Surveyor Samuel D.
Parr claimed a league of land extending 5 miles
eastward from Point Bolivar and in 1838 became the
area’s first permanent settler. That year developers
Archibald Wynn and William Lawrence purchased about
1000 acres of Parr’s land and surveyed a townsite
named Ismail (Ishmael). When the first post office was
established in 1876 the community’s name became
Gabion. The community was renamed Port Bolivar in
In 1896 developers L.P. Featherstone and Fox Winnie
constructed a railroad line connecting Point Bolivar
to Galveston and Beaumont. Featherstone was
instrumental in dredging a channel and building a
wharf, where the first cargo ship landed in 1909. The
town prospered and by 1911 contained a schoolhouse and
a Methodist church. Business activity at the wharf
continued to expand and Port Bolivar’s economy surged.
Shipping worldwide slowed at the outset of World War I
and use of the wharf declined. In 1915 the town and
wharf were severely damaged by a storm and many
facilities were never rebuilt. The community turned to
commercial fishing and tourism to successfully
revitalize its economy. Regular ferry service to the
mainland, which began in 1930, continues today.