Montgomery County -- Birthplace of Texas

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Heritage Museum
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Montgomery County, Texas

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Welcome to Montgomery County, Texas!

P.O. Box 2262
Conroe, TX 77305-2262

History of Montgomery County, Texas

Early Settlers &  History Of Various Towns

ANDERSON

Originally named Fanthorp - the name of the town was changed after Kenneth Anderson who was the last vice-president of Texas.  Anderson died in Fanthorp in 1845.

Anderson is an anomaly - a county seat with a small population just a few miles from the largest town in the county. Although the population never exceeded 500 persons, it managed to retain its status as county seat.   Navasota got the railroad. In the 19th Century,  getting the railroad meant the difference between guaranteed prosperity and a slow economic death. The distance between the towns is a mere ten miles. During the early days of the Republic of Texas, stagecoaches rumbled across East Texas, carrying passengers from one distant community to another.

But passengers who were unlikely to have friends and relatives conveniently living in certain communities found overnight lodging hard to come by.  Some roadside homeowners saw the need and opened their homes to the passengers. As a result, many pioneer homes evolved into some of East Texas' best known stagecoach inns.
One such place was the Fanthorp Inn in Anderson today maintained as a state historical park with many of its original furnishings. Henry Fanthorp, an Englishmen who migrated to Texas in 1832, and his wife Rachel founded the Inn in the l840s to serve stagecoach passengers passing the dogtrot log house he built in 1834. The house was expanded by Fanthorp between 1848 and 1859 to accommodate more guests and soon became known as the Fanthorp Inn. The Fanthorps' parlor became a room where travelers could rest on their journey.

The stagecoaches not only carried East Texans and the mail, but newcomers seeking new lives for their families in Texas, where land was plentiful, fertile and inexpensive.  Anderson residents picked up their mail at the inn (Fanthorp was the postmaster). The inn also became a community center, a polling place, the site of dances and community parties, and the founding site for a Masonic Lodge and a Methodist church.

Business was brisk in the town, which at the time was known as Alta Mira, meaning high view. An early victim of annexation, Alta Mira lost its identity in 1846 when Grimes County was organized and the settlement was absorbed into Anderson.

Fanthorp, a shrewd businessman, served liquor in the parlor, guaranteeing the return of the men of the community as well as traveling men. Women seldom traveled in those days. General Sam Houston, a friend of Fanthorp, was a frequent visitor. So were Anson Jones, Ulysses S. Grant, Zachary Taylor, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Kenneth Anderson, the last vice president of the Republic of Texas and the man for whom Anderson was named.

Just outside the dining room was the kitchen, where slaves prepared meals. A nearby cistern became a breeding ground for mosquitoes and a contributor to yellow fever, a disease that killed Henry and Rachel in 1867.  After their deaths, the Fanthorps' daughter, Mary Fanthorp Stone, took over the inn. She turned it into a private home, however, and Fanthorp descendants lived in the house until it was conveyed to the state.
 


BAY’S CHAPEL

A decade before the Civil War, Thomas Bay and his wife, Mary, left  Haywood County, Tennessee for Texas. The couple had 8 children. Their families traveled with the Bays.  The families included William Harrison and wife Cynthia, Andrew Foster and wife Elizabeth,   Bob and Jane Williamson, James Henry, Rebecca, Joseph, Sallie and  Thomas Boen, a Mr. Duckworth, a widower, and his three children.  The families bought and settled on the J. H. Collard headright.  They built homes of hewn logs.  They constructed a log building which served  as church and school.  The building became known as Bay’s Chapel Church and School.  There were eight members who joined the church by letter in 1851.  Their names were:  Thomas and Mary Bay, William Harrison and Cynthia Bay,  Andrew Foster Bay,  Jane Williamson,  James and Sarah Bay.  Over the next few years the congregation and  community increased in size.  Among early settlers were Williamsons,  Neasons, Hokes, Sims, Keislers, Edwards, Leonards, Satchers,  Harmons, Oliphants, Hendricks, Myres, Coopers,  Gortmans, Welches, Thomases, Worshams, Johnsons, and Caldwells.  After the Civil War,  many of these families moved on to Longstreet which was three miles east of Anderson and two miles into present day Montgomery County.

 

BEACH

The site of Beach is located on State Highway 105 about two miles east of Conroe in central Montgomery County. This community began in the late 1800s as a sawmill town and stop on the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway.  Isaac Conroe, founder of nearby Conroe, chose the location for a sawmill to take advantage of the burgeoning timber industry in the region. He named the site Beach and constructed a large frame building that included a commissary, offices, and living quarters. Highway maps during the 1930s showed dwellings, businesses, and a church in Beach. As the lumber business declined, sawmill towns such as Beach also declined. By 1990 the community did not appear on highway maps. No population estimates were available in 2000.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Montgomery County Genealogical Society, Montgomery County History (Winston-Salem, North Carolina: Hunter, 1981).

 

BOBVILLE

Bobville* is at the crossing of Bobville Road and the Atchison, Topeka and  Santa Fe Railway, a mile south of Dobbin and twenty miles west of Conroe in western Montgomery County. In 1878,  the Central and Montgomery Railway line from Navasota to Montgomery was built through the Bobville area. A man named Glen, who worked for the Santa Fe line, named the water tank and depot. The community was established sometime after 1887 as a lumber-shipping point on the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe. Around 1906-07, the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railway came through a mile east of  Bobville, and some businesses and residents moved to Bobbin, later called Dobbin, on the railroad junction. By 1910,  Bobville had a population of 100.

A post office operated there from 1911 to 1919. By 1915,  Bobville had a population of 200, a telephone connection, and three general stores. The town had a church and several scattered dwellings during the mid-1940s. Though a 1986 map showed Bobville with a railroad switch and several houses near the rail line, by 1990,  the Bobville switch and depot were gone, and only a few ranches off Bobville Road and a few stores east of town remained.(*SEE DOBBIN)

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Montgomery County Genealogical Society, Montgomery County History (Winston-Salem, North Carolina: Hunter, 1981).

 

 CONROE

Conroe, the county seat of Montgomery County, is on Interstate Highway 45 at the junction of the Union Pacific and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroads, seven miles southeast of Lake Conroe in central Montgomery County.  In 1881, Houston lumberman Isaac Conroe, established a sawmill on Stewart’s Creek two miles east of the International-Great Northern Railroad's Houston-Crockett line on a tract of land in the J. G. Smith survey, first settled in the late 1830s. A small tram line connected the mill to the I-GN track, but Conroe soon transferred his operations down the tracks to the rail junction, where his new mill became a station on the I-GN. In January 1884,  a post office was established at the mill commissary, and, at the suggestion of railroad official H. M. Hoxey, the community took the name Conroe's Switch, in honor of the Northern-born, former Union cavalry officer who founded it and served as its first postmaster; within a decade the name was shortened to Conroe.

In the mid-1880s,  the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway extended its Navasota-Montgomery spur eastward through the town, which thus became the only junction of major rail lines in the county. Conroe Mill School was established in 1886, and not long afterward the community's first black school was founded at Madeley Quarters, south of town. A lumber boom began in the late nineteenth century in the Piney Woods of eastern and central Montgomery County.  This boom  attracted scores of settlers to Conroe.  By 1889,  the population had climbed to an estimated 300. In that year Conroe replaced Montgomery as county seat. A residence donated by Isaac Conroe served as a temporary courthouse until a permanent brick structure could be erected in 1891. By the early 1890s,  Methodist, Presbyterian, and Baptist congregations were organized in the town; they initially shared a single house of worship. Simultaneously, black residents founded Baptist and African Methodist Episcopal congregations.

By 1892,  the community had become a shipping center for lumber, cotton, livestock, and bricks, and had five steam-powered saw and planning mills, several brickyards, a cotton gin, a gristmill, several hotels and general stores, and a population of 500. The Conroe Independent School District was established in 1892, combining twelve nearby common school districts, and within a year a second white school was established in the town. By 1896,  the community's first weekly newspaper, the Courier, had been founded.

During the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries Conroe briefly shipped local tobacco. In 1900,  a four-room schoolhouse for white pupils of all grades was constructed, and the local black school was transferred to the building abandoned by the whites. Since 1900,  most black residences have been in a district on the southeastern edge of town. In 1902 the town's first white high school class graduated. Three years later a public school library was established. In April 1903,  a private coeducational vocational school for blacks was founded by Dr. Jimmie Johnson on a seven-acre tract in northeast Conroe and quickly began to attract students from around the state. Funds for support of the institution were solicited from black churches, conventions, and organizations throughout the nation; local white residents also made financial contributions to the school and provided its students with employment in their homes and businesses. By the end of World War Iqv the college's enrollment had climbed above 400.

By 1900,  Conroe was Montgomery County's largest community. It was incorporated in 1904 with a population of 1,009, and its first mayor and city council were elected the following year. In 1906,  the first electric lighting appeared in the town when an electrical generating plant was constructed on nearby Stewarts Creek. About 1910,  the community's first Catholic church was constructed, and the first black public school was established. Over the next two decades the Conroe Independent School District was expanded to encompass twenty-five square miles. Some 617 pupils were enrolled in the district by 1913. Six years later the first black high school in Conroe was established.

The prosperity of the local agriculture and timber industries in the early twentieth century enabled Conroe to continue its rapid early growth despite severe fires in 1901 and 1911, which destroyed much of the business district near the courthouse square. Southwest of town in 1913,  the Delta Land and Timber Company established one of the most extensive milling operations in the South; the company eventually employed 700 people. In addition to its many churches and schools, by 1914 Conroe had two banks, five grocery and hardware stores, two dry-goods stores, two drugstores, a cotton gin, a waterworks, a planing mill, numerous sawmills, box factories, cross-tie mills, two weekly newspapers, the Courier and the Montgomery County Times, and an estimated population of 1,374. The population continued to climb for the next several years, reaching an estimated 1,858 in the mid-twenties and an estimated 2,457 by 1931.

A sanitarium was established in Conroe in 1920. The community acquired its first fire truck in 1921, and two years built its first fire station. In 1922,  the courthouse grounds became the scene of communal violence when a black mill worker accused of rape was lynched. In the mid-1920s,  the Dr Pepper Companyqv opened a soft-drink plant in the community. In 1925,  the Conroe Independent School District was enlarged to its present size, 330 square miles, with the inclusion of fifteen rural common schools and 600 additional pupils scattered through central and southern Montgomery County. Children from discontinued schools were transported in private buses to schools in Conroe.

After years of sustained growth, the town's prosperity was threatened in the late 1920s by the dwindling of the improperly managed local timber supply. Then in 1930,  the spreading effects of the Great Depressionqv struck Montgomery County, drastically curtailing lumber production and forcing many mills to close. In November 1930,  Conroe's only bank abruptly failed and pushed many residents and institutions into financial doldrums for many years. Faced with precipitous declines in revenue, Conroe's schools struggled to complete full terms. But the community's fortunes began to improve on December 13, 1931, when George W. Strakeqv discovered oil seven miles southeast of town, thus marking the opening of the Conroe oilfieldqv and triggering an oil boom in the county. Within weeks,  the local economy had revived, as many petroleum wholesalers, retailers, and service companies and thousands of workers entered the town. By 1933,  the population was an estimated 5,000, and eighty-four business were reported in the community. The Conroe school district, rescued from financial distress by the discovery of oil within its boundaries, became one of the wealthiest in the state, and its enrollment began to grow rapidly. A new black high school was built in 1933, and a new white elementary school and a junior high were soon constructed. A community center and a swimming pool were completed by the district in the early 1940s.

The oil revenues and population influx of the 1930s lent Conroe a boomtown atmosphere. It briefly claimed more millionaires per capita than any other town in the United States. During the early 1930s streets were paved for the first time, and U.S. Highway 75 was extended through the town. The thirty-seven-room State Hotel was completed in 1933. The ornate Crighton Theater was erected on the courthouse square in 1935. In 1936,  a new courthouse was constructed, and two years later a county hospital was completed not far from the courthouse square. That year the population surged to an estimated 10,000, but it soon began to subside as production in the Conroe oilfield crested and began a gradual decline. By 1941,  the population stood at an estimated 4,624.

During World War IIqv the town's lumber industry revived, but it never regained its earlier preeminence and lapsed into a steady decline after 1950. Its former position was increasingly assumed by chemical firms, including a carbon black factory (see CARBON BLACK INDUSTRY) and a recycling plant, established after the oil discovery. The Montgomery County Airport, three miles northeast of town on Farm Road 1484, was constructed during the war as a military facility but since 1945 has served as a local airfield. In 1946,  the Montgomery County Library was established in Conroe. A new black high school constructed in the early 1950s remained the pride of the black community until Conroe's schools were desegregated in 1968. By 1952,  Conroe had a population estimated at 7,313 and 340 businesses. The population climbed to an estimated 9,192 in 1961 and 11,969 in 1972.

With the construction of Interstate Highway 45, increasing numbers of Houstonians took up residence on the margins of Conroe. Lake Conroe was impounded in the late 1960s and early 1970s, seven miles northwest on the West Fork of the San Jacinto River, further stimulating local growth.

In addition to the familiar lumber and petrochemical concerns, a number of new manufacturing and engineering firms have been established in Conroe. The population reached an estimated 18,034 by 1982. Conroe Independent School District had an enrollment of 8,873 in 1971 and 15,112 by 1976. In 1980 the district employed 1,200 teachers in twenty-eight schools. Conroe Normal and Industrial College has struggled for survival since the depression; by 1980 enrollment had been reduced to 176. In the 1980s Conroe had two hospitals, a nursing home, ten medical clinics, nineteen churches, three radio stations, a television station, a cab company, e new sewage treatment plant, and a newspaper named the Daily Courier. The population grew to 27,610 by 1990.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Robin Navarro Montgomery, The History of Montgomery County (Austin: Jenkins, 1975). Montgomery County Genealogical Society, Montgomery County History (Winston-Salem, North Carolina: Hunter, 1981). The Choir Invisible: An Early History of Montgomery County (Montgomery, Texas: Montgomery Historical Society, 195?).

 

 COWL SPUR

Cowl Spur was on Farm Road 2854 and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, six miles west of Conroe in west central Montgomery County.  For Montgomery County citizens it was due west of  where McDade Estates is today.    The town was named after a spur and siding on the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe. During the early 1930s,  the Day Lumber and Timber Company had a timber mill there. In 1938,  Day Lumber sold out to Daniel's Lumber Company and Retail Lumber and Building Materials. They changed the name to the People's Lumber and Building Materials Company soon after.  In the 1940s,  the town had thirty dwellings and three businesses, including a sawmill and a railroad station. From 1940 to 1965,  the population of Cowl Spur  was reported at fifty. By 1965,  the area had become part of the Conroe Independent School District.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Montgomery County Genealogical Society, Montgomery County History (Winston-Salem, North Carolina: Hunter, 1981).                                                                                 

 

CUT AND SHOOT

Cut and Shoot (Cut 'n Shoot, Cut N Shoot) is six miles east of Conroe and forty miles north of Houston in eastern Montgomery County. It was, apparently, named after a 1912 community confrontation that almost led to violence. According to the different versions of the story, the dispute was either over the design of a new steeple for the town's only church, the issue of who should be allowed to preach there, or conflicting land claims among church members. A small boy at the scene reportedly declared, "I'm going to cut around the corner and shoot through the bushes in a minute!" The boy's phrase, apparently, remained in residents' minds and was eventually adopted as the town's name. Population statistics were not reported for the community until the mid-1970s, when the number of residents was fifty. By 1980, the incorporated community reported a population of 809 and had built a new city hall and supported a school and several businesses. Cut and Shoot had a post office by the mid-1980s. The community's population was reported as 903 in 1990.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: William Harley Gandy, A History of Montgomery County, Texas (M.A. thesis, University of Houston, 1952). Robin Navarro Montgomery, Cut 'n Shoot: The Roy Harris Story (Austin: Eakin Press, 1984).

Robin N. Montgomery

 

DACUS

Dacus is at the junction of Farm Road 1486 and the Burlington Northern Railroad, a half mile from Lake Creek and twenty-two miles northwest of Conroe in the northwestern corner of Montgomery County. The town was named for J. B. Dacus, an early settler. French explorer René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle camped in the area on February 15 and 16, 1687. He found an Indian village of about forty huts in the vicinity. One of the first permanent white settlers in the area was Francis A. B. Wheeler, who established a

homestead on the site around 1823. In order to encourage settlement, Wheeler offered  small tracts of free land to families who met with his approval.  One of Wheeler’s direct descendents, Price Daniel, became governor of the great State of Texas in 1956.  A post office was established at the community in 1889 and remained in operation until around 1955. In its early days,  it was known as a farmers' post office and received mail semiweekly. Edwin E. A. Goodin was the postmaster. Around 1907,  the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railway reached Dacus. By 1915,  the community had two general stores, two stock breeders, a stock dealer, a hotel, a blacksmith, and a population of 100. By 1946,  the railroad had been taken over by the Burlington Northern and Rock Island; that year Dacus had a few dwellings, a church, a business, and the railroad station. By 1962,  the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific had taken over the railroad line, and Dacus had a church and scattered dwellings. Its population was 161 in 1973, the last year for which statistics were available. In 1990 the community comprised a general store, a Baptist church, and a few houses.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Robin Navarro Montgomery, The History of Montgomery County (Austin: Jenkins, 1975).

 

DANVILLE

Danville, an East Texas settlement four miles west of New Waverly on the old Houston road in northern Montgomery County, was reported to be prospering  as early as 1838 and again in 1850. Danville was on the lower Coushatta Trace and was perhaps named by Samuel and Joseph Lindley, who moved their families to this area from Danville, Illinois, in 1830. At its height in the mid-1800s, the community had about 1,000 residents, 600 of whom were slaves. It had fourteen businesses, including two blacksmith shops, two mercantile stores, and an inn, as well as a cotton gin, general store, saloon, saddle shop, hotel, and grocery store. The town hosted Sam Houston  at a barbecue on September 11, 1858.  The town had thrived during the Civil War, but the townspeople made a fatal mistake afterwards when  they refused to allow the railroad to come through.  Most of Danville's businesses and many of its residents moved to the new railroad town of Willis in 1870.  When the old Houston road (later U.S. Highway 75) was rerouted through New Waverly, the Danville economy was further damaged. This area was the scene of substantial Polish settlement in the late 1800s. In 1872,  Father Orzechowski led the effort to establish Sts. Peter and  Paul Catholic Church in Danville. Though this church was abandoned in the 1920s, its site is commemorated by a bell and a historical marker in Danville, while the original church building serves as a hay barn on a nearby ranch.   If you are descended  from any of the men who fought with Capt. Samuel D. Wooldridge, you will be interested in Danville.  The only remnant of the community is the old cemetery on Shepard Hill Road and a nearby historical marker. 

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Robin Navarro Montgomery, The History of Montgomery County (Austin: Jenkins, 1975).

 

DECKER PRAIRIE

Decker Prairie, also known as Decker's or Deckers Prairie, is a dispersed rural community located on State Highway 249 about thirty miles northwest of Houston and seventeen miles southwest of Conroe in southwestern Montgomery County.  Settlement in this area, just north of Spring Creek and the Montgomery/Harris county line, had begun in the 1830s. The community was named for settler Isaac Decker, whose land grant was surveyed in 1839. In the early 1860s, a Confederate powder mill operated on nearby Spring Creek, but an explosion in late 1863 destroyed the mill and caused the deaths of three workers. Decker Prairie existed as a farming community in the late 1800s and early 1900s, and the earliest marked grave in Decker's Prairie Cemetery dates to the 1870s. In the early 1900s, a school operated in the area, and 1930s highway maps depicted the school and numerous dwellings. Apparently the school closed by the second half of the twentieth century. On May 26, 1968, residents erected a monument commemorating the site of the powder mill. By the 1980s, Spring Creek Park at this site served the recreational needs of Decker Prairie. No population estimates were available in 1990 or 2000.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Montgomery County Genealogical Society, Montgomery County History (Winston-Salem, North Carolina: Hunter, 1981).

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Montgomery County Genealogical Society, Montgomery County History (Winston-Salem, North Carolina: Hunter, 1981).

Rebecca L. Borjas

 

DOBBIN

Dobbin is on Lake Creek at the junction of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, the Burlington Northern, and the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific railroads, near the intersection of State Highway 105 and Farm Road 1486 in western Montgomery County. The earliest mention of the area comes from the French explorer René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle,  who camped northwest of the site of Dobbin on February 14, 1687.

In 1878, the Central and Montgomery Railway built a line through the area from Navasota to Montgomery.  A post office was established in 1880 under the name Bobville.  In 1885.  Bobville was a shipping point for cotton and lumber and had daily mail service, four sawmills, a gristmill, a flour mill, a church, a district school, two general stores, a physician, and a population of 100. By the 1890s,  the settlement had a Baptist church, a cotton gin, W. G. Post's sawmill, J. M. Stinson's general store, two livestock dealers, one combination mill and gin, a blacksmith, and a population of 250.  In 1903-04 the town had three one-teacher schools; one had thirty-seven white students, a second had eighteen white students, and the third had forty-three black students. By this time the population had declined to 168.

In 1906 or 1907,  the Trinity and Brazos Valley Railway built a mile east of  Bobville.  That part  was named Crossing.  Many of the residents relocated to this area which was later called Bobbin.   In 1909, that town's name was changed to Dobbin.  In 2000 the town had seven businesses, including Mock's Feed Store, Hoffart's Store,  a post office, the Dobbin station of the Montgomery Fire Department,  two Churches,  and a collection of dwellings.  Population was 170.

 

EGYPT

  Egypt was located near the junction of Farm roads 1488 and 2978 about nine miles southwest of Conroe in southwestern Montgomery County.    From the 1840’s it was a farming area.   The community was settled by  George Bell Madeley who had come to the area from England.    He owned a grist mill, vineyard, orchard, wine press, cotton gin,  and herds of cattle.    The services for his grist mill were paid for with corn instead of money.  During a considerable time period of drought, the people in the community had no corn due to crop failures. 

The community farmers went to purchased  corn from Madeley.  They   named the area “Egypt”.  The name referred to the Bible story in which Jacob’s family went to Egypt to buy corn from their brother in a time of famine.   (Genesis 41: 56-57).  Madeley gave his community  cornmeal during the time of drought.  The area declined through the rest of the twentieth century, and though Egypt was still shown on highway maps by   1990 there was virtually no sign of the community.   In 2006,  a byway called Honea-Egypt Road reminded travelers of the former area.

Taken from Dan H. Madeley’s Writings (1981)

 

ESPERANZA

Esperanza was on U.S. Highway 75 just east of Interstate Highway 45, seven miles north of Willis in northern Montgomery County. The town was founded around 1879 by William Spiller, who owned a tobacco farm in the area and wanted a post office address. When the railroad passed through the settlement, the community was called Ada, after Lester Ada, who owned the general store. A post office called Ada operated there from 1893 to 1899. In 1899, Spiller changed its name to Esperanza, which means "hope" in Spanish. He hoped that the town would bring his tobacco business success, but it failed soon after, though the community continued to prosper. By 1915, Esperanza had a population of 100 and six businesses. Its’ post office was discontinued sometime after 1930. In the 1940s, the community had two churches, two businesses, and eight dwellings. By 1965, the area was a part of the Willis Independent School District. In the 1960s, a Texas Historical Commissionqv marker was erected at the townsite.

 

FOSTORIA

Fostoria is at the intersection of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway and State Highway 105, seventeen miles east of Conroe in Montgomery County. In the early 1900s, the town was called Clinesburg after the owner of a mill there. In 1901, the mill was sold to the Foster Lumber Company of Kansas City, Missouri, and the settlement was renamed Fostoria after the lumber firm in 1903. Between 1910 and 1920, the population was reportedly 1,000, most of whom were employed in the mill. The town reached its peak population of 1,500 between 1915 and 1925. In 1941, the mill produced 20 million board feet of lumber and was thus one of the largest providers of Southern pine in the United States.

Fostoria was a company town. The company store sold employees clothing, groceries, furniture, and saddles and owned a hotel and barber shop for which company scrip was accepted. The scrip was not redeemable anywhere else. Only the post office was not run by the company, but it was closed after 1930. The Foster Lumber Company closed in June 1957. After the mill closed, the company homes were sold, primarily to former employees, and the business district was shut down. From the 1940s to the 1960s, the population was 500. In the 1980s, only a few scattered dwellings, a cemetery, a pumping station, and a radio tower south of the city remained.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Montgomery County Genealogical Society, Montgomery County History (Winston-Salem, North Carolina: Hunter, 1981). Robin Navarro Montgomery, The History of Montgomery County (Austin: Jenkins, 1975).

 

FOUR CORNERS

Four Corners is on Farm Road 3083 on the northern edge of the Conroe oilfield in Southeastern Montgomery County. In the late 1940s, the community had six businesses and fourteen dwellings. By 1965, the area was incorporated into the Conroe Independent School District. The townsite had only a few scattered dwellings and businesses by the late 1980s. The community still existed in 2006.   There are numerous businesses in Grangerland.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Montgomery County Genealogical Society, Montgomery County History (Winston-Salem, North Carolina: Hunter, 1981).

 

GRANGERLAND

Grangerland  is located on Farm Road 3083 about thirty miles north of Houston and ten miles southeast of Conroe in east central Montgomery County. In the early 1900s, settlers in this region farmed cotton and, with limited lumber production, utilized the area's timber resources. The first successful oil well in late 1931 ushered in an oil boom and resulted in the opening of the Conroe Oilfield.   In 1932, early settler and landowner Don D. Granger began constructing thirty-two houses to serve the influx of oil field workers. This growing development was named Granger's Camp.  Over the years, a network of paved roads also facilitated growth, and as more workers and oil companies came into the area the camp grew to include a store, community center, and several churches in the 1940s and 1950s. The town became known as Grangerland, and though the boom settled down the oil industry as well as a timber industry continued to support the community. In the 1970s and 1980s, the construction of several subdivisions signified Grangerland's role as a bedroom community for commuters to Houston and Conroe. Residents considered incorporation but apparently never pursued the matter. No population estimates were available in 1990 or 2000.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Montgomery County Genealogical Society, Montgomery County History (Winston-Salem, North Carolina: Hunter, 1981).

 

KAREN

Karen is on the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad and Farm Road 149, two miles north of Mostyn and fifteen miles southwest of Conroe in southwestern Montgomery County. A post office was established in Karen in 1909 and remained in service until 1921. By 1915,  the town had a telephone connection, the Bauer sawmill, a wood dealer (J. F. Shannon), and a population of forty; the postmaster at this time was John H. Bauer, who, according to one source, had named the town after his youngest daughter. By 1946,  Karen had only two occupied dwellings, located near the railroad station. The town, in 1990, consisted of a switch on the railroad, a store, and a few houses.

 

LEONIDAS

Leonidas,  on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway and Farm Road 2854, four miles west of Conroe in central Montgomery County, was originally a sawmill town. The mill, owned by the Trinity River Lumber Company, employed most of the residents until 1924, when it closed. Before that, the town had a hotel, a grocery store, a train depot, and a section house, in addition to segregated living quarters-one for blacks on one side of the mill and one for whites on the other side. In 1918, Leonidas had two schools, one for blacks and one for whites. In 1948, the railroad station, a church, a school, and one business were at the site. But by 1965, the school had been incorporated into the Conroe Independent School District. In the late 1970s, only a few scattered dwellings remained.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Montgomery County Genealogical Society, Montgomery County History (Winston-Salem, North Carolina: Hunter, 1981).             

 

MAGNOLIA

Magnolia is on the Missouri Pacific line at the junction of Farm roads 1774 and 1488. It was first settled in the late 1840s and named Mink's Prairie for an early settler, Col. Joseph Mink;  its name was  shortened to Mink by 1850. On September 3, 1885, a post  office was established.  The community's population was twenty-five by 1900. In 1902, when the International-Great Northern Railroad built a line through the area, the town moved to its present location. The railroad named it Melton, in honor of Jim Melton, a large landowner in the county, but the United States Post Office confused it with Milton. Consequently it was renamed Magnolia for the magnolia trees in the bottoms of adjacent Mill Creek and granted a post office in 1903.

By 1915,  Magnolia had a population of 150,  telephone service, a sawmill, Baptist and Methodist churches, two general stores, a physician, a railroad and express agent, a hotel, a livery and real estate office, a cattle dealer, a druggist, a confectionery, a cotton gin, and a blacksmith. By the 1940s,  the Magnolia oilfield was  established;   population had increased to 400. At this time,  Magnolia had a station on the International-Great Northern Railroad, a post office, a cemetery, two churches, two schools, ten businesses, and forty-five dwellings. The Grogan-Cochran lumber camp southeast of  town. By 1962,  the Missouri Pacific had taken over the railroad line, and Magnolia had two high schools, a church, a landing field, and a small collection of dwellings within several miles of the town center. Magnolia was incorporated on September 28, 1968. Its population grew in the 1960s and early 1970s, reaching 1,150 by 1971. By 1980,  its population had declined to 867.   The 21st century finds Magnolia with  a 5-A school district.  Over 30,000 residents live in and around Magnolia.

 

MONTGOMERY

Montgomery is at the junction of State Highway 105 and Farm Road 149, near the southwestern edge of Sam Houston National Forest fifteen miles west of Conroe and fifty miles northwest of Houston in western Montgomery County.  It traces its’ roots to 1823, when Andrew J. Montgomery established a trading post a few miles to the west of the current townsite.  On December 14, 1837, the town named for Andrew Montgomery became the first county seat of Montgomery County, the third county formed under the Republic of Texas.  The county originally extended from the Brazos River to the Trinity.  A post office opened in Montgomery in 1846.  The city was officially incorporated in 1848 with Judge Nathaniel Hart Davis as mayor.  In the era of antebellum Texas, Montgomery had a newspaper and a telegraph line and was at the crossroads of two stage lines.  It became a trading center, especially, in lumber and cotton.  In 1850, it had Baptist and Methodist churches, a Masonic lodge, a private school, a new courthouse, and two physicians, E.J. Arnold and J. H. Price.  In the 1850’s, a yellow fever e epidemic reduced the population.  With the Civil War and Reconstruction, the political and economic power in Montgomery County shifted away from Montgomery.  When the Houston and Great Northern Railroad laid track through the center of the county in 1870, Conroe was established.  In 1889, it was chosen the new county seat.  The population in Montgomery dropped from 1,000 in 1890 to 600 two years later, although the town’s businesses still included cotton gins, sawmills, and two hotels.  The population decreased to 350 by 1925 but revived after World War II, (qv) reaching 750 in 1950, when Montgomery remained a market and shipping center for the western part of the county.  The population slowly declined to fewer than 300 in the 1980s, but 10,000 ranching, and oil underpin the economy of Montgomery

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Robin Navarro Montgomery, The History of Montgomery County (Austin: Jenkins, 1974).        2006

 

OKLAHOMA

Oklahoma is a small rural community located on Farm Road 2978 about thirty miles northwest of Houston and thirteen miles southwest of Conroe in southern Montgomery County. Settlement began in the area by the late 1800s, and local farmers constructed the first Oklahoma Community School around 1880 on land donated by the G. V. Leslie family. The one-room structure functioned both as a school house and church. A cemetery adjacent to the site was started sometime later, and the earliest marked graves date to the 1890s. A two-room school was built on property purchased from the Hirsch family in 1923. After that building burned in 1930, a new school was built in its place. During the 1930s,  highway maps showed the school, a church, and numerous dwellings in the area. The school closed in 1944, students were transferred to nearby Magnolia. Throughout the second half of the twentieth century the school building functioned as an important community center for Oklahoma. Though no population estimates were available in 2000, the region's proximity to the Houston metropolitan area signified increasing commercial and residential development in the vicinity. The Oklahoma School received a Texas Historical Marker in 2003.

 

PORTER

I don’t know when exactly the area around Porter was first populated says Ray Porter.  However, about 1877 or 1878, Ray was told by his Grandfather, William A. Porter, Burlington Northern Railroad established narrow gage railroad tracts from Houston to Texarkana. Those tracks followed the same track bed as the present day Union Pacific Tracks along Highway 59.  When the original tracks were laid the established name was the Houston East-West Transportation Company or simply, the “HEW.” Local citizens who rode the train called it the “Hell Either Way”.

James Porter, one of Ray Porter’s Grandpa’s brothers and his Great – Uncle came by Crocker, Missouri to operate the railroad switch for the H-E-W.  His mother, Frances G. Porter said, “Your Uncle “Hamp” as he was called, opened a sawmill here about 1880 and the area became known as “Porter’s Mill.”  The sawmill was located in the approximate area known as the Porterwood Shopping Center (Between US Hwy 59 and Loop 494).  In 1891, the post office here was known as Entre, Texas, but in 1892 and the postal authorities established the official name as “Porters.” However, by 1892, Uncle Hamp sold the Mill, and departed to Graham, Texas where he built a Saddle Shop known as “Porter & Son.”  In 1953, the Post Office dropped the “s” and the area was known as Porter.

Ray Porter has been told, Porter was the county seat for Montgomery County from 1896 to 1915 when a Federal mandate was issued and stated “all county seats need to be located in the center of a county, so all residents could have equal access”.

According to the TEXAS HANDBOOK ONLINE **By 1914, the population of Porters was 150, and the town had two general stores, a lumber company, and a livestock breeder.  By 1940, Porter had four businesses and a population estimated at 100, rising to 150 by the mid 1940’s.  *During WWII, a German POW Camp was reportedly located in this area.  In the 1960’s, the town was brought into the suburban orbit of Houston.  By 1965, the Porter schools had been absorbed into the New Caney Independent School District.  The town reported more than 100 businesses by 1989.  From 1970 to 1990, the town’s population was listed as 2,146.

*The information with the asterisk has not been verified by research done to date. Porter History was written by Ray Porter.

 

RAYFORD

Rayford was located in south Montgomery County on the Missouri Pacific line one mile east of Interstate Highway 45, one mile north of the Harris county line, and eleven miles south of Conroe, the county seat. The town had a post office from 1915 until 1925. In 1948,  Rayford had a railroad switch, a school, a church, and a small collection of houses on the International-Great Northern Railroad. In 1979 several oil wells and a church were located within a half mile of the old town center. Extensive development was shown between Rayford and Tamina 3½ miles to the north. The subdivisions of Rayford Forest and Spring Hills now occupy much of the site. The name Rayford was preserved in the name of the road that passes the old townsite and in the names of area businesses. No population figures for the town were available.

Will Branch

RYALS

Ryals, also known as Weisinger, was a rural postal community in the area now occupied by the April Sound, Walden, and Diamondhead subdivisions eight miles west-northwest of Conroe in north central Montgomery County.

Samuel Weisinger came to Texas in the early 1840’s.  His father had immigrated from Germany and settled in Charleston, South Carolina.  Samuel and one of his brothers, along with their wives, crossed the southeastern portion of the United States to get to Texas.  Samuel and his first wife settled in Danville*.   They started their family and farmed in this area for a number of years. Samuel and his family relocated east of the town of Montgomery.  His eldest son, John, married Ettie Ryals.  Ettie had lived in the nearby community of Bear Bend.  Samuel gave each of his four sons acreage as they began their adult lives.  The area became known as Weisinger Community.  When the U.S. Government advised the area a post office was needed, Weisinger was submitted.  The postal service thought the name too long.  John named the area Ryals after his wife’s family.  The post office operated from approximately 1901 till 1913.John built a general store, cotton gin, syrup mill, and blacksmith shop at Ryals/Weisinger.  The brothers lived next door to one another.  John and Ettie had 11 children, Tom and Rene’ raised 14 children.  The two youngest brothers Jessie and Walter has 5 and 6 children respectively.

The majority of the Weisingers noted above continued to live and make their homes in Montgomery County  Many operated businesses in the mid part of the 20th century.

The land was kept in tact by the four brothers until Lake Conroe began to be developed.  It was sold at that time.

 (*See Danville)

Information Provided By:  Gertie Weisinger Spencer

 

SECURITY  (Old Security)

Security was on the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway, thirteen miles east of Conroe, in eastern Montgomery County. Although settlement in the vicinity began in the mid-nineteenth century, Security was not formed until after 1889, when the GC&SF completed its branch line from Conroe to Cleveland across eastern Montgomery County. Around 1900, a lumber boom in this heavily wooded region brought an influx of settlers. By 1900,  the community had a post office known as Pocahontas. In 1902,  the name was changed to Bennette, in honor of J. O. H. Bennette, on whose property the town developed. Bennette sold his holdings to the Security Land Company in 1907, and the post office closed.  In 1910, a new post office was established under the name Security.

In 1914,  the schools at nearby Timber and White Oak were consolidated into the Security common school. By that date,  the community had a depot, a sawmill, a cotton gin, two gristmills, two grocery stores, a general store, a hotel, and a population of 150. In the late 1920s,  the Security school was merged into the Splendora Consolidated School District.

During the 1920s,  the local timber supply started to dwindle; soon the mill was forced to close, and the town declined. By the late 1920s,  the population had fallen to an estimated 100. When State Highway 105 bypassed the town in the early 1940s, most remaining residents moved two miles northward to the roadway. The Security post office was discontinued in 1954. Subsequently,  only a handful of scattered dwellings, the Calvary Church, and the Security Cemetery remained within a mile of the Security siding on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe tracks.

In the late 1940s,  the new community, established on Highway 105 by former residents of the old town and known as Security or as New Security, reported a population of twenty. From the late 1960s to 1990,  its population remained an estimated twenty-four.

 

SPLENDORA

Splendora is at the junction of U.S. Highway 59 and Farm Road 2090, on the Southern Pacific Railroad six miles north of New Caney and twenty-two miles from Conroe in eastern Montgomery County. In the late 1800s,  it was known as Cox's Switch, in honor of Charles Cox, who was instrumental in getting the Houston, East and West Texas Railway to extend a narrow-gauge spur there. The name was changed to Splendora in 1896, when Cox asked the first postmaster, M. S. King, to rename the town. He chose Splendora because of the "Splendor of its floral environment." The town grew slowly. By 1925,  the population was 100, in 1949 it was 180, and in the early 1970s it peaked at 1,000. In 1895, the Greenleaf Church building was used as a schoolhouse.  By  1913 a new two-room school had fifty students. The enrollment was sixty-five in 1925 and 170 in 1932-33.  On October 27, 1936, the school was partially burned.  The following year a new brick building was completed; in 1981,  it was being used for a junior high school. Splendora became an independent school district in the 1940s. Since then it has added a new high school (1959), a new elementary school (1966), and a new junior high school (1978).  Splendora was incorporated in December 1966.   In 1990,  the population was 745.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Montgomery County Genealogical Society, Montgomery County History (Winston-Salem, North Carolina: Hunter, 1981).                                                               2006

  

STAGECOACH

Stagecoach is a town located in Montgomery County, Texas. As of 2000,  the town had a total population of 455.

 

TAMINA

The  Houston and Great Northern Railroad built through Montgomery County in 1871.  One of the communities which sprang up along that railroad line would  eventually be named Tamina.  A post office was opened there in 1897.   It was the practice of the United States Postal Service to offer service when there were enough inhabitants to receive mail.  When the Postal Service deemed this settlement eligible for a Post Office, James H. Berry, who promoted the town, named it after Tammany Hall in New York.  Apparently, the letter writer submitting the name to the postal department had his own ideas about the spelling.   Thus, Tamina was born.  

By 1904, Tamina had a population of 128: it declined to 100 by 1915.  The town had a telephone connection, two general stores, and a grocery store.  And then, in 1917, something came along which laid the groundwork  for what is there today:  The Grogan-Cochran Lumber Company was organized when the company acquired a lot of land at Tamina.  Accurate information regarding the size of this mill is lacking.  Best estimate is about 3,000 acres.  The mill operated until 1927.  

In  1927, the population declined again, to fifty. In 1948, Tamina had a station on the International and Great Northern Railroad, a church, two schools, two businesses, and some twelve scattered dwellings. Also in the 1940s, Tamina had a black school with one teacher for grades one through seven.  In 1949, the school was dissolved, and the students were transferred to the Booker T. Washington school in Conroe.  By the early 1980s, Tamina consisted of numerous scattered dwellings, several businesses, the Tamina cemetery and Falvey Memorial Church.  Dr. Thomas Falvey was one of Montgomery’s early physicians.

In early Montgomery County, not all places had post offices nor were there towns.    If an area had a post office, then the entire area was known by that post office name.  So in the early days, The Woodlands was referred to as Tamina…right up to Rayford, Texas…but that is another story.

The original acreage parcel size, purchased from the Grogan-Cochran heirs in 1964 by George Mitchell,  was 50,000.  2,800 of those acres were in the original Tamina Mill.  Grogan-Cochran Corporation owned 11 separate sawmills in Montgomery County over its business lifespan. That acreage was  the original size of The Woodlands. At the time of the mill’s operation, 1917 till 1927, there was no Interstate 45.  Old US 75 began at Galveston and traveled north to Minnesota.  When driving  north of Houston, US 75 hugged the railroad tracks.  The highway would veer away from the tracks at odd places, but generally it aligned with the railroad tracks.  Sawmills were close to the rails because  lumber was shipped by rail cars. 

This highway was not close to the tracks at Spring.  But as it traveled north, it returned to its closer proximity of the rails.  Thus it was that as one drove along US 75,  people considered the area east and west of the highway to be  Tamina.

That same year the Texas Department of Transportation (TXDOT) was established.  By 1918 TXDOT had registered 194,720 motor vehicles.  Historians tell us the Tamina Mill shipped lumber on the International Great Northern railroad which ran north and south.  Roadways were not that important to shipping lumber from Tamina.  We don’t know is what type of road ran along the route between  Conroe and Houston during that era.   Since the primary duty of the 1917 TXDOT was to design improved roadways for a highway system of 8,865 miles, it is a safe bet the road between Houston and Conroe was dirt at the time.    By 1928, a year after the Tamina Mill was sold, TXDOT oversaw building 18,000 miles of roadway.  These roads included 96 miles of concrete, 1,060 miles of asphalt, 5,000 miles of gravel, shell, or stone, and 10,000 miles of dirt.     

State Highway 75 was designated to be built in 1932 to replace State Highway 13A which was the route to Amarillo.    SH 75 was the artery from Galveston to Dallas.  North of Dallas it turned into US 75.  The landmarks between Houston and Conroe along old 75 were well defined against the open spaces.    During the 1940’s,  when leaving  downtown Houston,  one would see the dancing lights on  radio towers, open grazing,  and then a feed store.  The feed store had two gasoline pumps (hand pumps!), at Westfield.  Westfield was a settlement on the south east corner of FM1960 and SH75.  (The feed store stayed in business through to the 1970’s.)   The next sight along the way was a huge daylily farm and greenhouse at Spring.  This daylily business proudly touted itself as the largest in the world.  Just before crossing Spring Creek there was a liquor store on west side of 75 and a restaurant on the east.   That restaurant served family style meals and was a popular spot after church.   The last two landmarks before reaching Conroe along SH75 was Tamina, where there was a grocery store,  and the San Jacinto River Bridge. 

 

TEDDY

In the late 1800’s,  the community of Teddy was carved out of the forest nine miles east of Willis between Peach Creek and Turkey Creek.  The original name selected for the community was Eddy.  In Texas, there was a post office named Eddy…so it was decided Teddy would be its name.  The residents farmed, raised cattle, and harvested timber for their livelihoods.  During the winter some residents trapped game which would be traded at the general store. The homes in which people lived were typical Texas farm homes.  Most houses had a long porch across the front with a fireplace at each end of the structure. There is nothing left of Teddy today.  Buildings are gone,  and the forests have grown back.

Submitted from a personal account:Justine Calfee Deison,  1990 

THE WOODLANDS (1966 to date)

 

In 1964, George Mitchell bought the Tamina Sawmill in south Montgomery County, Texas.  J.G. Grogan, Sr. and his brother-in-law, Terrell Cochran owned the mill.  There were 25,000 acres in the tract.

 

George Mitchell was a successful businessman who was saddened when traveling around the USA.  He wondered why young families would leave older cities.  He thought if a city were built which would provide young families everything they needed, they would stay in a community.  After purchasing the land, Mr. Mitchell studied new towns and planned communities in the USA, Europe, and South America. 

 

By 1966 he began to plan The Woodlands.  Today, 2006, the southern part of Montgomery County boasts a population of more than 200,000 residents.  Approximately 80,000 Plus live in The Woodlands.

 

The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion holds concerts and other venues which rival those held in downtown Houston.  The area has a shopping mall, dozens of restaurants, Market Street which comprises most large name stores.  Montgomery College is in The Woodlands.  There are major hospitals along with every medical specialization one would find in Houston.  The Woodlands boasts every Protestant religion and other major religions.  There are numerous scientific laboratories and businesses.   The homes vary in price ranges of 100+K to well over $1,000,000.00.  There are five villages in The Woodlands:  Grogan’s Mill, Cochran’s Crossing, Panther Creek, Indian Springs, and Sterling Ridge.  Each village  has its own restrictions.  No trees are cut when building except for where the dwelling will set throughout The Woodlands.

 

There are more than 150 miles of walking and bicycle trails, 6 golf courses, and recreational areas throughout The Woodlands.  Interstate 45 has four to six lanes going north and south from Houston to The Woodlands.   The Woodlands has recently acquired land in Harris County.  Now it is situated in both Montgomery and Harris Counties.

 

The area retains the familiarity of a remote, thick pine forest due to the environmental restrictions of the development.   

The area was named for Mitchell’s wife whose maiden name is Wood.  Mr. and Mrs. Mitchell are retired and spend most of their time in Galveston.  They continue to come to The Woodlands periodically.

 

TIMBER (In Original Montgomery County Boundaries - 1889)

Timber was a station on the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway eleven miles east of Conroe in eastern Montgomery County. It was due east of Phelps.  It was in the original Montgomery County but lays within Walker County, at present.  The community was founded during a lumber boom. Although the GC&SF completed its Conroe-Cleveland branch line in 1889, Timber did not receive a post office until 1902. By1910, E. F. Walker was operating a general store in the community. The town appears to have fallen into decline before World War I.  The post office was discontinued in 1912. In 1914, the Timber school was closed upon consolidation with the school in Security. The settlement seems to have remained on a rural mail route from Security for some years after the war. By the late 1930s, only a few widely scattered farm dwellings remained in the vicinity of the old townsite.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Montgomery County Genealogical Society, Montgomery County History (Winston-Salem, North Carolina: Hunter, 1981).

                                                                                        

WIGGINSVILLE

Wigginsville is a dispersed rural community located on Farm Road 3083 about eight miles southeast of Conroe in east central Montgomery County. The town probably began by the early 1900s and was named for the Wiggins family. In the 1930s, Wigginsville consisted of numerous homes, a church, and several businesses, probably supported by the region's oil industry and proximity to Conroe Oilfield.qv A sawmill operated in the community around the 1940s and 1950s and utilized the area's vast timber resources. By the latter part of the twentieth century, Wigginsville was still shown on highway maps, but no population estimates were available in 2000.

Laurie E. Jasinski

 

WILLIS

Willis, a lumbering and agricultural market town, is on the Missouri Pacific Railroad eight miles north of Conroe in north central Montgomery County. In 1870, as the Houston and Great Northern Railroad began surveying Montgomery County's first rail line, Galveston merchants Peter J. and Richard S. Willis, landholders in Montgomery County, donated a townsite to the railroad along the proposed route. By that time, a number of black farmers in the vicinity had already organized a Methodist congregation, which became the first church in the community of Willis. By 1872, the rail line had been extended through the town, and most of the businesses and residents of Danville, Montgomery, and Old Waverly had begun moving to the new town. That same year, a post office was established and a white Baptist congregation was organized. In 1874, citizens of the burgeoning new community launched a prolonged but unsuccessful struggle to transfer the county seat from rival Montgomery to Willis. A weekly newspaper, the Willis Observer, began publication as early as 1875. By the late 1870s, Willis had become a prosperous shipping point for timber and agricultural commodities and a center for the manufacture of lumber products, wagons, and agricultural implements. In 1879, the town's first white Methodist church was constructed. In the early 1880s, a three-story building was erected to house the Willis Male and Female College which, until its demise in 1901, functioned as a semi-private boarding school for students in elementary grades through college.

By 1884, in addition to its various schools and churches, Willis boasted several steam-powered saw and grist mills, two cotton gins, a brickyard, a saloon and gambling house, a Grangeqv hall, numerous grocery and dry-goods stores, and a population of 600. In 1888, the town's first Church of Christ was constructed. By 1890 population had climbed to 700, and three hotels and a second weekly newspaper, the Willis Index, were in operation. During the late nineteenth century, the Willis area became the leading tobacco growing region in the state; before the lifting of the tariff on Cuban tobacco killed the boom in the early twentieth century, Willis supported as many as seven cigar factories. As tobacco cultureqv declined, a boom in the production of timber and agricultural products kept the town's economy thriving. Although population fell somewhat to an estimated 500 in 1892, by 1904, it had leaped to an estimated 832 and continued to climb slowly for the next two decades. The Willis State Bank was established in 1911. In 1913, there were 271 pupils enrolled in the Willis Independent School District. By 1914, yet another weekly newspaper, the Willis Star, had appeared, and a telephone exchange was in operation.

The town's growth came to a temporary halt, however, with the onset of the Great Depressionqv and the resulting slump in local timber production. From an estimated 900 in 1929, population fell to an estimated 750 by 1931. But an oil boom in central Montgomery County that began southeast of Conroe in 1931 soon spread its effects to the Willis area, bringing renewed economic activity and an influx of population. Further stimulus was provided by the completion of U.S. Highway 75 through the town in the early 1930s. Then, during World War II,qv the lumber industryqv and agricultural activity revived. By 1933, the town's population had climbed again to an estimated 900, but it remained at this level for more than three decades, standing at an estimated 891 in 1968. The extension of Interstate Highway 45 through Willis in the early 1960s helped integrate the community into a regional economy and provided a corridor through which both industrial and suburban development could penetrate the area. Finally, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, Willis's growth resumed as construction of Lake Conroe began five miles to the west on the West Fork of the San Jacinto River. Population jumped to an estimated 1,457 in 1970, then increased slowly for a decade and a half before another growth spurt began in the 1980s. The Willis area was at last benefiting from the spillover effects of the postwar booms of Houston and Conroe, but the economy remained based on lumbering and agriculture. By 1981, 1,850 students were enrolled at the four campuses of the Willis Independent School District. From an estimated 1,674 in 1986, Willis's population climbed to an estimated 2,110 in 1990, and by 1992 the figure had grown to an estimated 2764.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: The Choir Invisible: An Early History of Montgomery County (Montgomery, Texas: Montgomery Historical Society, 195?). Robin Navarro Montgomery, The History of Montgomery County (Austin: Jenkins, 1975). Montgomery County Genealogical Society, Montgomery County History (Winston-Salem, North Carolina: Hunter, 1981).

 

OLD TOWNS NEAR WEST FORK OF THE SAN JACINTO RIVER

The West Fork of the San Jacinto River rises seventeen miles west of Huntsville in western Walker County (at 30°39' N, 95°51' W) and flows southeast ninety miles through Montgomery County to its confluence with the East Fork of the San Jacinto River on the northern rim of Lake Houston in northeastern Harris County (at 30°02' N, 95°09' W). The river was dammed in the early 1970s to form fifteen-mile-long Lake Conroe (Honea Reservoir) in Montgomery County. Gathering more than 400,000 acre-feet of runoff annually, the West Fork of the San Jacinto is more than twice as large as the East Fork; including the San Jacinto River proper and both branches, the entire system's drainage area comprises 4,000 square miles. Gently sloping to nearly level terrain is surfaced by loam and clay which support patches of loblolly pine-sweetgum, loblolly pine-shortleaf pine, water oak-elm, pecan-elm, and willow oak-blackgum woods on the banks of the river. The creek's middle course flows through western Sam Houston National Forest.qv Principal tributaries include Neely Spring Branch, McGary Creek, West Sandy Creek, Robinson Creek, McDonald Creek, East Sandy Creek, Little Caney Creek, Lake Creek, Little Lake Creek, Spring Creek, and Cypress Creek. The narrowness of the channel and the limited volume of water in the upper course of the river restrict its recreational uses, despite its generally high water quality and the scenic character of the countryside it drains. Below Lake Conroe Dam, however, there is normally a sufficient flow to permit rafting and canoeing. Moreover, Lake Conroe itself, a 21,000-acre municipal reservoir only twenty-seven miles from Houston, has become one of the most important recreational areas in southeastern Texas.

In the mid-eighteenth century the Spanish governors of Texas competed with French adventurers for control of trade with the Orcoquisac Indians living on the lower reaches of the West Fork of the San Jacinto River.  Anglo-Americans began to settle on the lower course of the river in what became Montgomery County in the early 1820s, and in 1824 the San Jacinto was formally declared to be the eastern boundary of Stephen F. Austin'sqv colony. The agricultural community of Loma was founded on the west bank near the headwaters in the early 1880s. Wesley Grove has been located on the west bank of the upper river since the early 1900s. Galilee had the Houstonian Institute, a black industrial school, on the east bank of the upper river in the late nineteenth century. The Goshen community has been located on the west bank since the early 1840s. The town of San Jacinto was founded on the west bank in the 1850s. Farris was established on the west bank in the early 1840s. Union Hill was founded on the east bank in the early 1870s, and Bath has been there since the 1880s. The towns lining the river's lower course below Lake Conroe have increasingly grown into bedroom communities of Houston. Conroe was established as a lumber mill village on the east bank in the early 1880s. Leonidas was founded on the west bank of the lower river in the 1870s. Grangerland became an oil boom town on the east bank in the early 1930s. During the mid 1960s,  Oak Ridge North was established on the west bank of the lower river; Panorama Village and River Plantation were founded on the east bank. Moonshine Hill was established on the west bank near the river's mouth in the early twentieth century. Humble, founded on the west bank of the lower river in the 1880s, became an oil boom town in the early 1900s.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: An Analysis of Texas Waterways (Austin: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, 1974). D'Anne McAdams Crews, ed., Huntsville and Walker County, Texas: A Bicentennial History (Huntsville, Texas: Sam Houston State University, 1976). Montgomery County Genealogical Society, Montgomery County History (Winston-Salem, North Carolina: Hunter, 1981). Walker County Genealogical Society and Walker County Historical Commission, Walker County (Dallas, 1986). WPA Writers Program, Houston (Houston: Anson Jones, 1942).

 


Montgomery County -- Birthplace of Texas

Heritage Museum
of
Montgomery County, Texas


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Heritage Museum of Montgomery County, Texas

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