The area known as Port Neches was once inhabited by tribes of the coastal-dwelling Karankawa and Atakapa Native Americans. Smith’s Bluff (the future site of Sun Oil and Union Oil of California riverside property) and Grigsby’s Bluff (now Port Neches) were the only two high land bluffs on the Neches River south of Beaumont. Before 1780, Grigsby’s Bluff, explicitly that part of Port Neches immediately east of Port Neches Park, had been a Native American town for at least 1,500 years, at first of the Karankawa tribe, whose 7-foot skeletons were often found in the burial mounds there; and after 1650 of the Nacazils, a sub-tribe of the Attakapas, who were a short and stocky people before their extinction about 1780. As of 1841, there were six large burial mounds at Grigsby’s Bluff, size about 60 feet wide, 20 feet tall, and 100 yards long, consisting entirely of clam and sea shells, skeletons, pottery shards, and other Native American artifacts. Between 1841 and 1901, all six of the mounds disappeared, a result of human actions. Grigsby’s Bluff became a post office in 1859 (there was also a store and sawmill there), but the office was discontinued in 1893. The city of Port Neches was later incorporated in 1902.
Port Neches was also the site of Fort Grigsby, a set of American Civil War-era defenses intended to stop a Union advance up the Neches River. The fort was constructed in October 1862, and abandoned sometime after July 1863. Its guns, munitions, and stores were moved to the then-unfinished Fort Griffin, the site of the famous Second Battle of Sabine Pass, often credited as the most one-sided Confederate victory of the American Civil War.
Over 130 years later, Her Majesty Beatrix, Queen of the Netherlands, appointed W. T. Block Jr. (his son) as "Knight of the Royal Order of Orange-Nassau" in a ceremony held at the Tex Ritter Park in Nederland, Texas. The award was presented by the Consul General of the Kingdom of the Netherlands. W.T. Block, Jr. is known for his work in reconstructing the history of Dutch settlers in the Port Neches areas.
Through its history, beginning in 1834 as Grigsby's Bluff and continuing after its incorporation in 1902, the City of Port Neches has had a special relationship with the natural environment, particularly the Neches River. From agriculture and timber to oil and synthetics, the City has depended heavily on the river as its lifeline. Today, the greater Neches River Basin is an international attraction for "experiential" tourism; whether that might be fishing, hunting, birding, boating or many other out-door experiences that are abundant and readily available.
The Oak Bluff cemetery, located near the river, is the burial site of famed country music singer and actor Tex Ritter.