Fort Manhassett Disgorges Huge Treasure of Artifacts
Reprint from The Port Arthur News, Sunday, August 30, 1970.
SABINE PASSExcavators of the newly-found Fort Manhassett here have received an unexpected bonus in digging Friday and Saturday.
During what was supposed to be token digging for pictures, three cannonballs were unearthed Friday.
By late Saturday, some 30 cannonballs and kegs of gunpowder were discovered.
The first three cannonballs were discovered by accident about one foot from the surface when a tractor equipped with digging machinery was set into operation at noon Friday for news reporters and cameramen who were on the scene to witness the start of digging for the fort, which was itself the object of a three month search. Thc find was made in one of five mounds to be searched during the excavation.
The artifacts are intended to be used in a proposed museum here, according to W. T. Block of Nederland, a Lamar Tech history instructor who is one of the descendants of Albert Block, an early settler of Port Neches and a Confederate soldier of Company B, Spaights Texas Infantry. Company B manned Fort Griffin during the Battle of Sabine Pass.
Block said, "Sabine Pass is too small to construct a museum. This should be an area project."
"Fort Griffin was, manned by soldiers of Orange, Liberty and Jefferson Counties and should be of historical interest to the people around here," he said.
Block is the man who verified the location of Fort Manhassett last week with 1863 maps of Sabine Pass.
Jimmy Lee, publicity chairman for the "Dick Dowling Days" celebration held each year beginning Sept. 4 to commemorate the Battle of Sabine Pass, was on hand with Block Friday when the cannonballs were discovered.
Lee said Fort Manhassett was not the scene of any major battles. He termed it "a quiet bit of history."
Digging continued at the site late Friday and resumed Saturday. Guards were posted during the night to protect the grounds from treasure seekers.
A crowd of 150 spectators watched Saturday as more cannonballs were unearthed along with crumbling wooden kegs of gunpowder which have been drenched by a dozen hurricane floods during the past 100 years.
The relics were found at a depth of eight feet. Electronic detectors are being used in the search.
The area was roped off Saturday to avoid injuries as the digging continued. By late Saturday some 30 cannonballs had been wrested from the mud.
Lee said the digging "is a wonderful prelude to the 1970 Dick Dowling Days set for next weekend." he added, "Weve barely scratched the surface."
Four of the five fort breastworks remained untouched Saturday with traces of trenches used by Confederate soldiers clearly visible.
All items found will be tagged with the name of the finder and the date of discovery for use in the proposed museum, which has gained the support of State Sen. D. Roy Harrington, the Texas Historical Society, and the United Daughters of the Confederacy.
Area persons who have mementos and artifacts found around Sabine Pass are urged to return them for use in the museum. Each item will be similarly marked with the contributors name and discovery date.
Sabine Pass Chamber of Commerce representatives taking part in digging, in addition to Lee, include George Trotter, Chamber president, Art Hailer, Robert Eldridge and Constable Rudolph Franklin.