History of Montgomery County
& 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
[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
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 Conroes
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 1900s, oil and gas investigations played a part
in Montgomery countys 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
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.
& 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.