Since its original printing in 1952, the publication of the Handbook of Texas has been made possible through the support of its users. As an independent nonprofit, TSHA relies on your contributions to close the funding gap for the online Handbook and keep it a freely accessible resource for users worldwide. Please make a donation today to preserve the most comprehensive encyclopedic resource on Texas history. Donate Today »


ELDRIDGE, WILLIAM THOMAS (1862–1932). William Thomas Eldridge, businessman, was born in Washington County, Texas, on September 8, 1862. He left home at the age of twelve and moved to Eagle Lake in the early 1880s. He served a term as city marshal, opened a hotel, and around 1900 helped build the Cane Belt Railroad. He built and operated two company towns (Bonus and Eldridge), as well as several businesses in Eagle Lake. After being acquitted of murder charges for killing two men who threatened his life, he moved to Sugar Land and, with the prominent Kempner family of Galveston, bought the Cunningham Sugar Refinery and its 20,000-acre plantation. The new owners organized as the Imperial Sugar Company and named Eldridge manager. Under his control the company built a new refinery and developed a system of irrigation for the various crops. Tariff charges on sugar, however, prevented Texas cane from competing with Hawaiian and Cuban sugarcane, so Eldridge turned to other crops to diversify his farm. He then imported raw sugar from Cuba for refining, and in 1907 produced a half million pounds of sugar a day. His was the only sugar refinery operating in the Southwest. Imperial Sugar became one of the most important sugar companies in Texas history. Under Eldridge's control the partnership built a complete company town with 435 homes for permanent employees of the factory, the stores, and the farms at Sugar Land. On what had been the Cunningham plantation Eldridge grew sugarcane, cotton, feed grains, fruit crops, and such vegetables as cabbages, potatoes, yams, and corn. He acquired, improved, then sold seven more railroads of varying sizes, including the Sugar Land Railroad, the San Antonio, Uvalde and Gulf Railroad, the Asherton and Gulf Railway, and the Rio Grande City Railway. Most of these lines were sold to the Missouri Pacific. Eldridge contracted with the Sealy Mattress Company to manufacture mattresses at Sugar Land. He died on August 20, 1932.

Robert M. Armstrong, Sugar Land and the Imperial Sugar Company (Sugar Land, Texas, 1991). Houston Post, August 22, 1932. S. G. Reed, A History of the Texas Railroads (Houston: St. Clair, 1941; rpt., New York: Arno, 1981).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, "ELDRIDGE, WILLIAM THOMAS," accessed December 06, 2019,

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...