motiva Enterprises. Among co-investors with Guffey were A.W. and R.B. Mellon of Pittsburgh — nationally known bankers and investors and industrialists — who eventually

gained control of Guffey’s company, which struggled between 1902 and 1907 when the first Spindletop boom faded. Guffey remained as an officer. “A leading business magazine wrote that a Mellon family member said that looking back over the family’s investments, money invested in the refinery in Port Arthur was the best they’d ever made,” Monroe said. By the 1920s, the Atlantic Refining Co. also built

Courtesy, Port Arthur Public Library

Postcard shows the bridge over the Neches River at Port Arthur.

a refinery in Port Arthur, later Atlantic Richfield and now the Total plant. “Three major oil refineries in one city is a major thing,” Monroe said. “All that was the outgrowth of the discovery of oil at Spindletop.”

Channel extended

The quest for energy riches drove additional work along the western shoreline of Sabine Lake.

In 1908-09, the channel was extended north to the Neches River, which became the Sabine Neches Waterway and extended shipping to Beaumont, which created its own port. Monroe said that industry wanted rail — Stilwell provided it — water was necessary for refining and for shipping — the lake and Neches River provided that — and the natuSee ‘Industry,’ page D4


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Photos special to The News

Photos of the original Spindletop site taken in 1946. By Chris Moore

BEAUMONT — On Jan. 10, 1901, Southeast Texas went from an unremarkable lumber and rice town to the epicenter of the largest oil boom in history, changing the local economy’s trajectory from that point forward. “Beaumont was just another small town in Texas,” Spindletop Gladys City Boomtown Museum Director Troy Gray said. “Just four months before they found oil here is when the hurricane hit Galveston.” In 1892, Pattillo Higgins put together Gladys City Oil, which was the first oil company formed in Texas. However, the company’s initial efforts were unsuc-

Industry Continued from D3

ral resources were here. A second, major oil discovery was made at nearby Sour Lake and an additional boom followed at Spindletop in the 1920s. The raw materials for success completed the manmade infrastructure that was built for industrial success. Of course, industry was only starting in and around Port Arthur. Other industries spun off the fledgling oil business and the byproducts and feedstocks of oil: chemicals, asphalt. In Texas, the age of oil, a resource which was sought mostly for kerosene in the late 1800s and early 1900s, met the advent of the automobile industry, which drove the need for additional oil. “It wasn’t long before there were cars and major manufacturing,” Monroe said. There were some costs. Monroe said that early settlers in the new town recalled the lake prior to 1900 as clear and pristine. Creating a canal and a channel turned the waters murky. “Old timers said the lake was spoiled,” Monroe said. “Building the channel meant dumping the soil into the lake, a freshwater lake, and gave it a muddy color.” But politically, Monroe said, Port Arthur had a pro-business, pro-development climate. People were seeking prosperity; the byproduct was jobs. Sometimes, the progress outpaced the permission necessary to develop waterways. “Some communities and

cessful. In 1880, Standard Oil, which was founded by John D. Rockefeller and Henry Flager a decade before, found a pocket of oil in Lima, Ohio. Standard Oil, whose main business was kerosene, created a research and development company after realizing the oil found was not good for kerosene. “Rockefeller was really only interested in kerosene, but wanted to see what they could do with this,” Gray said. “That was important, because if he hadn’t done that, the oil that was found here would be considered useless, even though there was a lot of it. I’m sure somebody would’ve come along and figured out.”

Enter the auto

some cities may not have welcomed industrial facilities even in that time,” he said, “but this one did.” The environmental movement drives many decisions today but was nascent then, during a time of industrial revolution. Development of natural resources was how industry grew, he said, and “it’s hard

to substitute our judgment for theirs.” It was a different time.

Automobiles were also invented at this time and Spindletop helped push manufacturers towards the type of fuel that would be used. “They were trying to choose between electric-powered cars and gas-powered cars,” Gray said. “The sheer amount of oil they found here really pushed them to the gas-powered cars.” The gasoline-powered engine was developed in 1885 and manufacturers of horseless carriages knew that they needed oil to power their machines. But where would they find it? With Spindletop, which produced 100,000 barrels a day, “they felt like they could do it,” Gray said.

Industry blossoms

Myriad independent developments created the conditions for industry to blossom. While Stilwell brought the railroad to the Sabine’s shores and built a canal near what is now

Gray said the amount of oil found at Spindletop pushed both the American and British navies to switch to fuel power rather than coal. That was an important development.

Enter chaos

Gray said for Beaumont and surrounding areas, things went from nice to chaos in a single day. “The oil brought everyone to see it and to speculate,” he said. “It was a tremendous amount of people coming here. Afterwards, there was a lot of chaos and crimes in saloons. There was at least one murder a night. I’m sure that the local people were upset at all of the people coming here. It disrupted life.” Gray said some natives

Texaco Island, Monroe said, Gates, more politically connected, wrested control of the railroad from Stilwell and got federal support to improve the canal and then connect shipping to the Neches River. By 1916, the ship channel extended to Beaumont, and by 1922, the Sabine Neches Waterway was 30

decided to lean into the new rush. “Some knew there was nothing they could do,” he said. “People started to change their prices to make it work for them. The barber prices we have listed in the museum are inflated prices.” While the gusher lasted nine days, Gray said the chaos lasted much longer.

New normal

Gray said there was surprisingly little political input at the time, which is evident by the formation of 600 companies. “I think it took them probably a year to get past the madness,” he said. “After they capped it, 600 companies formed to look for the oil. I think that was the

feet deep. Magnolia Refinery greeted its first oceangoing tanker in 1916, according to the Centennial History. “All of these things” — the coming of the railroad, the discovery of oil, the creation of the canal and ship channel, the advent of the automobile industry — “happened independently

time a new normal started to happen.” Gray compared the company formations at that time to the Internet bubble. “There were many groups that had wide eyes and little money,” he said. “You think of the companies that we still have today that got their start from Spindletop like Gulf, Sunoco and those companies are still around. I think that’s the same as the Internet. Google and Yahoo are still around, but you’ve seen a lot come and go. “There were some big companies that sprung up and then died down or little companies that died or See ‘Spindletop,’ page D5

of each other,” Monroe said. For Port Arthur, created and named for Arthur Stilwell, a new way of life was created. “Huge and dynamic growth occurred rapidly in those first 25-30 years,” Monroe said. While Stilwell promoted and built a See ‘Industry,’ page D5 1601 NEDERLAND AVE. • 409-344-9465 Hours: M-F 8 AM-5 PM SAT 10 AM-3 PM

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Industry Continued from D4

Photos by Chris Moore/The News

Those interested in learning more about Spindletop can visit the Museum and recreated city located on the Lamar University campus.

Spindletop Continued from D4

quickly grew. A lot of the smaller ones that grew were bought out by the bigger ones.” Gray said other companies like Guffey (later changed to “Gulf”) and Texaco formed during that time. “Shell was an international company that contracted with Gulf Oil to do refineries and later, for some reason, Gulf bought that contract back,” Gray said. “They’re still around, so I guess it worked.” Gray said many people didn’t want Standard Oil to come into Texas due to an ongoing antitrust lawsuit against them. “They didn’t want Eastern influence,” Gray said.

Diverse workers

With the local growth came people of all races and backgrounds. African American communities sprang up soon after the boom, including the south Beaumont neighborhood of Pear Orchard and a traveling settlement around the oil fields known as Little Africa. Gray said African Americans and Mexicans weren’t allowed to own oil companies, but promising job opportunities led many people to the area. “They came here because they still got jobs as teamsters and ditch diggers,” Gray said. “They came here because even though they didn’t get the best jobs, they still got jobs.” While these positions offered consistent wages, an African American oil worker could work as a laborer for 30 years with little to no increase in pay.

In “Giant Under the Hill: A history of Spindletop Oil Discovery at Beaumont, Texas in 1901,” authors Judith Walker Linsley, Ellen Walker Rienstra and Jo Ann Stiles wrote about how the singular moment changed Texas and Southeast Texas forever. “Although extensive fields would eventually be discovered in neighboring states, then in the rest of the country, it was Texas whose image was irrevocably changed, both in its own eyes and in those of the rest of the world,” the authors wrote. “Texas would soon become an icon for Big Oil. By 1905, more than a quarter of the crude pumped in the country came from the Lone Star State.” The discovery soon led to other oil discoveries in West Columbia, Barbers Hill, Hull, High Island and other parts of Texas followed. According to the book, by the end of 1917, there were 26 refineries in Texas valued at $48,950,000, with an estimated daily capacity of 225,000 barrels. Gulf, Texas and Magnolia owned about 70 percent of the Texas refinery capacity located mostly in the Beaumont-Port Arthur area. The authors quoted an article from the August 1901 edition of the New York Journal, just seven months after the gusher. The quote summed up what Texas’ economic future would become. “Texas has found her glory. It is OIL…”

railroad, the local population was measured in the hundreds. By 1930, Monroe said, Port Arthur and environs had more than 50,000 people. Good jobs drew newcomers. The Dutch were lured to Nederland, also founded by Stilwell, who had worked closely with Dutch financiers to build his railroad. They, in turn, brought farming to the area, and shipped their produce to the nearby ports. Cajuns from Louisiana followed the shipbuilding industry to both Orange and to Port Arthur as well as to the oil refineries in Port Arthur, broadening the local culture. “These were good-pay jobs,” Monroe said, and the Cajuns, clever and resourceful, left Louisiana to pursue them. “That is a legendary phenomenon.” The World War II effort accelerated industry’s growth: shipbuilding, refining, chemical. Chemi-

The Museum of the Gulf Coast.

Mass manufacturing of the automobile drove the demand for oil.

cal plants sprung up near the refineries. “Orange had a huge shipbuilding enterprise connected to the war effort,” Monroe said. Some of that expanded to Port Arthur. There was a synthetic rubber industry here connected to the war effort. Pipelines extended to Port Arthur to carry oil and its byproducts, and pipelines proved safer than rail. Nor does Port Arthur’s

industrial prowess seem likely to slow. Discovery of natural gas supplies in Texas and the development of processes to export liquefied natural gas — LNG — is creating the opportunity for new prosperity for Southeastern Texas and southwestern Louisiana. “The foreseeable future is LNG,” Monroe said. And there is a foreseeable future for industry here.

Southeast Texas roots + Growing presence = A bright future



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BELOW, BEYOND SPINDLETOP Texas Energy Museum examines geology behind boom By Chris Moore

BEAUMONT — A walk through the Texas Energy Museum will transport one back in time to the birth of our area’s industry. The bottom floor of the museum displays plenty of general history as well as educational tools to understand how oil refineries became Southeast Texas’ biggest moneymaker. While the second floor holds more Spindletop-specific displays, it is fitting that one starts underneath — way underneath. The first floor has a section dedicated to explaining what was going on beneath the surface of the earth and why Southeast Texas was prime territory for a boom. While early 1900 academic geologists under-

stood the concept of the age of the earth based of rock formations, those who were in the business of searching for oil were searching for patterns observed at previous discovery sites. “Academic geologists already had the concept of geologic time,” Texas Energy Museum Director D. Ryan Smith said. “It wasn’t unheard of. It wasn’t popular because you run into that conflict of science and religion, but universities were teaching geological studies and sedimentation patterns, but they didn’t necessarily correlate it to mineral discovery or the extraction of minerals.” Smith said early oil geologist were basically amateurs who made decisions based off observations of the geographical terrain of previous oil discoveries.

Atypical Texas

Smith said oil wasn’t typically being found in an area like Southeast Texas. “They were in areas with glacial till,” he said. “Up in Pennsylvania, there were harder rock formations. It would’ve been 300 million years ago that oil was formed in those areas. The creeks there have rock bottoms. People were looking for things like that. “Around here, you have black, gumbo soil and flat planes. The concept of salt domes was kind of unknown. If they saw red earth and a granite formation next to this sedimentary rock outcropping, they say, ‘Well, we found oil out there two years ago, let’s try again.’ It was, kind of, guessing, but they used some evidence also.” After the initial boom of Boomtown, those looking to make their fortunes from the black gold packed up and searched other areas looking for the next strike. By the early 1920s, Gladys city resembled a ghost town. On Nov. 13, 1925 one local’s theory paid off in what would be known as The Second Spindletop.

On flanks

“After Spindletop, you started having oil exploration all over the state,” Smith said. “You had boomtowns everywhere. They were in central Texas

Photos by Chris Moore/The News

The Texas Energy Museum gives visitors a chance to learn more about the history and science of the area’s largest economic resource — oil.

and the Wichita Falls area, West Texas and the panhandle. They were looking for oil everywhere they could. “Marrs McLean had a theory that oil had to be accumulating around these salt domes. It couldn’t just be on the tops. He wanted to drill on the flanks.” McLean was unable to convince major oil companies with his theory and turned to neighbor M. Frank Yount, who created Yount-Lee Oil Co. several years prior and successfully drilled at Sour Lake. The amount of oil McLean found was significantly more than the oil found in 1901, Smith said. The company produced over 50 million barrels of oil in five years. “Once they knew that,

they started looking at other salt domes and doing the same thing,” he said. “One of the things they didn’t know in 1901 was if you started to drill a hole in one spot, they didn’t realize it relieved pressure elsewhere. They didn’t realize they were destroying the lifespan of the oil prematurely by messing with the pressure.”


While the lack of regulations had some popular drilling locations looking like the Wild West, West Texas actually had a more uniformed approach due to companies owning most of the land that was used for drilling. “The leases tended to be purchased by larger companies,” Smith said. “They

tended to control the area. The boomtown of West Texas was different than Gladys City or the other cities like that. Since the company built it, they built housing and schools. It was a very organized little community. “Before you had regulation by the Texas Railroad Commission, you had folks drilling one well right next to another well,” Smith said. “In the ‘30s, spacing requirements and pressure requirements made it to where you couldn’t deplete a reservoir that fast.”

Changed ways

The way the oil is processed has also seen changes over the last 100 years. Today, refining is done See ‘Museum,’ page D7


Port Arthur



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Weekend, April 6-7, 2019 / The News

Museum Continued from D6

in continuous distillation, Smith said. “They go through a distillation process and another and so on. You’re constantly taking these hydrocarbons and reconfiguring them. In early times, distillations refiners used what they called cheesebox stills, which is basically a big heating element. You put them in a big tank and heat them until the lighter gases separate. It’s not continuous so you get off what you can and then you throw the rest away. You couldn’t do anything with it.” Smith said the gasoline was thrown out and a layer of lubricating oil and kerosene was syphoned. “You didn’t want the kerosene to be too light because then it would be too flammable,” he said. “You didn’t want to get it too thick because then it was too smokey. Standard Oil standardized the cut. They got just the right amount of kerosene. Now there is no wastage.”

GENERATIONS OF PRIDE Motiva plant employs multitude of families By Ken Stickney

ken.stickney@panews. com Motiva’s sprawling campus along Savannah Avenue in Port Arthur has done much more than fuel the world, although that might seem achievement enough. It has also linked generations of Greater Port Arthur families who’ve been employed there on its 2,200 acres or on the other 1,000 acres at sites located in Port Neches and Sour Lake. Sue Parsley, the former public relations coordina-

tor who established the on-site museum in the Employee’s Building — that building was built as the old Locker, Shower & Assembly Building in 1938 — worked for five different plant managers in her 18 years at Motiva. Her father worked for Texaco. She started working at the same site under Star Enterprise, after a career in banking. Elton N. Gish, a process engineer for who worked at the plant for 46 years, wrote the history of the plant, “Texaco’s Port Arthur Works: A Legacy

of Spindletop and Sour Lake,” in time for the plant’s centennial celebration in 2003. His father was a welder at Texaco’s Port Neches location, and, naturally, he was eager to take a job there in 1968.

Purves project

Parsley and Gish took key roles in preserving the history of the Motiva site, the biggest refinery in the U.S., with more than 600,000 barrels of capacity per day. Parsley said she took on the museum project after plant manager W.T. Purves

Courtesy, Motiva Enterprises

A wooden pipeline that transported oil to the refinery.

gave her the go-ahead. She said Purves, whose background was with Shell Oil, remembered that company embraced its history; he wanted the same at the Port Arthur site. “He had seen some Shell museums and started talking about it,” she said. One potential spot for a museum was along Savannah, near the entrance to the plant. “That

would have been the best place where people could get to it.” But the intention was not to create a museum that would demand fulltime staffing. The Employee’s Building, though, was ideally suited for opening the museum during company celebrations or when there See ‘Motiva ,’ page D8

Stars align

The boom had a profound impact changing a lumber, cotton and rice town into an oil refinery town from then to the present. “You had three things that made this area perfect for the boom,” Smith said. “You had the proximity to the crude material. You didn’t have to send it very far. Then, you had proximity to water, which you need for cooling your furnace and shipping methods. Southeast Texas also had a large labor force ready to work because they’re coming out of cotton fields.” The events that took place in Southeast Texas in the early 1900s still have a great impact on today’s local economy. The area is still known for being one of the refining capitals of the world and jobs are still being created from plant expansions and channel deepening.

Courtesy, Motiva Enterprises

Courtesy, Motiva Enterprises

Case shows products that came from the Motiva plant.

A vehicle from the drilling division at Sour Lake.



In the dark hours of Christmas morning 1990 the owner, (at the time) Marine Lance Corporal Brian Swindel, along with fellow Marines arrived in Saudi Arabia in support of Desert Storm/Desert Shield. On February 24th, 1991 these Marines entered Kuwait beginning the ground assault which lasted four days. During this time the Iraqi military was destroyed and Kuwait was ultimately liberated. The Marines of this unit became a security force in a remote area of Kuwait. They had plenty of ammunition, water and meals ready to eat (MRE’s). There were no tents, cots, hot food, or any other luxuries of life. Normal conditions for Marines. Swindel had a Platoon Sergeant by the name of Sergeant Troop. Sergeant Troop was always resourceful. Prior to leaving “Tent City” in Saudi Arabia Sergeant Troop “acquired” an Army HMMWV (Humvee). It came in handy for hauling extra gear on the way to Kuwait! Once the ground war was over and the area secured the Company 1st Sergeant directed Sergeant Troop to go and find cotts. Cotts! In the middle of the desert! It’s not like there is a WalMart close by. Sergeant Troop left for a few hours in the Army Humvee and came back with a load of cots and a couple of tents!!! As time went along Sergeant Troop would show up with what’s called Tray Packs which are like large Stouffers meals. Everyone wondered where Sergeant Troop was getting all this great stuff and was glad to get it! Come to find out Sergeant Troop was going into an Army supply area a few miles away with the Army Humvee he “acquired” and was gathering up some of the luxuries the Army had. Sergeant Troop was tasked with what some would think was the impossible. Cots in the middle of the desert, special food items, etc… He made it happen and didn’t make excuses! That is the kind of Spirit Brian Swindel wanted for his company. If a customer calls in the middle of the night and wants something – our customer gets it! If a customer is in a remote area and needs material – we make it happen! Troop Industrial is not named after Sergeant Troop; rather the “can do” spirit, the make no excuses mentality, the whatever it takes attitude to make sure his customers are taken care of. Orders are delivered on time, in a squared away package, with a legible label, with paperwork that is in order, accurate, complete and logical. The Team at Troop Industrial shares this spirit and is always eager to help our customers, day or night, 24/7 – 365 days a year. In addition to our dedication to our customers, Troop Industrial is also committed to supporting our countries Veterans. Troop Industrial makes an effort to hire men and women with valuable military experience or a background that will effectively support our mission. That is the story behind the name……

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Weekend, April 6-7, 2019 / The News

Courtesy, Motiva Enterprises

Courtesy, Motiva Enterprises

This model shows the Motiva plant as it was, probably in the 1950s.

Employees recognized for 25 years of service at the Port Neches facility, 1934.


Parsley said of Gish. “He had a lot of old Texaco stuff. “He had so much stuff collected,” Parsley said, “I’m glad he kept it under lock and key.” The project excited plant workers and retirees, many of who brought items to the Parsley. “People just started of-

Continued from D7

were meetings held there; it had the largest meeting space on campus. For museum content, Gish himself was a great starting point.

Collected stuff

He’d developed an interest in the site both because of his family connection with Texaco but also because so many units remained on the grounds, even though they were not in use. He said he began col-

lecting old photos of the grounds and of employees and even some old items and records. He’d collected items from Texaco, Star Enterprise and Motiva. Eventually, he stored what he collected in secure space in the main office on the refinery site. “He would keep stuff,”

fering things they had,” she said. “Not just collectibles, but they turned over some really fine stuff to put on display.” She said about the time she was collecting items for the museum, Roy’s Western Wear store closed and she was able to buy cabinets that locked. That’s

where things are stored now. Items came in such abundance, she said, she had to get “very selective” at the end. She said she didn’t want the museum to become “cluttered like an Army surplus store.” There See ‘Motiva,’ page D9

Investing in Port Arthur Since 1903

Jasmin’s love for numbers add up to a bright future. Flint Hills Resources proudly recognizes Port Arthur Memorial High School senior Jasmin Reyes. Known by her teachers as remarkably talented and hardworking, Jasmin excels in class and strives for perfection. With her love of math, Jasmin has calculated an incredible future. From all of us at Flint Hills Resources, we salute you.

Jasmin Reyes


Jasmin and nominating teacher Ali Harakeh


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Weekend, April 6-7, 2019 / The News

Courtesy, Motiva Enterprises

Wagon delivers oil products, 1910.

Motiva Continued from D8

Courtesy, Motiva Enterprises

Plate logo was used from 1910-1927. About 750 were issued.

was only so much space — about 800 square feet, public affairs coordinator Verna Rutherford said — and space came at a premium. “Several things happened around the time we

opened it,” Parsley said, which coincided with the centennial celebration in 2003. There was an open house for the community and the timing was perfect to open the museum to the community. The museum would open to senior tour groups, for employee events, for family days on the site. It became a focal point on the campus, although Rutherford said the average annual visitor attendance at the museum is measured in the hundreds. “Normally we have a lot of feedback from employees who had been there 30 years or more,” she said. “Kids enjoy going in there, too.”

First, a photo

Courtesy, Motiva Enterprises

Postcard shows Spindletop, 1901

Much of what is in the museum comes from Gish himself; he estimates some three-quarters of the items kept there he collected. Gish said his family’s affection for Texaco ran deep. “We always used Texaco gas,” he said. “I knew the history. When I hired on, I wanted an photo of the plant, an aerial picture.” The photographer cleared the request with the plant manager — F.L. Wallace, most likely — and Gish noted that some of the 118 units on the site were not working. Some had been built three decades before; some were from the 1930s. “There’s just a lot of history out there,” he said,” and I wanted to learn more about the history of the plant.” In time, Gish said, he’d collected so much memorabilia he ran out of space in his office. So he moved what he had in his own of-

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Courtesy, Motiva Enterprises

Employees with barrels, 1913

Courtesy, Motiva Enterprises

Sign over the door of the museum.

fice to some empty offices. Around 1995, he showed it to the plant manager. “That was the beginning of the museum,” he said. His collection included old cans from the canning building, which call to mind projects produced at the site over the years. As a process engineer, he had a broad knowledge of how all the individual units on the site “fit together.” From the 1960s to the 1980s, he said, most of those were still in operation. Gish said people identified him as the man who collected historical items. One lady, a longtime secretary at the plant, saved a document she’d uncovered from a hurricane in 1915 that shut down the plant for 10 days. She saved the report that had been sent to Houston, and told about the refinery allowing community members — there may have been as many as a thousand — who’d been flooded out of their homes to come to the plant as a place of refuge. She gave Gish a copy of the report in the 1990s. “Two or three babies were born,” he said. “It was a really interesting report.”

Gish’s book

As the centennial approached, Gish said, Motiva was interested in hiring someone to write the history of the plant. Gish said about 1,500 or so were published. “I’d always wanted to do that book. They were ready to pay another guy to do the book so I said ‘Why not me?’ They let me do it.” Motiva bought enough copies of Gish’s book to give to all the employees, and he himself bought several hundred copies. He said he’s almost out of copies, and he’s in the process of having a few hundred more reprinted. Rutherford said the Hurricane Rita caused significant damage on the property. But Parsley said there was little damage to the museum, although its contents had to be packed up and stored while the rest of the building was renovated. “So I’ve set up the museum twice,” she said. Rutherford said Motiva still welcomes donated items, which can be squeezed in for “higher visibility.”

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Weekend, April 6-7, 2019 / The News


As a growing coastal town Port Arthur had need for ships and services to repair ships from early on. These businesses dot properties along the river, often off the main road. But their importance is significant. “When talking about shipyards, it’s part of an invisible industry that has hundreds of people working there doing family wage jobs,” the Rev. Sinclair Oubre, diocesan director of the Apostleship of the Sea and pastor of St. Francis of Assisi in Orange, said.

Gulfport Shipbuilding Corp.

One of the earliest businesses started with Bruno Schulz who came to Port Arthur from Germany in 1909, opening a bakery and working at then Gulf Oil as a laborer. Then the company sent him to Pittsburg in 1917 to study electric welding, according to

Port Arthur Centennial History book. Schulz and business partner opened Gulfport Boiler and Welding Works on Seventh Street and later constructed the first all-welded barge in Port Arthur. He expanded his shipyard on a 6-acre site on the ship channel on the west end of Lakeshore Drive. By 1931 the company had 10 electric welding machines, an $18,000 investment. Then, by 1939, the company joined the war effort with the launching of a 328-ton icebreaking cutter Arundel — the first Coast Guard cutter built in Texas. According to, Gulfport Boiler and Welding Works Inc. became the leading builder of ocean tugs in World War II, then was renamed to Gulfport Shipbuilding Corp. It was acquired by Levingston Shipbuilding in 1970 and became a repair yard from then until its closing in 1985.

Photo courtesy Capt. John Cooke on

The tug the Lead Horse was built in 1969 by Burton Shipyard.

A newspaper clipping from a scrapbook by Alva Carr that was donated to the Museum of the Gulf Coast.

Tidbits: Gulfport • Some of the world’s largest barges were built at Gulfport. • For years Gulfport completed orders for tugboats, crewboats, ferries, dredges, barges and other vessels on both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. • Gulfport is credited with building, at that time,

Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc.

See ‘Ship,’ page D11

Courtesy photo

Burton Shipyard, date unknown.

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2 0 1 9 P R O G R E S S / D11

Weekend, April 6-7, 2019 / The News

and by 1970 they acquired the neighboring Gulfport Shipbuilding Corp. in Port Arthur. Levingston shipyard was an active business until it closed its doors in 1985.

Tidbits— Levingston Shipbuilding

Photo by Wade P. Streeter

The tug Spartan. The vessel started out as Lead Horse and has went under the names Gulf Challenger, Challenger and Mark Hannah before becoming Spartan in 2002.

Ship Continued from D10

the world’s most powerful hydraulic suction dredge, 180-feet long, 49.5 feet wide and 14 feet high. SOURCE: Museum of the Gulf Coast

Burton Construction and Shipbuilding

Burton’s was located between Gulf Oil and Texas Co. docks, about three miles south of Port Arthur on the Taylor Bayou turning basin, according to information from the Museum of the Gulf Coast that was included in a scrapbook. The shipyard was built in 1943 for the building of barges to be used in war. It included docks on a deep water channel; machine, woodworking, fabricating and electrical shops; overhead gantry cranes and a marine railway capable to handling vessels up to 140 feet in length. A story from October 1979 tells of the third tuna seiner built by Burton Shipyard. The 224-foot-vessel DeoLinda was the third of a seven-ship contract awarded to Burton by Van Camp Food Co., a division of Ralston Purina Co. It was built to operate primarily with the Pacific fleet, fishing for skipjack and yellowfin tuna.

Levingston Shipbuilding

In 1859, thee brothers, Samuel, David and

John Levingston, arrived in Orange from Ireland and bought an existing shipyard where they built wooden ships for more than 30 years, according to the Texas Historical marker at the sight of the former shipyard. Samuel’s son, “Captain” George Levingston, established his own shipbuilding business in 1919-1920 and in 1930 bought five acres at Front and Mill streets in Orange, enlarged his operation and the company operated from this location for the remainder of its existence. Incorporation in 1933 sustained the company during slow economic times of the 1930s. The need for and growth of shipbuilding yards came around near the opening of the Gulf Intercoastal Canal and the discovery of oil in the marshes along the Gulf Coast. Tugs and barges were used on the canal providing access to marshes for drilling equipment and a way to move crude oil from the wells to the refineries. Levingston began building oilfield drilling barges around 1937 and at that time the only steel work was done in the shipyard, according to a story that appeared in the Oct. 17, 1971 edition of The Port Arthur News. In 1947 came the first sizable discovery of oil in the Gulf of Mexico and the first equipment used to service the supply of oil was pioneered and brought into being by Levingston. The company’s fabrication unit began in 1944

• Samuel’s son, “Captain” George Levingston, is considered the pioneer of Levingston Shipbuilding Co. • In December 1952, the “largest and most powerful drilling barge ever built for use in the coastal marshes was built by Levingston for the Superior Oil Co. • In June 1951, Levingston’s first compressor station was built. • The first mobile drilling platform for offshore drilling in the Gulf was delivered in January 1956. • A later endeavor was the delivery of three identical ferryboats to the Department of Marine and Aviation of the City of New York. Each vessel was capable of carrying up to 3,500 passengers and 50 automobiles. One of the boats, which ran between the boroughs of Manhattan and Richmond, was named after the late President John F. Kennedy.

Bethlehem Steel

Government-owned Beaumont Shipbuilding and Drydock, established on Industrial Island, was the forerunner of Bethlehem Steel Co., according to Port Arthur Centennial History book. In 1922, the Pennsylvania Car and Foundry Co. acquired the Beaumont

A photo of Gulfport Shipyard in the early days.

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Photo courtesy The Portal to Texas History

Gulfport Shipbuilding Corporation circa 1975.

renamed it TDI-Offshore and in 1995 TDI bought the Gulf Copper rig site in Port Arthur as company revenues reached $40 million. The company changed hands several more times though the years with name changes and is remains in operation.

Gulf Copper

Gulf Copper founder Glenn Maxfield moved from Galveston to Port Arthur in 1948 and this coming July 29 will mark the 70th year since Maxfield incorporated Gulf Copper and Manufacturing Corp. in Jefferson County, according to information from the company. Maxfield, along with the three original founders, registered the company to fabricate steel and copper and to sell steel and copper products. Gulf Copper has grown from a small company in Port Arthur to a medium-size company with a presence in each major

Gulf Coast port as well as Ciudad Del Carmen, Mexico. In addition, the services offered expanded as well from steel and copper products to full ship and offshore oil rig repair, specialty offshore services, international repair teams working in all corners of the world and marine surveying and consulting services for U.S. and international interests. Gulf Copper currently has more than 470 employees with about 170 in the Port Arthur area. Payroll in Port Arthur is over $10.5 million with another $5.5 million purchased in goods and services. “As we reflect back on the 70 years in business on the Gulf Coast, Gulf Copper is proud of the positive impact we have made in our communities, and we look forward to building a strong future with our partners and colleagues and associates,” according to information from the company.

Courtesy Courtesy of the Museum of the Gulf Coast

Srinivasa Rao Kothapalli, MD Nidal I. Buheis, MD

Srinivasa Rao Kothapalli, MD

facility and named it the Pennsylvania Shipyard and by 1939 the yard had built more than 200 steel vessels and repaired many others. They also build more than 100 armed cargo ships, Navy mine sweepers and other vessels during World War II. “In 1984, with the help of veteran U.S. Rep. Jack Brooks, D-Beaumont, the Port of Port Arthur was given a U.S. surplus drydock in use since 1942 at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. This huge drydock was towed from Hawaii to Port Arthur where it was installed at a port-owned shipyard built on Pleasure Island by Bethlehem Steel Company. The port and Bethlehem signed long-term leases for patio of the drydock,” according to the book. After the war, the Beaumont shipyard, like others in Port Arthur and Orange, began to focus on the construction of giant deepwater drilling rigs for the offshore oil industry. And Bethlehem/Port Arthur Drydock was a major place on the Sabine-Neches Waterway as it was designed to handle “mammoth” offshore rigs, had a lift capacity of 64,000 tons and was downstream from all bridges or barriers to navigation. But by 1995 Bethlehem sold its leasehold interests in the Port Arthur facility to Texas Drydock Inc. Texas Drydock was founded in July 1986 at the site of the old Weaver Shipyard in Orange with 12 employees and continued to grow. In 1990, TDI bought the Petro-Gulf facility from Hall Buck Marine and

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Levingston’s engineers testing a jack-up rig in the mid 1950s.

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Weekend, April 6-7, 2019 / The News

The Port of Port Arthur continues to make our area stronger by Aiding Area Expansions Diversifying Our Economy & Providing Future Growth


John Comeaux

Raymond Johnson

Linda Turner Spears

Mark Underhill

Port of Port Arthur P.O. Box 1428 221 Houston Avenue Port Arthur, Texas 77641



Norris Simon, Jr.

Profile for Port Arthur News

PAN Progress 2019 Volume 1  

PAN Progress 2019 Volume 1