The Port Arthur News was born in 1897 in a baggage car on one of the earliest excursion trains brought by Port Arthur founder Arthur E. Stilwell to his "Magic City by the Lake."
As part of Stilwell's million-dollar advertising campaign to draw attention — and residents — to his fledgling community, he sent out invitations to business and professional men to take advantage of opportunities here. David L. Stump, an editor from Asbury, Mo., and his two printer sons Leroy and Will set up a Washington hand press in a baggage car at the end of a nine-car excursion train.
With the help of two younger sons, Mark and Forrest, the Stumps printed the first edition of the Port Arthur News on March 17, 1897, while the train was traveling from Kansas City on Stilwell's Kansas City, Pittsburgh and Gulf Railway. The paper hit the streets the next day as the train arrived in Port Arthur, but the Stumps discovered that the newborn paper already had a rival. The Port Arthur Weekly Herald, published by F. Dumont Smith, made its debut the same day.
The first issue of the News carried news about passengers, real estate ads and the word that Ruby Bob Fitzsimmons had taken the world's heavyweight boxing title from James J. Corbett in Carson City, Nev., with a left-handed punch to the solar plexus: "Corbett was knocked out, but Port Arthur, never!" proclaimed an editorial. "The sound of the saw and hammer are heard in every part of our city."
Early subscription rates were listed at $1 per year or 50 cents for six months "strictly in advance." At the time, Port Arthur barely had 50 permanent residents.
The Port Arthur News has not missed an issue since its debut, even through two major storms early in the paper's history brought Port Arthur to a standstill.
Shortly after the News began publication, the 1897 hurricane hit Port Arthur. The paper was printed but not distributed because of a quarantine and an inability to get newsstock. The paper published only a small pamphlet during the 1915 hurricane.
The News' first home was at one end of the historic natatorium established by Stilwell on Fourth Street, across the street from the present Port Arthur Police station. As the town and the paper grew, the News moved to a new location at the corner of Fourth Street and Waco. The paper moved several more times, but finally returned to the Fourth and Waco location in 1926, where it remained until 2004. In August 2004, the News moved its offices across town to 3501 Turtle Creek Drive, and work began on a new production and distribution facility in Orange County.
In 1901, the owners decided to issue a daily (six days a week) publication for in-town subscribers and a weekly for those on mail routes. Business continued to improve, and Associated Press wire services and a motor-driven press capable of printing eight pages were added. In 1916, the Port Arthur News printed its first Sunday edition. The newspaper later abandoned the edition and went back to a six-day schedule. In 1919, Stump sold the News to The News Publishing Co., a group of local businessmen.
The group also purchased another Port Arthur Paper, the Port Arthur Record. For a short time during 1919, the papers were merged into The Port Arthur News-Record. By 1920, the Port Arthur News was the surviving publication. In 1921 E.S. Fentress and Charles Marsh purchased The News Publishing Co. The Fentress organization, later known as Newspapers Inc., also owned papers in Austin, Waco and Lufkin. In 1946 and 1953, the News made additions to the building, and in 1967 completed its million-dollar home, extending from Waco Avenue to Austin Avenue on Fourth Street. In 1973, the News retired its Comet linotype presses and converted from hot type to cold type.
Cox Enterprises, a national newspaper group, bought the News in 1976. Ten years later, the paper changed from an afternoon format, and now is delivered by 6 a.m. each day. In 1991, the News along with its sister paper the Orange Leader were bought by American Publishing Company. In 1999, APC sold the two papers along with several others to Community Newspapers Holdings Inc., owner of the more daily U.S. newspapers than any other company. Today, the Port Arthur News is a vital, working part of the city of Port Arthur and Mid- and South Jefferson County, Texas, with an average circulation of about 20,000.