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College Station

The story of College Station goes back to the era when France and Spain contested each other (and other empires) for ownership of this portion of the New World. The great French explorer LaSalle earlier claimed lands for France in much of North America, the efforts of Spain made this area a colony for the Spanish Crown, which they called New Spain. Of course, Mexico declared its independence from Spain and later The Republic of Texas won its independence at the Battle of San Jacinto.

The homesteaders and pioneers of Austin’s Second Colony began to build their homes and farms in this area during the 1820’s and 1830’s. They landed around the area that would one day become the site of The Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas. Railroad construction in 1859 brought a graded railroad bed through the district. The Civil War paused the railroad progress, which resumed after the war’s end. In 1867 the Houston and Texas Central Railroad Company (H&TC RR) finished its new line complete with the telegraph line alongside. As the region grew with Czech, German, and Italian homesteaders building their farms and the new Brazos County building its first courthouse.

Brazos County citizens offered 2,416 acres of land to the State of Texas commission that searched for a location for the proposed Agricultural & Mechanical College of Texas. The new college was called for in 1871 following the federal Morrill Act of 1862. The presence of the H&TC RR line across southeast Texas into nearby city of Bryan helped the commission select this site. The college would build on the land to one day have dormitories, classrooms, agricultural facilities, and the parade grounds for the Corp of Cadets, which would be the entire student body in the beginning and for almost ninety years.

Which brings us to the beginning of “College Station”.

The students that first semester numbered forty, they arrived at a place on the H&TC RR line on a treeless prairie of Brazos County, no railroad depot existed yet, no town. The few buildings were a good distance walk from the steps off the train. The H&TC railroad conductors would announce the stop as “College Station”, which became the town’s name.

The U.S. Postal Service opened a post office in 1877 near those tracks and designated it to be “College Station.” In 1883 the H&TC RR built a depot, then the new International & Great Northern Railway opened a second depot just to the east in 1900. Service for passenger trains ran to College Station until 1959. The site is on Old Main Drive a bit east of Welborn Road, where a historical marker now stands.

From the college opening most of the faculty members lived in housing provided by the college on campus. The community had two general stores and 350 residents in 1884, with electricity coming on-line during the 1890’s. The population in 1990 was 391. Connection to nearby Bryan, Texas was supplied by an electric interurban railroad beginning in 1910. Over the next decade the interurban helped foster a business district on the north side of the College Station community, which like the college, grew in all directions during the 1920’s and 1930’s.

In 1938 several community leaders sponsored the incorporation of the City of College Station, making it one of the newest cities in Texas. That year also began the city tradition of managed growth under its zoning commission. That same year, the faculty still occupying campus housing were informed they had to move. This prompted a need for more housing in College Station, and so new additions were built. 2,184 residents lived there in 1940 (not including students) and sixty businesses. The man who is often called the “Father of College Station”, Ernest Langford, was first elected mayor in 1942, holding that office for twenty-six years. He preferred city service development over expanding the commercial sector. The 1950 census counted 7,898 inhabitants, including the students.

Former General James Earl Rudder became college president in 1959, and he led a major expansion of the college, which was re-named Texas A&M University. It is now a tier-one research university that attracts many cutting edge research projects, with an enrollment around 65,000. The population of the neighboring city of College Station through the years has also grown rapidly: 1960 – 11,396; 1970 – 17,676; 1980 – 30,449; 1990 – 52,456; 2000 – 67,890.

A great quality of life has been maintained even with that sixfold increase over those decades. The economic multipliers of university research along with high-tech manufacturing industries with ties to the university benefit all kinds of businesses. An easy three-and-one-half hour drive can reach a significant market being 75% of the population of Texas and Louisiana.

All work and no play makes for a dull boy. Not to worry, abundant recreation and a wide selection of housing are both available for your life away from work. The city maintains 56 parks for families to enjoy a fun day of many options, from outdoor music to swimming pools and playgrounds to old-fashioned picnicking. Sports for young people (and those not so young) have numerous leagues for different sports all year round. Vacation options all over Texas are just a day’s drive away. Local cinema and dining options number over one hundred. The public libraries and school district are highly rated to furnish young people with a great education. Private schools are another great choice along with home schooling networks. Health care is plentiful with many clinics and hospitals with the latest innovations in health care and medicine. Even though classified as a mid-sized city, College Station has kept a nice degree of small-town feel that is augmented by the surrounding rural areas that are so beautiful. And the truly big-city attractions of San Antonio, Austin, Dallas, and Houston are just a day trip near.

College Station – a one-of-a-kind history and humble beginnings in 1876 as an open prairie with a few buildings and 40 students has grown impressively and become a wonderful place to call home.