County Seat: Orange | County Population: 84,808 (2020 Census)
The earliest trials in Orange County were conducted beneath shade trees or in a room above a Water Street business house shared by the Masonic Lodge. The first official temple of justice was a single-story, wooden affair on Market Street built in 1853. The courthouse doubled as a gathering place for civic meetings and religious services.
James J. Digon of Orange drew plans for a second courthouse, a $6,200, two-story building completed in 1884. This judicial edifice burned just three years later; thanks to a sturdy steel vault, most of the records survived the blaze.
The current courthouse was erected in 1937. The brick, limestone, and marble structure boasts a Moderne style, created by C.H. Page of Austin. The courthouse was expanded in 1960.
Orange County was carved from Jefferson County and organized in 1852. According to most historians, the county is named after the orange grove planted by early settlers at the mouth of the Sabine River.
The county seat was originally called Madison. However, confusion with Madisonville prompted the name change to Orange in 1858, when the town was incorporated.
Orange County is bordered by the Sabine River on the east and the Neches River on the south and west. Both of these rivers drain to Sabine Lake, which in turn feeds into the Gulf of Mexico through the Sabine Pass.
In its early days, the county served as a gateway to Texas and the West. Its proximity to the Gulf of Mexico fashioned the county seat into a maritime center. For example, by 1861, more than 20,000 bales of cotton were shipped from this growing port city.
While Orange survived the Civil War intact, the town was decimated by a major hurricane on Sept. 13, 1865. In the late 1870s and early 1880s, citizens experienced a rebirth of sorts, thanks to the reopening of a railroad and the arrival of several lumber operations.
The early 1990s ushered in yet another new era with the discovery of oil at the Bland Well. The county’s population hit a record high of 15,379 in 1920. The numbers continued to swell until the Depression. The defense needs of World War II induced another swell when shipbuilding reached new heights.
DuPont moved to Orange in 1944 followed by other manufacturers including Allied, Spencer, Firestone, and Goodrich-Gulf. Today the economy continues to be supported by petrochemicals and shipping.
Recreational opportunities include boating and fishing on Lake Sabine and the museums and historic homes within the city of Orange.