Beaumont, Texas Fast Facts
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Beaumont is a city in and the county seat of Jefferson County, Texas in the United States, within the Beaumont–Port Arthur Metropolitan Statistical Area. Located in Southeast Texas on the Neches River about 85 miles (137 km) east of Houston (city center to city center), Beaumont had a population of 117,267 at the time of the 2010 census, making it the twenty-fourth-most populous city in the state of Texas.
Beaumont was founded as a town in 1835. The early European-American settlement had an economy based on the development of lumber, farming, and port industries. In 1892, Joseph Eloi Broussard opened the first commercially successful rice mill in the state, stimulating development of rice farming in the area; he also started an irrigation company (since 1933 established as the Lower Neches Valley Authority) to support rice culture. Rice became an important commodity crop in Texas, and is now cultivated in 23 counties.
A big change occurred in 1901 with the Spindletop gusher, which demonstrated the potential of the huge oil field. With Spindletop, several energy companies developed in Beaumont, and some continue. The area rapidly developed as one of the major petro-chemical refining areas in the country. Along with Port Arthur and Orange, Beaumont forms the Golden Triangle, a major industrial area on the Texas Gulf Coast.
In 1824 Bobby and Nancy Tevis settled on the west bank of the Neches River and developed a farm. Soon after that, a small community grew up around the farm, which was named Tevis Bluff or Neches River Settlement. In 1835 the land of Tevis, together with the nearby community of Santa Anna (in total, 50 acres), was purchased by Henry Millard (1796?–1844), Joseph Pulsifer (1805–1861), and Thomas Byers Huling (1804–1865). They began planning a town to be laid out on this land. Their partnership, J.P. Pulsifer and Company, controlled the first 50 acres upon which the town was founded. This town was named Beaumont, after Mary Dewburleigh Barlace Warren Beaumont, the wife of Henry Millard. They added more property for a total of 200 acres.
Beaumont became a town on 16 December 1838. Beaumont’s first mayor was Alexander Calder. From the town’s founding in 1835, business activities included real estate, transportation, and retail sales. Later, other businesses were formed, especially in railroad construction and operation, new building construction, lumber sales, and communications. The Port of Beaumont became a successful regional shipping center. Beaumont was a small center for cattle raisers and farmers in its early years. With an active riverport by the 1880s, it became an important lumber and rice-milling town. The city exported rice as a commodity crop. Beaumont’s lumber boom, which reached its peak in the late 19th century, was stimulated by the rebuilding and expansion of the railroads in the state and region after the Civil War.
The Beaumont Rice Mill, founded in 1892 by Joseph Eloi Broussard, was the first commercially successful rice mill in Texas. In addition, Broussard cofounded the Beaumont Irrigation Company in 1898 to operate an irrigation system to support rice culture. The company along with four others established around the same time helped stimulate the expansion of rice cultivation from 1500 acres in 1892 to 400,000 acres in 23 counties by his death in 1956. The other companies were The Port Arthur Rice and Irrigation Company, The McFaddin-Wiess-Kyle Canal Company, the Treadaway or Neches Canal Company, and the Taylors-Hillebrand complex. The holdings of those companies formed the basis for the Lower Neches Valley Authority established by the state legislature in 1933.
The rise of Beaumont’s mill economy drew many new residents to the city, many of them immigrants. The first Jewish man in the city was from Louisiana, others migrated from the South, and were joined by immigrants. They worked as merchants and in a variety of jobs in the growing city and ranching area. In 1895 Jews formed their first congregation. By the early 20th century, the city was served by the Southern Pacific; Kansas City Southern, Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe; and Missouri Pacific railroad systems.
Oil was discovered at nearby Spindletop on January, 10 1901. Spindletop became the first major oil field and one of the largest in American history. With the discovery of oil at Spindletop, Beaumont’s population more than tripled in two months from 9,000 in January 1901 to 30,000 in March 1901. Oil is, and has always been, a major export of the city, and a major contributor to the national GDP.
William Casper Tyrrell, nicknamed “Captain W.C.”, was a leading businessman and oil tycoon in the city in the early 20th century, developing businesses during the Texas Oil Boom. An entrepreneur from Pennsylvania and Iowa, he arrived after the gusher at Spindletop, and invested in development of a commercial port in the city, and an irrigation system to support the local rice industry, as well as residential and retail development of suburban property. He was also a philanthropist. He purchased and donated First Baptist Church, whose congregation had moved to a new facility, to use as the city’s first public library, now known as the Tyrrell Historical Library.
When the city became a major center for defense shipbuilding during World War II, tens of thousands of rural Texans migrated there for the new high-paying jobs. The Roosevelt administration ordered the defense industry to be integrated, and many Southern whites were working closely with blacks for the first time. Housing was scarce in the crowded city, and racial tensions increased. In June 1943 after workers at the Pennsylvania shipyard in Beaumont learned that a white woman had accused a black man of raping her, nearly 2,000 went to the jail where a suspect was being held, attracting more men along the way and reaching a total of 4,000. Ultimately the white mob rioted for three days, destroying major black neighborhoods and killing five persons. No one was prosecuted for the deaths. The riot in Beaumont was one of several in 1943 which centered in the defense industry, including Los Angeles, Detroit, Chicago and Mobile, Alabama as well as other cities across the country. The wartime social disruption was similar to war time riots which had occurred in other parts of the country during and following World War I.
In the postwar years, Beaumont’s port continued in importance. As was typical with other cities, post-war highway construction led to the development of new suburbs and dispersal of the population in search of new housing. Recently, there has been some renewal in Downtown Beaumont and in other areas of the city.
In 1996, the Jefferson County courts, located in Beaumont, became the first court in the nation to implement electronic filing and service of court documents. This eliminated the need for law firms to print and mail reams of documents.
In 2005 and 2008, Beaumont and surrounding areas suffered extensive damage from Hurricane Rita and Hurricane Ike, respectively. Mandatory evacuations were issued in advance of both storms.
In August 2017, Beaumont and surrounding areas experienced severe flooding as a result of Hurricane Harvey. Due to the flooding, Memorial Hermann Baptist Hospital evacuated all of its highest level of acuity patients with the help of National Guard helicopters. In addition, many Beaumont residents had to be rescued by both boats and helicopters as a result of the floodwaters. As of October 2018, many residents in the area are still attempting to recover from the hurricane.