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History of Montgomery County Texas
by Art & Carmen Boudreaux

Montgomery County was created by instructions from the General Land Office, a bill passed by the Legislature and signed by Governor Sam Houston on 14 December 1837. [See Note below]
 

Montgomery County was the third county established by the Republic of Texas. Houston County (northeast of Madison County) and Fannin (Northeast of Dallas County) preceding it.

The county was named for the existing city of Montgomery, which in turn had been named by the descendants of Richard Montgomery, born in Ireland in 1736. In 1775, he was elected a delegate to represent Dutchess Colony, New York, in the First New York Provisional Assembly; in the same year he was appointed Brigadier General and on 31 December 1775, was killed in battle at Quebec.
 

By 1860 the town of Montgomery was at its peak of development. When the civil war broke out, it drained the town of its able bodied citizens and wealth. After the Civil War, during reconstruction, new criteria developed upon which commercial and industrial activities were to be based, most importantly, was the new expansion and construction by the railroads.
 

In 1872 the International and Great Northern Railroad, which later became the Missouri Pacific Railroad opened its north-south operations through the county. Following a direct north-south line to Houston which by-passed Montgomery; but it did serve Willis, then the second largest town of the county and the lesser village of Conroe.
 

In 1889 the Gulf, Colorado, Santa Fe Railroad completed its construction and the east-west service across Montgomery County was inaugurated, again by-passing Montgomery. This made the small town of Conroe a railway crossroad, the only such place in the county. Conroe was a relatively new town centered around sawmilling activities. In May 1889 the citizens of Willis and Conroe voted to have Conroe named the county seat.
 

Conroe began as a sawmill village with Isaac Conroe as its founder around 1880, who later bought more timberland moved the center of his operations to an area more directly associated with the present location of Conroe’s business district.
 

Montgomery County, Texas, is a political entity consisting of 1,017 square miles, located in the rolling forested plain area of southeast Texas. A geographic area described as the juncture of the Texas Coastal Plain and the East Texas Timberlands. Conroe, the county seat and economic center, is located basically in the middle of the county, lies 37 miles north of Houston on I-45 and 204 miles south of Dallas, 140 miles east of Austin and 97 miles northwest of Beaumont.
 

Montgomery County has had a varied background including the issuance of a $3.00 script during the Civil War. The first settlers found a territory of dense forest with fertile soil so their aim was to immediately clear the land. Some settlers used the cleared land to graze cattle, so could be considered the first agriculture enterprise, generally cattle and farming continued until 1850, when cotton became the dominant crop. In the middle 1850 the average land value was $2.30 per acre. The best lands sold for $4.00 to $10.00 per acre, while pinelands sold for $1.00 to $4.00 per acre. By 1880, cotton production dropped to 1/3 to ¾ of a bale per acre. As yield diminished and the Mexican boll weevil invaded the crop in 1901, farmers turned to stock-raising to supplement crop production. This led to the production of corn, oats and sugarcane. By 1895 a crop had been found - tobacco. A fine grade, the “Vuelta Abajo” variety of Cuba was planted with seeds imported each year. However, in 1901, the United States lifted the tariffs on Cuban tobacco, with outside competition the tobacco industry soon vanished in Montgomery county.
 

The second town to develop was Willis, which was established in 1871, on the north-south railroad line through the county. By 1878, it was a thriving community, having the largest stave, lumber and shingle manufacturing in the south-west. Willis also had implement and wagon manufacturing, two cotton gins, two sawmills, a broom factory, grist mills, brickyards and numerous grocery and dry-goods stores. Willis’ economic pursuits were hit hard in 1929, only to rebound and make it the second largest town in the county with lumber, timber and agricultural activities dominating.
 

Also in the early 1900’s, oil and gas investigations played a part in Montgomery county’s growth. George W. Strake made the first significant well wildcatter to complete a well of approximately 5,000 feet on 13 December 1931 with 15,000,000 cubic feet of gas daily through a 5/8 inch choke. Not disillusioned, Strake set up another rig which should probably be regarded as the discovery well of Montgomery county, as it was the first to penetrate the main Conroe sand horizon and produce oil commercially. This well flowed 900 barrels of oil daily through a ½ inch choke.
 

By 1950 the county began to grow in population with manufacturing, commercial and service industries in strategic locations within the county. For the period 1950-1960, the urban population of Montgomery county grew by twenty-six percent while rural population increased two and six-tenths percent. In a three and one-half month span of 31 May, 1965 to 15 September 1965 showed 655 persons having moved to Conroe, Texas, according to the Welcome Wagon Organization.
 

Montgomery County seems to be well adapted for outdoor recreational use. Forests, woodlands, and water bodies provide a wide variety of possible activities. The largest and newest reservoir in the county is the Honea Reservoir (Lake Conroe) located about seven miles to the northwest of Conroe on the west fork of the San Jacinto River. The surface area covers some 17,600 acres. The reservoir provides fishing, swimming, boating, camping and picnicking. In addition to public facilities, four camps established in the county serve various boy and girl scouting organizations. The largest is Camp Strake, covering some 2,400 acres, located south of Conroe on I-45.
 

Our  sincere thanks to Art & Carmen Boudreaux for this history.

 

For more a more extensive history of Montgomery County you may wish to see William Harley Gandy's History of Montgomery County, Texas.

 

Note: Email dated February 9, 2010
In the article by the Boudreaux's, "History of Montgomery County," Sam Houston is identified as "Governor" when he signs the Act creating Montgomery County on December 14, 1837.

Sam Houston was "President" of the Republic of Texas on December 14, 1837.


Hope this helps.
Thanks,

Kameron Searle

 

 

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