Back When … SHAPING MONTGOMERY COUNTY, PART 3
By Char Schneider
In the last half of the 1800s newspapers began to appear in some of the towns. Some of them were short-lived, while others still exist. Mail in the early years was delivered by stagecoach or horseback. The first telegraph line wasn’t installed until 1854. In 1874 there were only 12 medical doctors — and that was in
a day when they still made house calls and assisted with home births. Drug stores also started to pop up by the 1890s. Prior to the 1900s there was only one telephone line in Montgomery County.
Cotton gins were one form of economic growth in the late 1800s. The first one was started in the 1840s. By 1866 New Caney had a steam-powered gin. The Copeland gin ran from about 1880 to 1890. In the area of April Sound was the Weisingers’ gin. But activity at the gins declined by the 1920s.
There was a tannery in Montgomery County from 1843 until the Civil War. In 1895 Willis was home to eight tobacco factories and shipped products all over the United States. Mosquitoes were deterred by the use of net mosquito bars or smoking coals.
In the early 1900s many small towns and neighborhoods sprang to life around economic developments. Some of these small towns with their unusual names exist today; others died as their economic development died. By 1910 the towns of Magnolia, Montgomery, Security and Willis had been established. They were each about a day’s drive apart, but by 1923 the “time” between towns was much less.
After the turn of the century banks began to appear in some of the towns. In 1906 Conroe had the first bank charter, and the first state bank opened in 1912. The First National Bank opened in 1914 and remains the oldest operating bank in the county. Today, almost every bank has one or more locations here.
By the 1930s the arrival of electricity led to more economic development. In December 1931, George Strake struck oil southeast of Conroe. This was the beginning of Montgomery’s economy being supported by the oil and gas industry. In June 1932 oil was found again and the boom began, with the greatest development and growth in 1933.
Some oil remains in those early fields, although it is not profitable today to pump it out. If the industry is able to develop less expensive ways to remove the last of the oil, we may again see an active well or two.