Tucked under the sweeping branches of an ancient oak is the Dew Plantation House in Missouri City. Its white clapboard siding and elegant turn-of-the-century architecture sit against the backdrop of a modern city.
Over the years, the landscape of Missouri City has transformed from wide-open fields to busy streets. However, once-prosperous plantations, such as the Dew Plantation house, have left a mark on the heritage of the town. There is a rich history of farming throughout the area, and inside the Dew house, photographs and memorabilia remind visitors of how the city began.
The Dew Plantation—originally known as Belvidere Plantation—was built in the DeWalt area south of Missouri City. It was owned and operated by Hugh Saunders, an uncle of the Dew brothers. Saunders ran a sugar mill, cotton gin and a small oil field on the property. The Dew brothers rode into town on horseback, bringing ambitious plans to grow the plantation. They bought it in 1895 and added cattle and corn to their business portfolio.
The Dew Plantation House is the oldest and last-standing estate in Missouri City. In its day, the plantation sat alongside many other successful estates, including the Jones, Arcola, Cartwright, Cunningham and Foster plantations among others.
"As Fort Bend developed economically and socially through the 1800s, the county's tax and census records indicated that a considerable number of individuals had acquired large segments of land and personal wealth," wrote Sharon Wallingford in "Fort Bend County, Texas: A Pictorial History."
This marriage of circumstances produced several working estates—successful and powerful business endeavors that cropped up throughout the South. Wealthy landowners bought elegant brick mansions overlooking hundreds of acres of prosperous, rich farmland that produced cotton, corn, and sugarcane.
In 2007, Fort Bend County helped renovate the plantation and relocated the house to Kitty Hollow Park in Missouri City. Four years later, the house opened as a museum.
"The county renovated the house and the Fort Bend County Museum Association installed exhibits about the Dew family and the DeWalt community," said Diane Ware, special project manager and historian with the DeWalt Heritage Center. "We also host community programs throughout the year."
The museum plans to host several upcoming events, including "Great Changes from the Great War," which commemorates the 100-year anniversary of World War I. The program runs from July 27–Sept. 28 from 1–4 p.m. on Sundays, excluding holidays.
The Dew Plantation House remains a tangible reminder of an area that prospered in the late 1800s and early 1900s by growing sugar cane, corn and cotton, and raising cattle, Ware said.
High-performing schools, nearby amenities and the booming oil business have made Missouri City a popular suburban community. Thanks to the efforts of organizations like the Fort Bend County Museum Association and the DeWalt Heritage Center, the history that laid the foundation for the city's success is preserved in curated museums and attractions like the Dew Plantation.