A History of Katy
by Susan Devries
In the beginning it was only a wide open prairie, the hunting ground of the Karankawa Indian tribes, the winter feeding grounds of great herds of buffalo and large flocks of wild ducks, geese, sandhill and whooping cranes, and numerous other game birds, and home to longhorn cattle, deer, and wolves.
If you had come in 1875 to live where Katy is today you would have found no town and no railroad. One family was here. Thomas and Mary Robinson had 200 acres of land on the Cane Island branch of Buffalo Bayou. They came in 1872. Fifteen years later, Peter Black andhis wife, Ophelia, bought land and moved out from Addicks. The families farmed quietly until 1895 when it seemed that a lot of people suddenly decided Cane Island, Texas would be a good place to settle.
Why did this area seem to be a good place to settle? There are two main reasons for the early settlement of this area first called Cane Island. First: people wanted farm land. Second: The Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad was completed and it was easier for people to get to the area. It was also easier to get farm products to market. The city of Katy was named for the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad.
What did the people find when they arrived? The arriving people found rich farmland The land was flat and seemed to, go on forever. The prairie was covered with tall, flowing grass as high as a man on horseback.
Who came to settle the land? The first family of the 1895 group of new settlers arrived on Christmas Day in 1894. Mr. William Pitts, his wife Lella, and their three children came from the town of Pattison, Texas. In 1895 many more families came to find new farms and new lives. The Peeks came from Indiana and Iowa to farm and run dairies. The Stuarts and the Danovers came from Iowa. The Beckendorffs came from Pattison to farm. Mr. Cabiness came then too. He worked for the railroad as the depot agent. He also built a a lumberyard milled rice bought and sold the farmer’s peanuts, and helped start the Apostolic Faith Church in 1905.
One very important person to come this year was Mr. James Oliver Thomas, who came from Mississippi. He bought 320 acres of land and laid out the town site of Katy in 1895. Mr. Thomas set aside land-for two parks. One park on Cane Island Creek and the other was the town square.
The year 1896 saw more arrivals including the Stockdick family, the Ruskeys, Mortons, and David Peter Franz, a watchmaker. Coming from Iowa, Mr. Stockdick was a real estate person who encouraged many more families to move from the northern areas to Katy.
This was also the year that Katy is first listed in Washington, D.C. as having a post office. It is officially called Katy, Texas and Mr. J. O. Thomas was the Katy postmaster. The post office was part of his general store.
The next year, 1897, saw the arrival of the Morrisons from Missouri, the Freemans from Iowa, and the Eule (Eye-lee) family from Germany.
Mr. Eule is very special to Katy’s history. He is the first person to raise rice in Katy. In 1897, the first year he grew rice, he used surface water from’ the prairie. The second year he dug wells to irrigate the fields. The Eule family had a school in their home for their own children and the children of their neighbors.
By 1898 Mr. Featherston had arrived. He was the first pastor of the: Katy Baptist Church. Dr. James Malcom Stewart was an important addition to the-settlement in 1898 also. He came from Tennessee with his new wife to start his medical practice.
John Henry Wright, his brother, Wilbur, and their parents, also arrived this year. They drove their team of horses and wagon from Missouri. They were looking for a healthier climate for Wilbur. The family stayed to farm and later started a drug store. In 1904, Mr. S.H. Wright and Dr. Stewart formed a partnership. Mr. Wright opened a drugstore with Dr. Stewart’s office next door.
Two families arrived on the same train in 1900. Both families had moved from Germany to Iowa to farm. Looking for a better place they decided to come to Katy. The families’ names were Schlipf and Weinman. They purchased farms north of town and there they settled. The Eule farm was nearby so the children went to school in the Eule home. Soon the classes were moved to the Schilpf home and then they were moved to the schoolhouse that was: built on the Schlipf land. Children attended the country school until it closed in 1918.
All children living on the farms went to school at home, at a neighbor’s house, or in a one room country school nearby. In 1918 all the children from the small farm schools were brought together in the town of Katy to start the Katy Independent School District. Children came from Cobb School, Schlipf School, Dishman School and Sills School.
During this period many people raised rice. Others raised peanuts and cotton. Most families had their own gardens for fresh vegetables too. They sold the rice to others and raised potatoes for themselves to eat.
BEFORE AND AFTER THE STORM!
Many people in Katy date events in the town before and after “The Storm.” The hurricane of September 8, 1900 that destroyed most of Galveston Island, south-east of Katy, also destroyed most of the buildings in Katy. The only buildings not damaged in any way were the homes of J.H. Wright and Mr. Featherston. These homes are still in Katy. The storm had such a dramatic affect on the town that it stands out in memory and so people talk of “before” and “after” the storm. After the storm, Katy rebuilt and continued to grow. The main industry has been the rice farming. In 1934 a gas field was discovered to the west of the town. Many wells were dug and a refining plant was built. This added a new side to the town’s growth These industries are still an important part of the town today.
The above history could not have been written without the help of Mrs. F. Rylanader. It was her wonderful stories and her store of pictures and articles that provided the basis for this article. Mrs. Rylander is the granddaughter of Mr. John Henry Wright and Pauline Dorothy Schlipf.
In 1895 a group of farmers and merchants laid the plans for a town on the old San Felipe Trail. Out of the plains of the Brazos River Valley arose a community of churches and businesses. Now, some ninety years later, a small metropolis flourishes. Although Katy’s population within the city limits is approximately 8,000, the surrounding Katy area subdivisions rival the population of some major cities creating one of the fastest growing areas in the United States.
Through it all the ethics of hard work, determination, honor and concern for your fellow man inherent in the founders of Katy, are still alive and well in Katy. Katy resonates with an atmosphere of caring which blends seamlessly with all of the advantages of a growing city replete with modern technology and an expanding job market.
LIVING IN KATY
Living in the Katy area means an escape from the hustle and bustle of Houston, the 4th largest city in the US. Katy offers the charm of a small town, or the sophistication of suburbia. Housing in Katy ranges from apartments and condominiums to large estate homes with acreage to enjoy and maintain horses – and others with championship golf courses as their backyard. Subdivisions abound with tennis courts, swimming pools, and endless amenities for their residents.
Apartments that cater to singles and families are plentiful and the taste of everyone’s lifestyle can be met. Fully planned communities which feature areas of shopping centers, spacious plazas, and every convenience that enhances community living, leads the way to future growth in an exciting and efficient style. With so may styles and stages of housing available, no matter what the size of the checkbook, one can find living in Katy easy and affordable. Of course a residence in a community is only half of being a part of the life in that community. Katy has so much more to offer in its many places of worship, clubs and organizations to fit one’s preference for a complete life style.
Katy is historically an agricultural area with rice the major crop. with soybeans having been added as an alternate crop in the late 1950’s. The Katy area has been the site of one of the United States largest gas fields since the early forties; this has added greatly to the economy of the area. Most recently the development of industrial sites, both East and West of the City, have added growth to the economy.
Recent statistics show that 34.2% of the employed persons 16 years and over to be managerial and professional specialty, while 38.5% are technical, sales and administrative support personnel.
Household distribution of income as of 1990 lists 10.2% over $50,000; 23.2% from $35,000 to $50.000; 34.6% from S25.000 to %35,000; and 13.6% from $20,000 to 25,000.
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