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Merle R. Hudgins

LOUISE, TEXAS. Louise is on U.S. Highway 59 and the Southern Pacific Railroad nine miles west of El Campo in far southwestern Wharton County. Before 1846 the area was a part of Jackson County, and until 1881 it was sparsely settled and used as free range for cattle by local Gulf Coast ranchers. Two miles east of Louise is Stage Stand Creek, reputedly named for the fact that the stagecoach from Texana to Egypt and Richmond used the creek as a rest stop. Just west of the Stage Stand crossing and a half mile from Louise on East Mustang Creek is a site that early settlers called Santa Anna's Crossing. In 1881 the New York, Texas and Mexican line laid track between Rosenberg and Victoria. John Mackay, part-owner of a Nevada silver mine, was the major investor. Count Joseph Telfener supplied many of the railroad workers, a fact that resulted in the nickname "Macaroni Line." In 1882 the line was completed, and on it were established six stations, one of which was named Louise, after the woman who was wife to John Mackay and sister-in-law to Telfener. A post office was established at the site in April 1888, when the population was 100. In 1901 G. M. Sadler and A. F. Brown, land agents, purchased the land and had a plat for a townsite surveyed and drawn. They built a two-story hotel and established a private bank and a mercantile store, which were purchased by H. P. Stockton in 1903. The Sadler-Brown brochure promoted the area, calling it the "greatest country on earth," and noting that "Rice has been proven and water is in abundance at a nominal cost." Sadler and others built a water-pumping plant in 1901. In 1903 Sadler planted 426 acres of rice and sold that year's crop for $36,000, with a net profit of $18,000. William Thomas and K. H. Payne established a well-drilling firm shortly thereafter and drilled some of the first deepwater wells for rice irrigation on the Texas Gulf Coast.

A variety of ethnic groups moved to the area. Cotton joined rice, along with corn and milo, as a major crop. The Louise Independent School District was incorporated in 1908 and in 1927 had 212 pupils and four teachers. By 1925 Louise had a population of 300, twenty-five stores, three garages, two banks, two lumberyards, two rice warehouses, and Baptist and Methodist churches. Oil and gas exploration began in the early 1930s, and the oil industry has maintained a presence in the area. In 1938 R. H. B. Hancock moved a rice dryer and mill from Port Lavaca to Louise by barge and truck. In 1990 this rice mill was the major industry for Louise and was the home of Fiesta brand rice. The town's population peaked at 900 in 1960. That year Louise began an "Outdoor Newspaper" (a large billboard of local news), which garnered national attention. As young adults moved to metropolitan areas over the next twenty years, the population of Louise dropped by 1980 to 310, when many local businesses had closed. In 1990 the community school had 448 students and thirty-six faculty members. That year the population of Louise was still reported as 310. The population tripled by 2000 reaching 977.

El Campo Leader-News, September 30, 1959. Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin. Annie Lee Williams, A History of Wharton County (Austin: Von Boeckmann-Jones, 1964).

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

Handbook of Texas Online, Merle R. Hudgins, "LOUISE, TX," accessed May 28, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hll67.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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