Montgomery County’s earliest residents trace back to the Paleo-Indian (10,000–6,000 B.C.) culture, suggesting that it has been continuously occupied for more than 10,000 years. In the early 1700’s, many Native Americans like the Arkokisas had campsites along Peach Creek and on the banks of the San Jacinto River.
In 1831, 16 Anglo-American colonists received Mexican land grants and settled in Stephen F. Austin’s second colony between the West Fork of the San Jacinto River and the stream known as Lake Creek in what is today western Montgomery County. The settlement was widely known as the Lake Creek Settlement.
Montgomery County was the third county formed under the Republic of Texas and signed into law by President Sam Houston on December 14, 1837. The town of Montgomery, situated on the stagecoach line that ran from Huntsville to Houston, became the focal point for new immigrants to the area as well as the county seat. The economy in those early years was based largely on cotton production. By 1860 the county was producing more than 8,000 bales annually, most of which was hauled overland by horse-drawn wagons and ox carts to Houston and Galveston.
The Civil War and its aftermath brought profound changes to the county. Like most of the counties in the state, Montgomery County experienced a prolonged post war agricultural depression. The county’s economy began to recover in the 1870s and early 1880s with the construction of several railroads, though it touched off an intense controversy concerning the location of the county seat. The first railroad missed the town of Montgomery. Willis, a new town on the railroad was voted county seat in 1874, but the county seat was moved back to Montgomery in 1880, after the Houston and Texas Central was built through. In 1889, however, the county seat was moved to the fledgling community of Conroe, which was situated at the junction of the International-Great Northern and the newly built Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway where it remains today.
The railroads also marked the beginnings of the county’s great lumbering boom. By 1882 forty-five steam sawmills were in operation, and within a short time lumbering emerged as the county’s largest source of income. By 1930 the effects of the Great Depression began to be felt, although the area experienced a dramatic reversal of fortune in 1931, when oil was discovered southeast of Conroe. The discovery immediately triggered a tremendous oil boom. The population of Conroe mushroomed to more than 10,000 within a few months. At the beginning of 1933 more than 100 wells had been drilled, producing more than 25,000 barrels per day. Oil was subsequently discovered in several other areas of the county, making Montgomery County made it one the richest oil producing areas in the nation. Proceeds from the oil also helped to remake the face of the county. Roads were graded and paved, new schools were built, and public buildings and monuments erected.
The prosperity continued during the years of World War II. Oil refineries and a carbon black manufacturing plant were built, and efforts were intensified to produce as much oil as possible for the war effort. After the war oil production declined somewhat, but it has remained one of the county’s leading sources of income. Now, in twenty-first century lumber and oil production remain important elements of the area’s economy.
More recently, Montgomery County has become a recreation destination. With its abundant lakes and forests, the area offers numerous opportunities for hunting, boating, fishing, and hiking. Among the most popular attractions are the Sam Houston National Forest, W. Goodrich Jones State Forest and of course, Lake Conroe.
Montgomery County claims the title of “Birthplace of the Lone Star Flag” which was so designated by Texas House Resolution 1123 in 1997. The design of the Lone Star Flag of Texas is attributed to Charles B. Stewart in Montgomery, Texas, in 1839. Stewart was a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence who moved to Montgomery in 1837. He represented the county at the Constitutional Convention of 1845 and is buried in the Montgomery Cemetery. Other historians dispute who designed the Lone Star Flag. Conroe is also home to the Lone Star Monument and Historical Flag Park located at 104 IH-45 North.
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