The area in which Missouri City is now located holds a significant part in the history of Texas that dates back to its early days as part of the United States. In August 1853, the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway(BBB&C), began operating its first 20 miles (32 km) of rail line that stretched from Harrisburg (now Houston) to Stafford’s Point (now Stafford). It was the first railroad to begin operating in Texas, and the first standard gaugerailroad west of the Mississippi River.
The railway continued its extension westward until, in 1883, it linked with its eastward counterpart, completing the Sunset Route from Los Angeles to New Orleans. Today, the route of the BBB&C (now owned by the Union Pacific Railroad) is still an important and heavily operated railroad line.
In 1890, two real estate investors from Houston (R.M. Cash and L.E. Luckle) purchased 4 square miles (10 km2) of land directly on the route of the BBB&C, only a mile and a half from its first stop at Stafford’s Point. They advertised the property as “a land of genial sunshine and eternal summer” in St. Louis, Missouri, and its surrounding areas. Three years later, W.R. McElroy purchased 80 acres (320,000 m2) in the same vicinity, and in an effort to promote the area jointly with Cash and Luckle in St. Louis, he named it “Missouri City”. Its first settlers were, however, from Arlington, Texas, near Dallas and Fort Worth.
The settlement was officially registered in Texas in 1894, and began to take shape as a railroad town along Main Street and Blue Ridge Road, now known as US 90A and Texas Parkway, respectively. Its growth took an unexpected turn when, on February 14, 1895, shortly after the first group of settlers had arrived, the town was hit with a blizzard. This discouraged some of the newcomers, who gave up and moved elsewhere. Those unwavered stayed and found success in farming and ranching.
Among its first businesses were a blacksmith shop, a depot, and a general store, which also housed the first post office. The first Catholic church was built in 1913, but was destroyed by a hurricane in 1915. The new church built to replace it stood until 1990.
Oil was discovered at Blue Ridge 4 miles (6 km) southeast of town in 1919; soon after, a salt mine opened there. Missouri City became the railroad shipping point for these two resources. In 1925, at the same location, natural gas was discovered. After a pipeline had been constructed the following year, Missouri City became the first town in Fort Bend County to make use of natural gas.
With the benefit of a railroad, Missouri City had already been home to commuters who, by train, traveled to adjacent towns like Stafford’s Point and Sugar Land to work. With the increase of automobiles and the improvement of roads and highways in the early part of the 20th century, the developing community of Missouri City gradually attracted a wealth of newcomers. This gave birth to a new generation of commuters, replacing railroad commuting that eventually became obsolete. By the 1950s, the town began to take shape as a notable “bedroom community” suburb of Houston.
After fear and rumor spread of possible annexation of the unincorporated town by Houston, town leaders scrambled to piece together a city government. On March 13, 1956, the community that began as a small settlement more than 55 years earlier was incorporated.
Missouri City has since seen tremendous economic growth, moving eastward, southward, and then westward. The city was first made over by Fondren Park (in Harris County), near US 90A, in the early 1960s, followed by Quail Valley, along Cartwright Road between Texas Parkway and Murphy Road, in the late 1960s. Unlike neighboring Houston, Missouri City has been a zoned city since 1981. Multifamily complexes (e.g. apartments and condominiums) are a rare find because of the current zoning ordinance.
In the 1980s, an influx of middle-class African Americans – most of them first-time homeowners – were attracted to developing communities south and west of Houston. Many of them made the subdivisions of Missouri City home. This influx occurred after an economic downturn caused property values and interest rates to drop. Teal Run and other unincorporated areas east of Highway 6 became ethnically diverse before neighborhoods farther west. Movement by black families has been characterized by neighborhood hopping, whereby families who can afford to move go to majority-white neighborhoods, ostensibly to escape possible negative influences to their children. As a result of the influx, some white families moved to different communities and neighborhoods in a response known as “white flight“. (White flight usually further decreases property values, whereby a neighborhood is no longer seen as desirable to a significant segment of the population, and therefore worth less. Low income families tend to fill the void left by whites, and the process starts over again when minority members of the community once again seek a better neighborhood to live in.) Many of the newcomers were employees within nearby Houston work centers (e.g., Texas Medical Center and Greenway Plaza). In 2000, Missouri City was named a model city for middle-class African Americans by Black Entertainment Television.
The Missouri City area’s recent upscale, master-planned residential developments include Lake Olympia, south of Quail Valley, and portions of Riverstone, south of State Highway 6. The nearby unincorporated area of Sienna Plantation, also located south of Highway 6, is situated on and around land once occupied by plantations where, among other things, sugarcane and cotton were harvested.
Missouri City is located in eastern Fort Bend County at 29°34′58″N 95°32′22″W (29.582799, -95.539423). A portion of the city extends north into Harris County. Missouri City is bordered by the city of Houston to the north and east, Stafford to the northwest, Sugar Land to the west, and Arcola to the southeast, as well as unincorporated communities such as Fifth Street to the north, Fresno to the east, and Sienna Plantation to the south. Downtown Houston is 17 miles (27 km) to the northeast.
Oyster Creek flows in a southerly direction through the municipality.
According to the United States Census Bureau, Missouri City has a total area of 29.8 square miles (77.2 km2), of which 28.4 square miles (73.6 km2) is land and 1.4 square miles (3.6 km2), or 4.65%, is water.
Parks and Recreation
The Missouri City Parks and Recreation Department is a Texas Gold Medal Award-winning department that maintains and operates a wide variety of park and natural areas, trails, athletic complexes and other facilities. The Parks Department currently maintains 20 developed parks totaling 393 acres (159 ha). Park amenities include multiple lighted sports fields, lakes, playgrounds, splash pad, and walking trails, as well as boating and fishing sites.
The Missouri City Recreation and Tennis Center is the heart of the recreation division and houses the majority of the city’s recreation and fitness classes. Completed in 2012, the center features 13 tennis courts, 4 batting cages, a cardio/weight room, multi-purpose rooms, locker rooms and a full-size gymnasium.
The Parks and Recreation Department has daytime and evening recreational programs and provides numerous special events throughout the year.
Freedom Tree Park
Missouri City’s most historical park, Freedom Tree Park, is named after the Freedom Tree, which sits along Misty Hollow Drive between Glenn Lakes and Lake Olympia boulevards, at the former Palmer Plantation site.