Creating League City & Early Enterprises
Creating League City
Aided by the railroads, the cattle industry thrived in North GalvestonCounty throughout the post-war decades. George Washington Butler in particular became a highly respected and influential stock breeder. Eventually owning 2,000 acres of rich grazing land, Butler specialized in the breeding of Brahman cattle which he imported to New Orleans and then drove overland to what is now League City. In October of 1873, Butler purchased a 34-acre tract of land from Colonel Henry B. Andrews, an investor of the Galveston, Houston and Henderson Railroad and owner of the local brickyard. The Butler Ranch and Cattle Station, located on the south side of Clear Creek, quickly became a passenger and mail-pick-up and drop-off point on the railroad. Today, Helen’s Garden, a beautiful League City landmark, occupies a portion of that property.
Butler’s increasing prominence and business success is reflected in a variety of community endeavors. Butler was elected a Galveston County Commissioner, a post he held for the next eight years, and also served as Post Master for the community. During the early 1890’s, Butler convinced the wealthy Galveston financier, John Charles League to purchase land on the east side of the Galveston, Houston and Henderson Railroad located in the Muldoon and Stephen F. Austin survey, and plat a town. The original lots measured 50-by-140 feet, sold for $50 per lot.
In 1893, League, with the support of local congressman and close friend, Miles Crowley, renamed the town from the original “Clear Creek” to “League City”. This gesture met considerable derision among local residents living on the west side of the railroad tracks. By 1896, the local post office had become the focal point of a “feud” as the residents of Clear Creek and the new League City competed for the town’s name. For the next six years, depending upon which party held the political upper hand, the local post office building (with G. W. Butler at the helm) moved back and forth across the railroad tracks. The League City advocates eventually won the fight, and Butler’s Ranch, the community of Clear Creek on the west side of the railroad, and J. C. League’s new town merged to become League City.
In creating his township, League kept a keen eye on the future. Although League maintained his residency in Galveston, he remained committed to the growth and prosperity of his new township. He managed the construction and grading of roads within the town as well as those leading to it. League also designated plats for parks, churches and schools. In 1897, League donated land to create League Park as a venue for public gatherings and concerts. The park featured a bandstand built in the form of a two-story gazebo where, on many occasions, the local town band provided musical accompaniment on the upper level while local women’s clubs sold refreshments below. League’s generosity also provided for a school to be built on the corner of Kansas and Second Streets. Demolished by the hurricane of 1900, the school was quickly rebuilt and became known as the “Little Green School”. St. Mary’s Catholic Church stands on land donated by League to the citizens of League City. Thus, as one of League City’s first developers, J. C. League ensured the citizens of his town would benefit from three primary components of a thriving community: a place to play, to learn and to worship.
The next step involved creating a commercial district. The railroad depot and Straw Hall or Stragglers Hall, which first housed guests, was soon supplemented by mercantile stores and a saloon. Working in cooperation with local businessmen, League and Butler laid the groundwork for a thriving community. Fully aware that a town’s success depended in large part upon the establishment of a bank, Butler struck a deal with the Galveston banking firm, Hutchins and Sealy. If the firm would charter a bank for the new town, Butler would build a first-class building to house it. Under the architectural direction of Andrew Dow, a former employee on the Butler Ranch, construction of the building was completed in 1908. As the first brick commercial structure in town, the two-story, L-shaped Butler Building not only housed the Citizens State Bank, but a drugstore, a doctor’s office, a real estate and insurance office, and a hardware store. Other enterprises located nearby included a fig plant, the Lawrence Broom Factory, a newspaper, the Schenck family bakery, and the Kilgore Lumber Company.
By 1914, League City was on its way to becoming a dynamic community. With a population now numbering 500, the town was regularly serviced by four railroads: the Galveston, Henderson and Houston, the International-Great Northern,the Missouri, Kansas and Texas and the Galveston-Houston Electric Railroad, known as the “Interurban”. These transportation venues were instrumental in creating a thriving commercial district in League City.