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Change came to Port Neches via relocation of post office

By W. T. Block

Reprinted from Beaumont Enterprise, Saturday July 3, 1999.

NEDERLAND -- During the past century, many U. S. post offices were robbed, but seldom in history has an entire post office been "stolen," that is, with the exception of Port Neches.

Beginning in 1905, the business district of Port Neches (now referred to as "old town") was confined to the 100-200 blocks of Avenue A, now Grigsby St. There were then 2 merchants there, D. A. Bibb Grocery and Insurance Agency and Gregg, Trussell and Co., also a small church and school. And the center of industrial life was the new Texas Co. (Texaco) asphalt and roofing plant, located a few blocks to the east, where the first Port Neches post office was established in 1902.

By 1918, several other business houses had located in "old town," including the C. O. Baird school, Z. Goolsbee and Co., George Thomas Pharmacy, Liberty Theater, Franks Hotel, J. Levy Dry Goods, Oaks Hotel and the jail house. The First National Bank opened there in 1920. And D. A. Bibb was postmaster in a small wooden building on the northwest corner of Ave. A and Dearing St. By 1922 the old theater housed the newly-organized St. Elizabeth Catholic Church.

Until 1940, a vacant strip of land, the width of Port Neches Park and about 2 miles long, belonged to the City of Port Arthur and separated "old town" from "new town," the latterís business district consisting of the 900 through 1300 blocks of Port Neches Ave. By 1918 three realtors, Abbie and Will Block and M. E. Merriman, had each surveyed a housing addition on each side of Port Neches Ave. And 2 merchants, Will Meeker and A. C. Bigelow, built several new business buildings there. In 1921 Bigelow sold a vacant lot to the new bank, and the next year First National Bank moved into its new home in the 1100 block of Port Neches Ave.

In 1922 Mrs. W. E. Parsons was appointed the new Republican postmaster to replace D. A. Bibb, and the "old town" merchants knew that if she moved the post office to "new town," it would signal the end of "old town" as a business location. Hence they signed a petition to retain the post office where it was, and a justice of the peace threatened to obtain a court injunction to keep it there, although during the 1920ís, a 3rd class postmaster could move a post office wherever he or she desired.

Unknown to the public, a new building had just been completed at 1108 Port Neches Ave. to house the new post office in "new town." One Sunday night while the "old town" residents were in church, the new postmaster and several of her friends backed trucks up to the "old town" post office. They quickly unbolted the mail boxes, counter furniture, scales, and other appurtenances and loaded everything on to the trucks.

As a parting gesture, they left a note on the door that postal activities would begin Monday at the new location in "new town." Then they worked late into the night to install the furniture in the new building.

The "old town" merchants were certainly right about one thing. The removal of the post office and bank to "new town" quickly resulted in the demise of most business activities in "old town."

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