ORANGE — The Port of Orange makes her bow to the world with the advent of the completion of her twenty five foot channel to tide water, adding her to the roster of Deep Water Ports of the Gulf of Mexico. -Orange Leader, 1916
By the turn of the 20th Century Orange had been a river port for over 50 years. The town had grown both in population and industry. The sawmills at Orange were increasing production, there was cotton still coming down the river from East Texas, and it would not be many more years before the production of rice would become a major crop in the area.
Around this time Sabine Pass, located at the mouth of Sabine Lake , was the entrance to Southeast Texas from the Gulf of Mexico. Port Arthur on the upper end of Sabine Lake was becoming a tourist destination for the millionaires of the Mid-West regions. Palatial vacation homes were being built on Sabine Lake at Port Arthur. Arthur Stilwell had originally developed the town named after him. After John W. “Bet-A-Million” Gates brought his Kansas City Southern Railroad into Port Arthur, a power struggle developed and Stilwell left Port Arthur forever.
Gates went into competition with Sabine Pass in an effort to be named a Port of Entry. No tactics were held back in the competition. In one submission to the government, Gates published a brochure that showed the main street of Sabine Pass in a very unkempt, muddy condition with two large hogs in the middle of the street. His portrayal of Port Arthur was to show the main street, Proctor, paved and lined with business. Eventually both towns would be named as Sub Ports of Entry.
Water depth was not sufficient through Sabine Pass and across Sabine Lake for deep water ships. There was a shoal in the channel at Sabine Pass that limited ships trying to sail to Port Arthur and Orange. Often a ship drawing only five feet of water would drag when attempting to cross the shoal.