Sugar Land History

Sugar Land History

The Sugar Land Heritage Foundation has prepared the following timeline and will continue to update it as more historical information becomes available.

Click on timeline headers for more information

1828
Samuel May Williams Receives Land
In 1828 Samuel May Williams received the land where Sugar Land is now located from Stephen F. Austin and began growing sugar cane.
1838
Nathaniel F. Williams Purchases the Land
Nathaniel F. Williams purchased the land from his brother in 1838, and there he and a third brother, Matthew R. Williams, operated Oakland Plantation, which grew cotton, corn, and sugarcane.
1843
Sugar Mill Established
In 1843 Matthew Williams established a commercial sugar mill on the banks of Oyster Creek at the current site of Imperial Sugar.
1853
Oakland Plantation Purchased
In 1853 Oakland Plantation was purchased by Benjamin F. Terry and William J. Kyle, who were instrumental in extending the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway through the property. 
1858
Post Office Established
A post office was established in Sugar Land in 1858. After the deaths of Terry in 1861 and Kyle in 1864, the plantation began to languish. The post office was closed in 1886.
1890
1890’s- Land Accumulation, Industrial Growth, Rail Station & 2nd Post Office
E. H. Cunningham of San Antonio accumulated more than 12,000 acres of the property over time and invested more than $1 million in a sugar refinery, a new raw-sugar mill, a paper mill, and the fourteen-mile Sugar Land Railroad in the 1890s. Sugar Land was one of the rail stations. In 1890 a second post […]
1892
Pop. 500
In 1892 the town had one physician and a population of 500.
1906
Isaac H. Kempner and William T. Eldridge Acquisitions and Expansion
From 1906 to 1908 Isaac H. Kempner of Galveston and William T. Eldridge of Eagle Lake acquired the Ellis and Cunningham plantations and the Cunningham Sugar Company, modernized the facilities, and made the community a company town for the Imperial Sugar Company, the Sugar Land Industries, and Sugar Land Railroad (Missouri Pacific).
1908
Kempner and Eldridge Modernize Imperial Sugar
In 1908 I.H. Kempner and W.T. Eldridge purchased and modernized the refinery & gave it the name “Imperial.”
1913
Levees and Ditches Constructed
In 1913 the sugar company built 8 miles of levee, along with twenty miles of drainage ditches, to keep the Brazos River from flooding Sugar Land.
1914
Pop.200, Businesses Increases
By 1914 the population had dropped to 200, but the number of businesses had increased to include a paper manufacturer and a bank.
1917
Pools, Lakes, and Creek Dredging
Between 1917 and 1928, dredging of the many shallow pools, lakes, creeks, and Oyster Creek reclaimed acreage to provide necessary drainage and more farmland.
1918
Lakeview Elementary School Built
In 1918 Imperial Sugar built Lakeview Elementary School in order to attract quality workers to the area.
1923
Hospital and Fire Station Built
Imperial Sugar built and staffed its own hospital and fire station to accommodate the needs of Sugar Land’s residents.
1925
Population grows from 1,000 to 2,500 and Char House Constructed
In 1925 the population was listed at 1,000; four years later that figure had expanded to 2,500. 
1928
Last Sugar Cane Crop Harvest
The last sugarcane crop in Fort Bend County was harvested in 1928. Plant disease and the high federal protective tax on cane sugar ended local cane farming, and thereafter raw sugar was imported for the refinery.
1936
Pop. 1,500 and Employment Struggles during Great Depression.
With the Great Depression the town lost residents, and in 1936 population was registered at 1,500, where it remained through the 1940s.
1946
Kempner Family Become Sole Owners
In 1946 the Kempner family became sole owners of the town.
1956
Pop. 2,285
By 1956 some 2,285 people called Sugar Land home.
1959
Town Incorporated. T.E. Harman first Mayor
The town was incorporated in 1959, a year after Imperial Sugar and Sugarland Industries, also owned by the Kempner family, began selling the businesses, homes, and land for development. T. E. Harman was the first mayor.
1964
Population reaches 3,100
By 1964 the population had increased to 3,100.
1970
Pop. 3,499, 28 Businesses. Master Planned Community
In 1970 the town listed 3,499 citizens and twenty-eight businesses.
1980
Pop. 4,173, 95 Businesses Including Major Corporations
In 1980 it had 4,173 residents and ninety-five businesses.
1988
Pop. 14,898 and 423 Businesses
Spurred by development from nearby Houston, the population had climbed in 1988 to 14,898, and businesses numbered 423.
1989
Pop. 19,874
In 1989 the population was 19,874. In 1990 it was 24,529.
1990
Pop. 24,529 “Fastest Growing in Nation”
In 1990, the population reached 24,529. Sugar Land was named one of the fastest growing communities in the nation.
2000
Pop. 63,328
The population was 63,328 in 2000.
2009
Best for Business
In 2009 Sugar Land was rated the “Best Small City in Texas for Business Startups.”
Author: Bettye Anhaiser, Member of SLHF Board of Directors