Scope and Contents
Original letters, pamphlets, tabloids, printed materials books, videos, maps, and photographs documenting the Texas city of Sugar Land and Fort Bend County during the 19th century and 20th century, including the creation and development of the Imperial Sugar company.
The Sugar Land and Fort Bend historical papers of Jane Glauner McMeans contain information about the Texas city of Sugar Land and about Fort Bend County. Sugar Land is on Oyster Creek and U.S. Highway 90A, east of the Brazos River and seven miles northeast of Richmond in northeastern Fort Bend County.
The Sugar Land area was originally granted to Samuel M. Williams in 1828 for his service as secretary to Stephen F. Austin. 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. The Williams brothers established their raw-sugar mill in 1843. 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. Sometime after the Civil War, E. H. Cunningham of San Antonio accumulated more than 12,000 acres of the property 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.
In 1906 the Kempner family of Galveston, under the leadership of Isaac H. Kempner and in partnership with William T. Eldridge, purchased the Ellis Plantation, one of the few Fort Bend County plantations to survive the Civil War. In 1908 the partnership acquired the adjoining Cunningham Plantation with its raw sugar mill and cane-sugar refinery. The partnership changed its name to the Imperial Sugar Company; Eldridge moved to the site to serve as general manager and build the company-owned town of Sugar Land. Sugar Land soon attracted a stable population largely made up of Germans and Czechs from the Schulenberg-Flatonia area of Texas. Convict labor worked the Ellis Plantation until 1914, when the company sold the property to the state of Texas as a prison farm, and for a time thereafter convicts continued to produce sugar.
The Imperial Sugar Company, which refines raw cane sugar at its huge plant at Sugar Land, is the oldest extant business in Texas. It has operated continuously on the same site, making the same products (refined cane sugar and a byproduct, blackstrap molasses) since 1843. In 1946 the Kempner family bought out the Eldridge interest in the firm and became sole owners of the town of Sugar Land. The town was incorporated in 1959, a year after Imperial Sugar and Sugarland Properties, Incorporated, also owned by the Kempner family, began selling the businesses, homes, and land for development. In 1989 Imperial merged with the Holly Sugar Corporation, a company formed from eight beet-sugar processing plants, to form the Imperial Holly Corporation, a processor of both cane and beet sugar.
The company formed the Belknap Corporation and developed area subdivisions, including Imperial Estates, Brookside, Belknap, and Venetian Estates, as well as Alkire Lake and Horseshoe Lake. Imperial later sold all but a few acres of its real estate. The first 1,200 acres went to Jake Kamin and his associates, who developed the Sugar Creek neighborhood. The remaining 7,500 acres of farm land was sold to Gerald Hines and used in the development of Sweetwater, First Colony, and several other planned communities on what had been fields of sugarcane, cotton, grains, and vegetables. Spurred by development from nearby Houston, in the last decades of the twentieth century Fort Bend was among the fastest-growing counties in the United States.
Historical sketch excerpted from text courtesy of the Handbook of Texas Online, s.v., http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/SS/hfs10.html