Houston History
Decades   LegacyCitizensPreservationCommunityHouston Voices
The Decades
a chronology from 1836
Our Legacy
stories of our past
Great Citizens
making a difference
historical landmarks
Our Community
join us
Houston Voices

TIMELINE 1850 - 1860


The United States takes its 1st census covering Texas

William Marsh rice married railroad promoter Paul Bremond's daughter Margaret

The U.S. Census reported Houston's population at 2,397, only 322 more than in 1839.
Harris County Population: 4,686

Galveston is ranked as the largest and wealthiest city in Texas with the largest port

February 11

A charter was granted for the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado, a railroad centered on the town of Harrisburg


Local businessmen organized the Houston Plank Road Company which built a toll road to the Brazos River


Two Treaties, neither ever implemented, signed by federal commissioners and representatives of major Texas tribes

The Lutherans organized their first Houston church

The first iron foundry began making kettles for the sugar plantations

The Houston & Galveston Navigation Company (Houston Navigation Company) was organized by Houston merchants and steamboat captains. It virtually monopolized Bayou traffic in the 1850s


Ice is available from James House


State land grants to railroad companies began

A Jewish Congregation is organized


Nathan Fuller was elected Houston's mayor

Houston was connected by telegraph with Shreveport, LA

Buffalo Bayou over flows its banks and causes the 1st major flood in the city

Rice had stock in the first railroad was the line the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado built from Harrisburg to Stafford

January 1

Construction began on the Houston and Texas Central Railroad, which was known as the Galveston, Houston and Red River Railroad until 1856. It is the 2nd railroad in Texas

February 7

The State legislature passed an appropriation which included $4,000 for Buffalo Bayou improvements

March 23

Two steamships, racing on the Bayou, produced one of the ship channel's greatest disasters. The boiler of the Farmer exploded, killing between thirty-five and forty people

July 15

A city ordinance prohibited firing weapons within city limits


The first twenty miles of the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos, and Colorado Railroad were opened

The General Sherman, wood-burning locomotive, brings Houston's first train to Stafford's Point over the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railroad

August 19

The "Telegraph" reprinted from the "Western Texan" an announcement of Mirabeau B. Lamar's death. The Houston editor added that General Lamar was alive and well in Houston, had read the announcement of his death and he "don't believe a word of it"


State public school law establishes first educational endowment

Free public education as provided by state law, comes to Houston

Houston merchants imported inventories valued at $918,175 as commercial expansion continued

German immigrants founded the Houston Turnverein, which stressed gymnastics, music, and social events

Panna Maria, first Polish community in America, founded in Texas


City ordinances institute "Blue Laws" that close bars, billiard parlors and bowling alleys on Sunday

James H. Stevens was elected mayor

The Tri-Weekly Telegraph began publication

Saloons out number churches


Houston Merchants imported inventories valued at $1,719,194

The Houston and Texas Central began service on twenty-five miles of track between Houston and Cypress

Rice invested in his father-in-laws' Houston and Texas Central

Construction was initiated on the Galveston, Houston, and Henderson Railroad connecting Houston and Galveston. It was completed in 1859


The city fathers secured permission from the state to build the seven-mile long Houston Tap to Harrisburg and thus link up with the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos, and Colorado. The city sold its holdings in 1858, and the system became known as the "Sugar Railroad", or the Houston Tap and Brazoria Railroad

February 27

The Weekly Telegraph reported that only 175 of 700 youths aged sixteen to seventeen were attending school

April 7

Construction was begun on the Houston Tap, which was built with slave labor. It inaugurated the railroad fever, which would link Houston to national lines by 1873


Local Democrats, aroused by absolution propaganda, welcomed the nomination of James Buchanan as their party's presidential candidate

August 13

The Texas legislature passed a railroad bill which would make Houston, rather than Galveston, the center of the state's rail system. Generous grants, in the form of loans and land grants, were made available to private builders

August 30

The first effective dredge boat was launched on the Buffalo Bayou to curb shoaling. It was owned by the city


Cornelius Ennis was elected mayor of Houston

Volume One of the Texas Almanac published at Galveston

April 7

The state engineer awarded a contract to David Bradbury for $22,725 of improvements on Clopper's Bar in the ship channel


Peter Gabel's brewery doubles in size


Alexander McGowan was chosen Houston's mayor

"The Yellow Rose of Texas" words and music credited to "J. K.," first published

Sixty thousand bales of Texas cotton went to market through the Port of Houston

The Houston and Texas Central now stretched fifty miles to Hempstead. It cost $22,650 a mile to construct

The Houston Insurance Company, the first locally based insurance firm, began providing insurance for Houston merchants

January 11

Anson Jones, the last president of the Republic of Texas, committed suicide in the Capitol Hotel

March 30

The Houston Lyceum conducted a debate on "Is it in the interest of the South to dissolve the Union?" It aroused such interest that it was continued for five days


A local census reported the city's population at 4,815 residents


To the wonderment of Houstonians, forty camels arrived in the city


William King assumed office as Houston's mayor

Sam Houston leaves his U. S. Senate seat to become governor of Texas

March 10

Houston suffered its first great fire disaster. The flames swept through the central part of the city, causing about $300,000 of mostly uninsured damage


One of Houston's two recorded lynchings claimed the life of George White, an accused rapist


Houston Academy opened; a school for 400 pupils with separate classrooms for boys and girls with Dr. Ashbel Smith as superintendent. At the time it represented the city's entire school system


Thomas W. Whitmarsh became mayor of Houston

Buffalo Bayou's steamboat era reaches its zenith

The richest man in the county was William Marsh Rice and he was believed to the second richest man in the state. Rice owned the biggest building in Houston. One of his several businesses was hauling ice to Houston from New England by ship

Knights of the Golden Circle, Southern Rights Association, and other organizations stimulate local sentiment in favor of secession

Houston's population was 4,845. That figure included about 1,068 slaves. Fourteen Texas counties had more people than Harris County

Over 115,000 bales of cotton passed through the city

Houston was a growing rail center with five short rail lines and over 350 miles of track leading to the city by the time the Civil War began

Industry still lagged far behind commerce, as Houston could claim only fifteen manufacturing establishments. The largest was a thirty-employee iron foundry, producing about $50,000 worth of goods a year

J. E. and J. W Schrimpf opened a large meat packing plant

At least nine Houston merchants reported taxable holdings of over $250,000

The city experienced two disastrous fires, one destroying $350,000 worth of property

Founding of King Ranch

January 31

The first telegraph connection established in 1853 proved temporary. On this day, the first news dispatch arrived over what would be a permanent connection. The telegraph line was kept operating all during the Civil War with sulphuric acid from Sour Lake


The first train crossed the causeway linking Galveston and the mainland, and soon daily runs between the Island and Houston were in operation

A telegraph link between the two cities had been completed a short time earlier


Wharfage fees at Houston were abolished, primarily because they increased freight rates and hurt the competitive position of Bayou shipping vis-a-vis rail service to Galveston

November 6

Independent Democratic Party candidate John C. Breckinridge received a majority of Houston's presidential votes


Now aged, General Sam Houston spoke to a large crowd urging maintenance of the Union, but he received sparse support



Our Vintage Sponsors

Copyright 2015 HoustonHistory.com. All rights reserved.