On Oct. 16, 1881, a
retired Civil War Illinois Calvary captain came into Montgomery County from
Houston looking for a place to make his mark. His name was
In time, Conroe bought a tract of land and established a sawmill about two
miles east of the present town that bears his name. It was merely a forest,
but that is part of what initially drew Conroe. His first mill was
east of the I&GN Railroad and between the
Santa Fe tracks and what is now Avenue A. He built a tram of wooden rails
and spokes to transport his lumber products to the I&GN.
A post office was soon
established there and Conroe served as the first postmaster. The captain continued
living in Houston and commuted back and forth on the I&GN. A railroad
official suggested making the new mill site a regular stop and gave it the
name "Conroe's Switch." Printed rail tickets said "Conroe's Switch to
." The name was shortened to "Conroe's" and then simply
prosperity to Conroe. The going wage in those days was $1 to $2.50 a day.
The railroads made transporting lumber goods to market an easier task and
many mills sprouted up. The sawmills caused new families to move into the
area and the town thrived.
In 1886, local citizens
used rough lumber and homemade desks to establish Conroe's first one-room
public school near the present community of Beach. Open each year for a
five-month term, the Conroe Mill School educated mostly children of mill
epidemics and two disastrous fires, the town continued growing. An
unofficial 1889 count showed a population of 250 to 300 citizens. Increasing lumber
industry expansion and the accompanying population growth demanded more
school space. In 1900, Conroe got its first four-room painted school built
near the 300 block of Murray Street. In December 1904, the city was
officially incorporated. J. F. Collier was the first mayor.
In the final analysis
of what made "Conroe's Switch" boom rather than bust, historians write that
only the oil industry ranks above timber and the lumber business in
importance here. The rail crossroads helped build Conroe, and Isaac Conroe
left his mark.