History of Friendswood
Celebrating 125 Years of Friendswood Anniversary Video Series
Select a title below to view each video in this series about Friendswood History, told by Official Historian Joyce Baker.
Fig orchards, satsuma orange orchards, and rice fields once flourished where Friendswood homes now stand. The last vestiges of them and the homes that the Quakers constructed are nearly gone, but the legacy left by those founders and early settlers remains. That legacy is the heritage of a way of life that did more to shape the character of the community than any brick and mortar buildings ever could.
In the spring of 1895 a Quaker named Frank Jacob Brown, who had been an adventuresome buffalo hunter, and a Quaker named Thomas Hadley Lewis, who was a college educated man, felt directed to this area of the Gulf Coast to establish a community dedicated to God. Starting Quaker colonies was a common practice of the religious sect called Quakers or Friends, as they were part of the westward movement across the nation in the middle to late 1800s. (The terms Quaker and Friends are synonymous and used interchangeably.)
When Brown and Lewis came upon this area in Northern Galveston County, they found 1,538 acres of prairie, well drained by and beautifully framed with the dense woods along:
- Chigger Creek
- Clear Creek
- Coward’s Creek
- Mary’s Creek
Feeling this surely was their "Promised Land," they negotiated with the owner, Galveston banker J. C. League, for a deed of trust, and on July 15, 1895 they recorded the name of the colony at the Court House in Galveston. They named it Friendswood.
Word of the colony spread among Quakers in the northern and midwest states, and soon more than a dozen families joined them. Friendswood developed as a farming community marked by hard work, simple, clean living, and a deep respect for God, the family, and education.
After the colony survived the Galveston Storm of 1900 with no loss of life, they used their sawmill to convert the swaths of trees felled by the storm into lumber for the construction of a two story building they called the Academy. It served them as church, school, and community meeting place until it was replaced by the present stone church building in 1949. The Academy (high school) operated by the Quakers offered a classical curriculum through 1928, and attracted students, in its earliest years, from surrounding towns that had no high school.
From 1895 to 1915, most of the newcomers were Quakers who came to be a part of the Quaker colony. Through 1920, the population was swollen by an influx of farmers, lured by Houston developers who advertised the Gulf Coast as a Garden of Eden where figs, oranges, and rice grew practically wild. By the early 1920s, there were 17,000 to 18,000 acres of figs from Winnie to San Leon, and 17 fig preserving plants. Two of those plants were in Friendswood. Support personnel for the farms brought more people to Friendswood, and the early 1930s brought families dispossessed by the Depression looking for a new chance in life.
Late in the decade, the newly developing oil fields east and west of the community provided jobs for more newcomers. The war slowed the growth in the 1940s, but the decade still saw the beginning of a trend of wealthy business and professional people from Houston buying up property along the creeks.
For the first 50 years of Friendswood’s history, it had a church, a school, a post office, a grocery store, and a fig plant or two. That was it. There was no doctor, no bank, no drug store, no policeman, not even a newspaper. Up to this time it was a rural, predominately Quaker settlement whose history is authenticated by the Texas State Historical Marker located on the Friends Church property.
Incorporation as a Town
During the 1950s, young families moving out from Houston began to give Friendswood its modern, bedroom stature, but the population was still less than 1,000 in 1959. In 1960, farsighted local men put into action a plan for the incorporation of Friendswood, and the town elected its first mayor, city council, and a law officer-a move which helped prepare it to cope with the tremendous growth which took place in the decade of the 1960s as hundreds of National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) employees chose Friendswood as their home. Subdivisions, schools, churches, businesses and community organizations mushroomed.
By 1966 Friendswood had its first medical clinic, pharmacy, bank, newspaper and police department. In 1969 the population was 5,200.
Growth continued unabated through the 1970s and 1980s, and the population was nearing 29,000. Friendswood became a suburban community of fine:
The strong volunteer instincts of the residents enabled the city to build a municipal building in 1965 without debt because residents donated labor, materials and funding. In 1971, they built a replica of the Frank J. Brown home to serve as a repository of Friendswood’s heritage.
Part of Two Counties
Since the 1980s, Friendswood has grown considerably; the current population is more than 41,000. Friendswood encompasses parts of two counties, northern Galveston and southern Harris County, divided by the popular Clear Creek. Clear Creek offers direct water access to the Gulf of Mexico through Clear Lake and Galveston Bay. It is located 3 miles west of Interstate Highway 45, halfway between Houston and Galveston. Friendswood encompasses 21 square miles and is over 70% developed.
Culture & Recreation
Within a thirty minute drive residents can attend cultural, educational and recreational events, including:
- Amusements parks
- The beach at Galveston
- Major league sports of every kind
Education is an important part of every successful community. Friendswood lies within two premier school districts: Clear Creek Independent School District (ISD) and Friendswood ISD. Both are rated among the best in Texas. There are several community colleges, as well as quality four year universities and upper level graduate schools in close proximity.
Celebrating 125 Years of Friendswood Video Series
The name "Friendswood" --125th Anniversary segment 1
Official Historian Joyce Baker explains where the name "Friendswood" came from, in this segment of the 125th Anniversary video series.
Friendswood's Founding Families--125th Anniversary segment 2
Why the founding families of Friendswood selected this area to settle is explained by Official Historian Joyce Baker in this segment of the 125th Anniversary video series.
Baker Market--125th Anniversary segment 3
Official Historian Joyce Baker explains how her family's Baker Food Market was the first full-sized grocery store in Friendswood, in this 125th Anniversary segment.
July 4--125th Anniversary segment 4
Friendswood's Official Historian, Joyce Baker explains how celebrating America's independence has always been an annual tradition.
The Gathering -- 125th Anniversary segment 5
"The Gathering" in Friendswood always took place on the evening of July 3rd. Official Historian explains more details about the tradition in this 125th Anniversary video segment.
Friends Academy--125th Anniversary segment 6
"Faith, family, and education" were the three foundations of Quaker settlers of Friendswood. Official Historian Joyce Baker has details about the first educational facility, in this 125th Anniversary segment.
Figs---125th Anniversary segment 7
There's no way to overstate the importance of figs to Friendswood, as explained by Official Historian Joyce Baker in this 125th Anniversary video.
Labor Dispute--125th Anniversary segment 8
A labor dispute in Friendswood? Official Historian Joyce Baker provides details, and how it was settled in this 125th Anniversary video segment.
First Newspaper -- 125th Anniversary segment 9
Learn how Friendswood's first newspaper was written and produced from Official Historian Joyce Baker in this 125th Anniversary video segment.
Albritton’s Market--125th Anniversary segment 10
Albritton's was Friendswood's first general store. Official Historian Joyce Baker has details in this 125th Anniversary segment.
Churches--125th Anniversary segment 11
City of Friendswood Official Historian Joyce Baker gives a brief history of the churches that formed following the original Friends Church in this 125th Anniversary video segment.
Kindergarten & public schools--125th Anniversary segment 12
The first Friendswood kindergarten was organized by parents. Official Historian Joyce Baker has details on it and the public schools, in this 125th Anniversary video segment.
NASA as neighbors---125th Anniversary segment 13
Friendswood's proximity to NASA's Johnson Space Center meant that as the space industry grew, so did the City. Official Historian Joyce Baker explains what it was like to have space walkers as neighbors in this 125th Anniversary video segment.
Travel to Houston--125th Anniversary segment 14
Going to Houston was not an easy journey in the early days of Friendswood. Official History Joyce Baker explains in this 125th Anniversary video segment.
Oil--125th Anniversary segment 15
Oil. Black gold. Texas tea. Was it ever found in Friendswood? Official Historian has the answer in this 125th Anniversary video segment.
The Future--125th Anniversary segment 16
Official Historian Joyce Baker shares her thoughts on the future of Friendswood as it celebrates the 125th Anniversary.