Port O'Connor is an unincorporated community and census-designated place (CDP) in Calhoun County, Texas, United States, near the Gulf coastline between Galveston and Corpus Christi. The CDP had a population of 1,253 at the 2010 census. It is part of the Victoria, Texas Metropolitan Statistical Area.
The primary industry of Port O'Connor is sportfishing and tourism, with shrimping very close behind. The area is renowned for bay, off-shore and wade fishing, with redfish, trout, and flounder among the most common catches. Sports enthusiasts also come to Port O'Connor to hunt duck, geese and alligator.
A short boat ride across Matagorda Bay from Port O'Connor lies the pristine natural habitat of Matagorda Island. Once an Army air base, the island is now a National Preserve and home to a wide variety of endangered migratory birds. Visitors come from all over the country to observe these rare and beautiful species.
The weather in Port O'Connor is warm to hot in the summers, with winters cool to icy. Humidity is rather high, and the area has been host to hurricane landings several times within the past 100 years.
Due to its small size, all mail is sent to the general post office, which has no door-to-door delivery service. On February 9, 1996, the town started its own newspaper, Dolphin Talk, which covers stories on local events in Port O'Connor and its surrounding areas.
Port O'Connor was laid out in the late 19th century as a fishing settlement called "Alligator Head". As it grew in popularity with both permanent residents and tourists, the community took on more municipal characteristics, earning the formal designation finally in 1909 as the town site of Port O'Connor. It was named after its main landowner at the time, Thomas M. O'Connor, who owned 70,000 acres (280 km2). Aside from local cattle herding and fishing, the town was also a producer of figs and citrus fruit.
Its initial population growth spanned the ten years from 1909 to 1919. Excursion trains used to run on weekends to Port O'Connor, and an estimated 10,000 tourists came every summer.
Four times in the history of Port O'Connor it has been struck by hurricanes. The 1919 Florida Keys hurricane brought the "good old days" to a halt, destroying the town. It rebuilt slowly but the 1942 and 1945 hurricanes so close in time were hard to overcome. In 1961 Port O'Connor was in the midst of another growth boom due to the increase of military personnel on nearby Matagorda Island Air Force Base. That same year Hurricane Carla destroyed the town again; but times reflect its will to survive, fueled by tourism, commercial fisheries and the petrochemical industry.
Port O'Connor is served by the Calhoun County Independent School District.
Due to its small population the town only has one school, Port O'Connor Elementary School, which has the dolphin as its mascot. Port O'Connor Elementary School covers Pre-Kindergarten through grade six. Children are then bussed to the nearby town of Port Lavaca to finish their seventh through twelfth grade educations. The secondary schools that serve Port O'Connor are Seadrift Middle School, Travis Middle School, and Calhoun High School.
Aside from the school, Port O'Connor has a handful of landmark buildings. Two of the oldest buildings are the First Baptist Church on 5th Street and Jefferson, and Saint Joseph's Catholic Church on Adams and Washington. The town has recently built a community center where local groups and individuals can meet in either a recreation atmosphere or for general meetings. Several local watering holes are the Hurricane Junction, open under new ownership, Bob's Bar, The Cantina and Madden's Lounge
Another local treasure is the Matagorda Island Lighthouse, depicted in the town's Chamber of Commerce seal. Formerly it served as a working lighthouse beginning in 1873, but over the years has now served as a landmark monument to times gone by. In 1984 it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places by the United States Department of the Interior. The black conical tower, which was automated in 1956, is made of cast iron and features a solar powered light.
The Front Beach Pier is a town landmark that is most active in the summer season. Destroyed in 2003's Hurricane Claudette, it was rebuilt one year later and serves as a scenic look-out point to Matagorda Bay. Another major landmark in the town is Clark's Marina. At over 95 years old, the seafood part of the business is one of the oldest in the state. It was founded by Homer P. Clark in Galveston, Texas, in 1917, and moved to Port O'Connor in 1930. The restaurant closed in recent years, leaving the marina to serve the area and carry on the Clark legacy of service.