About Us
County Mail List
Historical Markers

Family Websites

Genealogy Dept at County Library

Local Societies

Montgomery County Records  & Resources
Neighboring Counties


Research Links
The Handbook of Texas Online
TX Family Group Sheets
TXGenWeb Counties
TXGenWeb Project

Some Files require
  Adobe Reader

Town of Montgomery, Montgomery County, Texas

The Early History of Montgomery, Texas,
by Kameron Kent Searle
was written in 2012 for the 175th Anniversary
of the founding of Montgomery in 1837.

Excerpts from “A History of Montgomery County, Texas” Chapter V, Cities, Towns, and Communities,
by William Harley Gandy”: For Sources, see Endnotes:

The town of Montgomery is the oldest in the county. It has already been stated in this study how it was thought the town of Montgomery got its name. Prior to 1837, Montgomery had been a trading post established by Owen and Margaret Shannon, and located north of Town Creek. The new part of the town was plotted by W. W. Shepperd, a land agent, who bought the land from John Corner to establish the new part of the town. The first mention of the new part of the town appeared in the Telegraph and Texas Register, July 8, 1837. The article that was in the paper was written by W. W. Shepperd on the fourth of July, 1837, and gave the location of the town and advertised the sale of town lots. The sale of the lots was to be held in auction at Montgomery the first day of September, and the auction was to continue for three days. However, a plat of the new town was not drawn by Shepperd until January 1, 1838.1 Two months later, Shepperd through his agent and son-in-law, C. B. Stewart, gave to the county thirteen town lots and a site for a courthouse. At the same time a more definite procedure was given as to how the sale of the town lots was to be carried out. These facts are explained in the following article:

The president placed before the court the written act of donation of William W. Shepperd to the county of Montgomery of an equal undivided half interest in the town of Montgomery and sixty acres of pine land adjoining donated for county purposes. And it being put to the question whether said donations should be accepted. It was unanimously received and the question being also, whether the place of the town presented by C. B. Stewart as agent for W. W. Shepperd should be received. The same was also unanimously received and adopted. 

Motioned that a sale of town lots of the town of Montgomery be made on 4th Monday in April next for the purpose of raising funds to defray in part county expenses. It was ordered unanimously that a sale should be made on that date. Three previous advertisements being made in the Telegraph etc. etc. Question being made upon what terms and the time of credit given or to be given purchasers of town lots, It was ordered that sales be made for one fourth cash, one fourth payable in three months, one fourth within six months, and the remainder fourth 12 months. Purchasers giving liens upon lots until final payment receiving certificates at the time of purchase and giving the notes for respective amounts and on respective time. 

W. W. Shepperd having made certain improvements in the town of Montgomery by his agent C. B. Stewart, claimed the selection of thirteen lots giving an equal selection of thirteen lots to the County Commissioners and registered the action of the Court in relation to the instruction of the donation to Wit, of an equal undivided interest in the town proposing that when the county or its agent should have sold thirteen lots to counter balance the thirteen selected by W. W. Shepperd. All sales of other lots the proceeds thereof should be equally divided between the county and the said W. W. Shepperd after each and every sale.2 

On October 21, 1839, W. W. Shepperd sold his interest in the town of Montgomery to James McCown for eight thousand dollars.3 James McCown influenced the development of the new part of the town and through his inducement it became one of the most progressive towns in the Republic. Montgomery prospered from the start, because it was the county seat and main trading town of the county. As conditions improved Montgomery received a generous share of the tide of immigrants. Places of business were established, professional men located their practices there, and soon Montgomery became one of the most important towns in Texas. 

Two of the first professional men to arrive in Montgomery to contribute to the advancement of the town were Dr. E. J. Arnold and Dr. J. H. Price. 

In 1836, Dr. E. J. Arnold came to Texas and in 1837 formed a partnership with Dr. James H. Price of Houston. These doctors practiced both in Washington and Montgomery, going from Washington to Montgomery in about the year 1839. Dr. Arnold was joined by his wife sometime during his earliest years in Texas, and in the early 1840's they bought land and built a small home. In the early 1850's this first home was replaced by a handsome one in which one of his grandsons, R. C). Simonton, lives today.4 

Dr. Arnold was very popular in Montgomery and took part in almost every movement for civic improvement. He and C. E. Clepper donated land for the Montgomery Academy, and later, Dr. Arnold offered a site for the construction of a female college, but this dream was never realized. When he died in 1860, he was buried in Montgomery; but in 1880 his body was disinterred to be buried beside that of his wife in Willis, Texas.5 

The other physician, Dr. James Howe Price, arrived in Galveston in May 1837 on a steamer sailing from New Orleans. He continued his journey to Houston, where he arrived on May 25, and in his diary he recorded the following: 

Found myself in what they call a Cut-throat town that afforded me not a single friend and scarcely an acquaintance – without a particle of experience in my half acquired profession – no medicine, no instruments – nor no office or books.6 

In Houston Dr. Price formed a partnership with a Dr. Matthews who had had some experience and had been practicing there. Dr. Price set up practice after the necessary equipment was obtained on credit, and for several months he found Houston a very good place for a doctor's business. 

In April of 1837, Dr. Price decided to visit his home in Tennessee; so he left his practice in the hands of a friend and departed on a steamer for New Orleans. In the fall of that same year he decided to come back to Texas, and on the way overland he was joined by two more men who were also riding through the country on horseback. They were several weeks on the road, traveling through swamps, forests, and over almost impassable trails. They came through Arkansas, Louisiana, and into Texas, entering by the way of Natchitoches, Louisiana. They came on to Houston by way of old Cincinatti on the Trinity River, and then to Montgomery, where Dr. Price spent several days with the Worsham family. The account of this in his diary is as follows: 

July 3, 1838.

…The Trinity at Cincinatti is the most beautiful stream I have seen in Texas. Got this evening to Hadleys. No corn or oats had to hopple out. Wed. 4th. Left this morning after breakfast. Stopped at McDonalds, no person at home, gave our horses a feed of corn. Came this evening to Lindleys and stayed all night. The people were celebrating the 4th of July all over the country at Crockett, Montgomery, etc. etc. July 5. Stayed at Johnsons –came on to Mr. Worshams. Fri. 6. Concluded this morning to stay all day, we are much pleased with the family, fine lady, etc. Sat. 7 This is my sick day (had a chill) we have concluded to stay all day again. I have been well all day, went to Montgomery today. Returned this evening to Mr. Worsham. Sun. 8. Left this morn after breakfast for Houston got this evening to Wynns. 30 mi. and horses are out.7 

Upon his arrival in Houston, Dr. Price found that the doctor he had left to take charge of his practice while he was gone had taken his business. It was on account of this incident that he decided to come back to Montgomery. 

In Montgomery he met Dr. E. J. Arnold, and formed a partnership with him. Dr. Price was not only a successful physician, but also he was a successful farmer. He owned much land and many slaves, and was very prosperous both as a farmer and a trader.8 

In addition to the professional men, the town of Montgomery drew men of a business nature. They established mercantile houses which caused Montgomery to advance commercially. Two of these early business men were the Willis brothers, Peter J. and Richard S. In 1836 Peter J. Willis landed in Nacogdoches, where he stayed about one year and then went to old Washington-on-the-Brazos, where he stayed another year before coming to Montgomery. He married Caroline Womack of Montgomery, and they had two sons and four daughters, the youngest daughter dying at Montgomery when a child. Peter Willis built a small log house when he first arrived; soon, however, he was able to build a fine new home furnished with the best furniture that he could buy. He bought his furniture in Galveston and had it shipped to Montgomery on ox-drawn wagons. He had the grounds about his home landscaped, and the whole place, when completed, was one of the very finest homes in Montgomery. The home, with the furniture, still stands today and is owned by Mr. Raymond Weisinger.

Peter Willis was a personal friend of Sam Houston, and it is said that Houston spent many visiting hours in Montgomery in the Willis home.9 

When Mrs. Willis dies in 1863, Mr. Willis closed his store and his house and left two old Negro servants as caretakers. After a few years, however, he sold his home and moved to Galveston. The last surviving child of Peter Willis was Mrs. George Sealy of Galveston, who died only recently. Her name was Magnolia, and it was from her that the Magnolia Petroleum Company took its name, since she was one of its largest stock holders.10  

Richard S. Willis, a younger brother of Peter J., and a boy of sixteen, came to Montgomery in 1837, a year later than his brother. He joined partnership with his brother, and, after getting started in the mercantile business, the two brothers established the Willis Brothers General Merchandise Company.11


Business prospered and so did the town as more people moved into Montgomery. In the early 1840's Dr. J. H. Price established a grist mill at Montgomery; and, some years later, he built a gin on his property about three miles west of the town. Another industry that started was a pottery which was located on a farm south of the town. It was established in the late 1840's and the remains of the old kiln and a few broken pieces of pottery still mark the location where it stood. It was short-lived, but to this day, the stream that furnished water for the pottery is called Juggery Creek. Most of the pottery was sold to a nearby whiskey still for whiskey jugs and to local house wives for bowls and churns. Many crudely molded jars from the pottery are in the hands of several citizens today.12 

Another industry which made Montgomery progress was a tannery started by Antony Martin in 1843. He purchased a bark mill from P. J. Willis and installed a tannery on Martin's Creek about three miles east of Montgomery. He operated the tannery until the Civil War, when it was abandoned. Hides were purchased from local settlers and tanned into leather which was usually sold to the local shops in Montgomery.13 

By 1845 Montgomery had grown large enough to have a newspaper, a Masonic lodge, a telegraph station. The newspaper published by John Marshall Wade was the Montgomery Patriot, and the first regular issue appeared on April 26, 1845. 14 The Montgomery Patriot of July 2, 1845, advertised the places of business of M. O. Dimon, General Merchandise; B. F. Duncan, Fashionable Tailor; M. Shaben and Bros, Merchandise; Lem. Smith, Cabinet Manufacturer and Upholsterer; and P. J. Willis and Brothers, General Merchandise. In one of the advertisements James McCown advertised: . . .Will sell cheap, and on accommodating terms, a pair of first rate STILLS, together with all the apparatus to carry on a distillery." Also in the same issue James McCown advertised the sale of town lots, and in the advertisement he gave a good description of the prosperity of the town, which is as follows: 

…The lands surrounding Montgomery, known as the Lake Creek Settlement, being of such a rich and fertile character, and having a rich and industrious population, it is destined to be, in a short time, a town of considerable importance.15 

Montgomery is the county site of the most flourishing, populous and intelligent county in the Republic. It is situated on an elevated ridge, which divides the waters of the San Jacinto River and Lake Creek –In point of health, Montgomery is not inferior to any place in the world, lying in the same latitude.

The Masonic Lodge Number 25 was organized April 25, 1845 in Montgomery. The minutes show that some of the people who helped organize the lodge were W. H. Grand Master B. Gillespie, John Gillespie, L. G. Clepper, Sam Houston, Buford Oliphant, and others.16 

The first telegraph line was built through Montgomery in 1845 and it added to the prestige of the town. The line extended from Houston to Huntsville by way of Montgomery. The line traveled the old Stage Road, and even today old insulators can be found on the trees along the old road. 

Besides being the center of government and industry, Montgomery was the center of school and church activities for the county. The Methodist as early as 1838 held meetings in the town, and in 1842 the first Methodist parsonage of Texas was erected there. The Baptists in the town organized a church in 1850.17 

Montgomery was one of the leading town in the state for the advancement of education. An academy was organized in 1848 for the purpose of educating its youth. The school was called the Montgomery Academy.18 

Montgomery advanced so rapidly that by 1848 an act was passed by the Legislature to incorporate it as a town. The act in part is as follows: 

Be it enacted by the Legislature of the State of Texas, That the citizens of the town of Montgomery in Montgomery county, be, and they are hereby, declared a body politic and corporate, under the name and style of the Corporation of the Town of Montgomery, who shall have the power of suing and being sued, pleading, and being impleaded, and to hold property real and personal within the limits of said corporation, and at their pleasure to dispose of the same. 

Be it further enacted, That the corporate limits of said town shall extend one half mile in every direction from the center of the public square.19 

The act also designated the duties of the town officials, their term of office, and the days of election. The first mayor after the act was passed was Nat Hart Davis. His first duty was to clean out the town well. 

Nat Hart Davis was one of the most prominent lawyers and distinguished citizens of Montgomery. In the spring of 1840 he came to Montgomery from Madison County, Alabama and applied for his Texas citizenship.20 He set up a law office in the town and when his business was established he went to Mississippi and married Sarah Elizabeth White. He brought his bride back to Montgomery, where the two lived until their deaths. During his lifetime Nat Davis not only had the honor of being the first mayor Montgomery, but also he had the honor of holding many other positions. He held the position of Justice of the Peace and District Judge for many years, and it is said by the old timers that no one in the county since his death has excelled Nat Davis in the art of handling the procedure of civil law.21 Today, a portrait of Nat Hart Davis hangs in an honored position in the District Courtroom of the Courthouse. Montgomery prospered, and it became one of the most important trading centers in Texas. Long teams of oxen from up country around Crockett passed through the town drawing loads of cotton, lumber, and other products. They plodded their way slowly to Houston and Galveston, the nearest markets. These wagons on their return trips brought back all kinds of merchandise shipped from New Orleans, New York, and other places. 

Montgomery was on the main stage line from Houston to Huntsville and from Washington to Bevil's on the Trinity River. The stage coaches brought both passengers and mail, and the arrival of the stage coach was the most exciting event of the day. As it came up the stage road, the driver blew his musical horn so that it might be heard by the citizens in town long before the stage drew up before the Price Hotel. 

The stages usually met at the Price Hotel, which was erected in 1858 by Dr. J. H. Price, and as they arrived from different directions the passengers exchanged news. Then they rested or ate while the horses rested or fresh ones were hitched to the coach.23 

In 1854 one of the local citizens who had been away from Montgomery on a visit wrote a letter in which he said, "…The town is greatly improved in buildings but not in morals –liquor is still retailed by Gay and Hooker, and Gafford–and gambling is going on. Our town and county are quite healthy…24

The town continued to grow until the opening of the Civil War. Around 1857 a new school was started to replace the Montgomery Academy which had been discontinued. This new academy was established by Charles L. S. Jones and it was called Jones Academy. It was a very popular institution and lasted until Mr. Jones' son and many of the larger boys of the community enlisted in the Confederate army.25 In the Texas Almanac of 1857 Montgomery is described as a village of considerable size occupying an elevated situation and containing many tasty residences, and other evidences of refinement…26 

By 1860 Montgomery had reached its peak of development, when the Civil War broke out it drained the town of its able bodied citizens and wealth. In 1864 a Confederate soldier who was passing through Montgomery on patrol duty described the place in his diary as follows: 

…Thence through a country of timber to Montgomery, in the suburbs of which we camp. This is my first visit to the Montgomery of Texas. It is a very small town. Public buildings, an academy, church, Court house and jail; and these of very ordinary qualities. The war has dried the little place up –not a door open in it.27 

Montgomery never recuperated from the Civil War. The war had sapped its life blood and before it could regain its strength the reconstruction era came and brought it back to its knees. Then too, the coming of the railroads caused an industrial change and many of its businessmen and other citizens moved to the new railroad town of Willis. 

Montgomery's population had diminished so much by 1873 that Montgomery had a feud with the town of Willis over the site of the county seat. Willis claimed she had a larger population and that she was nearer the center of the county; but Montgomery kept the honor of being the capitol city until 1889, when by popular vote the county seat was moved to the new railroad-sawmill town of Conroe. 

The maneuver of Willis awakened Montgomery to the fact that she needed a railroad or an industry to keep her citizens from leaving; so in 1877 the citizens of the town decided to build their own railroad. Substantial contributions were made by the people in the form of land, money, labor, and materials. The right-of-way was donated and a Charter was granted to the Central and Montgomery Railroad on December 31, 1877. In return for the aid given by the people of the town, the railroad company agreed to maintain a depot for passengers and freight service in the town within a distance of not more than a thousand yards from the courthouse.28 The railroad was built and only recently it was abandoned. 

Montgomery has not changed much since the courthouse was moved to Conroe. Today (1952) it has a population of five hundred and twenty people.29 A citizen of the town in 1950 wrote: 

…The character of the town has not changed greatly; that whenever possible, the old families have kept the lands of their forefathers in family hands; that new industries will continue to be discouraged because the citizens dislike the stepped-up tempo and often undesirable population shift that come with certain industries. It is the desire of the present inhabitants that the population in general will continue to have a high regard for culture; that the town will not grow greatly but will strive to keep its churches and lodges among the most highly respected and its schools as progressive as the scholastic census will permit.

It is noted that all those who have once been of Montgomery continue to 1ove and respect the old town and at-every opportunity return and visit with the friends of their fathers and mothers.30

More on the Town of Montgomery,
Montgomery County, Texas

MONTGOMERY, TEXAS. 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 town site. 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.qv 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 Texasqv 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 1850s a yellow fever epidemic reduced the population. With the Civil War and Reconstruction,qqv 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, 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 people lived within a seven-mile radius of the town. Real estate, ranching, and oil underpin the economy of Montgomery. In 1990 the population was 356.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Max Freund, ed. and trans., Gustav Dressel's Houston Journal (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1954). W. N. Martin, A History of Montgomery, Texas (M.A. thesis, Sam Houston State Teachers College, 1950). Robin Navarro Montgomery, The History of Montgomery County (Austin: Jenkins, 1974).

Robin N. Montgomery


For another article on the history of Montgomery, see "Amongst Oldest" by Mary Davis.
Click for more current information on town of Montgomery, Texas.



| Home Top |


               Vote Montgomery County TXGenWeb County of the Month 

Montgomery County Texas Banner graphics were designed by and remain the property of Jean Huot Smoorenburg. If you are being charged to view/use any of this information or have questions or comments, please contact Jane Keppler.


Copyright © 1997 - 2016 by Jane Keppler. This information may be used by individuals for their own personal use, libraries and genealogical societies. Commercial use of this information is strictly prohibited without prior written permission from Jane Keppler. If material is copied, this copyright notice must appear with the information and please email me and let me know. Neither the Site Coordinators nor the volunteers assume any responsibility for the information or material given by the contributors or for errors of fact or judgment in material that is published at this website.

Page Modified: 18 October 2016