Texas may not be well-known for Quaker settlements, but that is how Friendswood got its start.
In 1895, Quaker Frank Brown and his wife, joined by Thomas Hadley Lewis and his wife, came to the area in search of good farmland where they could establish a new community based on Quaker ideals. When they got to what is now known as Friendswood, they felt confident they had found the right place.
"They called it 'The Promised Land,'" said Barbara Holt, a member of the Friendswood Historical Society. "And they settled, and then they started getting other Quakers to come in."
Most of the new residents who moved in up until about 1915 were Quakers.
Education has always been held in high esteem in Friendswood, Holt said. In the early days of the farming community, members would gather together to hear each other speak on topics ranging from languages to mythology.
"The Quakers' main thing, other than family and church, was education, so they would have impromptu and extemporaneous speeches," Holt said.
Anyone could be called up to speak without any prior warning, she said.
Because the land was sold 10 acres to a plot and the community was focused on farming, there were no traditional downtown shops.
"We don't have an historic downtown because there wasn't one," Holt said.
For many years, the town only had a post office, the Quaker church and a grocery store. The 1900 hurricane that devastated Galveston also hit Friendswood. No Friendswood residents died because of the storm, but thousands of trees were downed.
"They took the lumber from those trees and then they built the [Friendswood] Academy," Holt said. "And it was the church and the school and the community center, too—the heart of the town."
After Texas developed a statewide school system, the Friendswood Academy became a high school. Students from surrounding towns without schools came to Friendswood, Holt said.
Holt said although prospectors drilled for oil in Friendswood, none was ever found in town. However, the population really began to grow when NASA came to Houston.
"I moved here in about 1967, and we had about 3,000 people," she said. "And today we have over 36,000."
With all of that growth came the need for a city hall in the 1960s.
"The population was about [2,900] by then, so without any tax money or borrowing or anything, they built a little city hall-municipal building in 1965, and the residents donated labor, materials and funds," Holt said.
Despite the growth Friendswood has seen in the last 50 years, Holt said, it has retained its small-town community feel.
Friendswood also has its own historian, Joycina Day Baker, who wrote "Friendswood: A Settlement of Friendly Folks" in 1996.