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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Gulf, Texas

Ken Stavinoha recently posted a photo of Gulf, Texas on Facebook.  (Actually, he offered it to Traces of Texas, which posted it on their Facebook page.)  I was intrigued because I've been looking into the sulfur mines in Matagorda & Brazoria Counties.  I wasn't aware of Gulf, which was south of Bay City.  (It no longer exists.)  Many of you are probably familiar with New Gulf in Wharton County, near of Boling.  

As you can see from the photo, it was quite a place, but it vanished pretty quickly when the sulfur mines dried up.

Here's the explanatory text that appeared with the photo:

Traces of Texas reader Ken Stavinoha graciously submitted this razor-sharp photo of Gulf, Texas, in 1924. Gulf, also known as Old Gulf, Big Hill, and Gulf Hill, was near the junction of Boggy Creek and the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway, sixteen miles south of Bay City in south central Matagorda County. It was identified on some maps as Gulf Hill. In 1901 the nearby Gulf or Big Hill dome was prospected for oil, and some small production was achieved. More important was the incidental discovery of sulfur, and prospecting for sulfur began as early as 1909.

The community was organized by the Gulf Sulfur Company around 1917; in 1918 Gulf secured its own post office and was a stop on the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe line. Sulfur production actually got underway in 1919. That year the Texas Gulf Sulfur Company operated the country's second largest sulfur mine. Gulf was a company town. Dwellings ranged from "shotgun" houses of two and three rooms to comfortable bungalows occupied by company executives and salaried men and their families. By 1921 a brick schoolhouse had been constructed by the independent school district organized by the residents. A dance pavilion and a dairy were provided by the company. Photographs from that time show the community as a cluster of neat, white row houses. Even buildings housing local businesses were company-owned and rented to the merchants.

By 1928 six pumping stations at Gulf received the sulfur from more than thirty wells in the Big Hill Sulfur field; the next year there were reportedly 1,500 people living in and around the town. The Texas Gulf Sulfur Company operated in Gulf from 1919 to 1932, during which time the company produced 11,804,648 tons of sulphur. After the sulphur played out, Gulf declined. Twelve businesses were listed there in 1933, and by 1936 a bituminous-surfaced road served the community. Gulf's population was reported at 1,500 through 1943, but by 1945 it had an estimated 300 residents and only one business. Those estimates remained constant through 1949, when population statistics for Gulf became unavailable. By 1949 the Gulf school had been consolidated with the Matagorda Independent School District. In 1952 the site was still marked on local maps, but no buildings were shown there. Gulf was not shown on the 1989 county highway map.

Ken has contributed several awesome photos to this page and I know y'all join with me in thanking him for them! Great shot, Ken!