The original Portal was located 2 miles north of the current site on Old Portal Road. It got its name in 1894, when the U.S. Postal Service approved a post office for Portal. The E. E. Foy Company, of Effingham County, built a mercantile store that was the center of the new town. Portal was located near the end of a private railroad that Foy built to transport logs to his sawmill at Rocky Ford in Screven County. Farmers and timber workers prospered in this new town. Prominent family names in Portal were Davis, Finch, Parsons, and McCroan.
By 1904 the axe and the saw had claimed most of the timber in the area, and the Foy Company looked elsewhere for uncut forests. After closing the company store, Foy sold titles to lots of Old Portal.
A public rail line - the Savannah, Augusta, and Northern Railway - began serving this area of Bulloch County in 1907. People of Portal moved to a bustling community near the new railroad. In the words of the historian, R. Frank Saunders, Jr., "Portal has a heritage - proud and honorable - second to none."