The history behind The Woodlands: A look at south Montgomery County across the decades

George Mitchell is the founder of The Woodlands. (Courtesy George's Coffee Club)
George Mitchell is the founder of The Woodlands. (Courtesy George's Coffee Club)

George Mitchell is the founder of The Woodlands. (Courtesy George's Coffee Club)

Image description
The Heritage Museum of Montgomery County is located on Candy Cane Lane in Conroe. (Courtesy Heritage Museum of Montgomery County)
The history of the villages in The Woodlands and the neighboring cities of Shenandoah and Oak Ridge North can only be traced back about five decades, but the formation of these communities took place on land that has seen wilderness transformed into lumber mills, railroads and, finally, into residential areas in the past century.

A series of events

South Montgomery County communities developed in the 1970s.

1964:

Mitchell Energy and Development Corp. purchases 50,000 acres of forested land north and west of Houston from the Grogan-Cochran Lumber Co.


1971:

The first public school in The Woodlands, Lamar Elementary School, opens.

1974:

The Woodlands formally opens Oct. 19 with the village of Grogan’s Mill.

1974:

The city of Shenandoah is incorporated west of I-45.

1976:

McCullough High School opens.

1979:

Oak Ridge North is incorporated as a city at the same time I-45 is completed.

1985:

The Woodlands Hospital opens, and the excavation of Lake Woodlands is completed.

1990:

Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion opens, providing an outdoor space for entertainment and live music.

1992:

The boundaries of Magnolia and Conroe ISDs are realigned, which, at the time, brings all of The Woodlands into Conroe ISD.

1994:

The Woodlands Mall opens in Town Center.

Traveling through time

1. The Houston Advanced Research Center was established in 1982 as a technology incubator in line with the vision of The Woodlands founder George Mitchell. Since 2001, it has focused its mission on researching sustainable development.

2. Lake Woodlands, a 200-acre freshwater lake, was excavated in 1984 and 1985. It is also the home of the Midgard Serpent statue, one of several pieces of public art in the township.

3. Oak Ridge North, incorporated in 1979, began with the Pines Corp.’s purchase of a tract of land two miles north of Spring Creek. Development started with construction of a subdivision around the same time I-45 was completed.

4. Tamina’s Sweet Rest Cemetery has been dormant and inaccessible due to standing water for more than 10 years, but the site includes graves dating back to 1871. Tamina was settled by freed slaves who helped to build the railroad that runs through the region.

5. W. G. Jones State Forest consists of 1,725 acres along FM 1488, purchased by Texas in 1926. The forest is named for the founder of the Texas Forestry Association, W. Goodrich Jones.

History on display

The Heritage Museum of Montgomery County includes information, programs, research materials and tours for the public. Candy Cane Park, 1506 I-45 N., Conroe. 936-539-6873. www.heritagemuseum.us

Pioneers of the past

Entrepreneur George Mitchell, founder of Mitchell Energy and Development Corp., founded The Woodlands in 1974 with the goal of creating a sustainable master-planned community. His philanthropic efforts in the area can be seen in landmarks after named him, such as a library and nature preserve.

This article ran in the January 2020 edition of The Woodlands. Read the full e-edition here.
By Vanessa Holt
A resident of the Houston area since 2011, Vanessa began working in community journalism in her home state of New Jersey in 1996. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2016 as a reporter for the Spring/Klein edition and became editor of that paper in March 2017 and editor of The Woodlands edition in January 2019.