Historical Sketch of Orange County
Orange County Historical Wall
— Orange County 1852-1982 —
The history of Orange County is actually the story of utilization and development of the natural resources of this part of southeast Texas. For more than a century and a half, lumber, agriculture, shipbuilding, oil, and finally chemically related industries have been the chief occupations of its inhabitants. The county lies on a fertile coastal prairie where alluvial and sandy soils and over sixty inches of rain a year produce abundant crops, timber and an adequate supply of fresh water. The Sabine River on the east, the Neches River on the southwest, and the Sabine Lake to the south provide waterways to the county.
The Attacapa Indians were the initial inhabitants of the region. Their village was on the east bank of the Neches River, but they spent most of the years on the streams, rivers, and the lake in Orange County. The first settlers in the area were French traders and trappers who moved here from the French occupied New Orleans area about 1718. In 1754, Spanish troops arrested and expelled the French trappers from this region. English traders visited this area in the early 1770's and traded for a short time with them. Apparently
Following the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, Spain and the United States recognized a narrow buffer strip east of the Sabine as neutral ground. This area was settled by outlaws, pirates and other exiles. After Mexico won her independence from Spain in 1821, Anglo- Americans began to immigrate to Orange County. The earliest settlers came down the Neches and Sabine Rivers on rafts and barges. Others arrived by wagons from the north and boats from the Gulf of Mexico. The earliest settlement was along the Cow Bayou area of the county in 1820 to 1825. Between 1825 and 1835, Green's Bluff, now downtown Orange, was first settled. John Harmon and his wife, Elizabeth, were probably the first permanent settlers at Green's Bluff. The Garners, Stephensons, Allens, Jetts, Ritches and Coles were the earliest settlers in the Cow Bayou region. This settlement was renamed Jefferson in 1835 and became the county seat of Jefferson County, which encompassed Orange and Jefferson Counties. Green's Bluff was renamed Madison in 1842. On February 5, 1852, Orange County was created from Jefferson County. In 1858, Madison was renamed Orange and became the county seat of
Initially this was a farming community but soon logging and shingle making developed because of the surrounding natural resources. After the Civil War, Orange was practically deserted because of the lack of manpower and money and the occurrence of a disastrous hurricane. In the late 1870's and early 1880's, investors and speculators moved here from the East and began buying large tracts of timbered land and establishing large sawmills. Logs were floated down the great rivers to the Orange area, where the timber was cut into rough lumber and loaded on barges and shipped to Galveston and New Orleans by way of Sabine Pass. During this same period, the Texas & New Orleans Railroad System was extended into Orange County from Houston and New Orleans. In 1894, a six foot channel was cleared over the Sabine Pass bar, and the rivers were opened to paddle boat cotton traffic many miles above the cities of Orange and Beaumont.
Because of the coastal plain type geography of the county, rice was farmed in the area beginning in the 1890's. At the same time cattle raising and general farming developed in the area.
Shipbuilding began in the area as early as 1859, because of the large amount of timber available, craftsmen who were able to work with wood and the abundant river system. In 1914, with Federal help, the intercoastal canal was extended to the city of Orange and
Oil was discovered in the Orangefield portion of the county in 1913, and by 1921, an oil boom was occurring in the county.
The county continued its financial development until World War I, at which time because of its recently completed deep sea canal going to the Gulf, its large amount of timber, its skilled artisans, and the presence of small shipyards, large wartime contracts were let for building wooden merchant sailing ships. Very few of the ships were completed before the war ended. Only one or two were actually ever used. The remainder were dry-docked and finally burned over a period of years. During World War I, Orange's population soared to almost 50,000 people. Shortly thereafter the population crashed back to 5,000.
Because of the cutting of all of the easily accessible timber, the reduced demand for lumber, and onset of the Great Depression of the early 1930's, the area slowly lost all of its great sawmills. In the early 1930's, no major mills were in operation. Most were closed, burned, or otherwise lost forever. Orange's economy was extremely depressed throughout the 1930's until World War II began. At that time large contracts were let for various types of warships and merchant vessels. Orange's population again boomed to over 70,000. At the end of this war, because of careful planning, Orange was able to attract large industries
Chairman, Orange County Historical Society
March 28, 1982
Erected 1982 by Orange County Historical Commission and Orange County Historical Society.
Topics. This historical marker is listed in this topic list: Settlements & Settlers.
Location. 30° 5.395′ N, 93° 44.172′ W. Marker is in Orange, Texas, in Orange County. Marker is at the intersection of West Division Street and Seventh Street, on the right when traveling west on West Division Street. Touch for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 801 West Division Street, Orange TX 77630, United States of America. Touch for directions.
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within walking distance of this marker. Orange County (within shouting distance of this marker); Orange County and the Civil War (within shouting distance of this marker); Jimmy Ochiltree Sims Home (about 600 feet away, measured in a direct line); Orange Dairy Company (about 800 feet away); William Henry Stark (approx. 0.2 miles away); Henry Jacob Lutcher (approx. 0.2 miles away); Henry Jacob Lutcher Stark (approx. 0.2 miles away); History of Orange, Texas Rotary Club (approx. 0.2 miles away). Touch for a list and map of all markers in Orange.
More about this marker. Wall features old photographs of structures and buildings on reverse side and photos of past Judges of Orange County as well as lists of former government officials of Orange County.
Credits. This page was last revised on April 15, 2018. It was originally submitted on April 15, 2018, by Cajun Scrambler of Assumption, Louisiana. This page has been viewed 153 times since then and 20 times this year. Photos: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6. submitted on April 15, 2018.