near a Colorado River crossing used by Indians and Spanish
explorers, the City of La Grange’s development resonates
with themes predominant across Texas history.
residents (evidence dates them back to 1527) were Tonkawa
and Comanche Indians who pursued the great herds of
buffalo. White settlers began moving into the area began as
early as the 1820s, fueled by cheap land grants given by
Stephen F. Austin. Indian raids continued until the
In 1826, a
twin blockhouse called Moore's Fort was built within what is
now the city limits. By 1831, a small community had
developed and in 1837, a town was platted. When the
Congress of the Republic of Texas established Fayette County
the same year, La Grange became its seat of government.
Fayette County is named after the Marquis de Lafayette, a
Revolutionary War hero. The City of La Grange takes its
name from his chateau to which he retired.
Grange-area citizens were instrumental in the fight for
Texas independence. In 1838, the Texas Congress passed a
bill intended to place the capital of the Republic of Texas
on a site contiguous with La Grange; however, it was vetoed
by Sam Houston, first president of the Republic of Texas.
The La Grange
Post Office was established in 1838. During the 1840s and
1850s German and Czechs immigrants began arriving in Fayette
County and set down roots as they settled on farms and set
up businesses in town. Their influence resulted in first a
county vote against succession. However, economics
influenced many citizens to support the Confederacy and the
town organized a number of militia companies. Though La
Grange was untouched by Civil War fighting, during
Reconstruction the town was torn by conflict and disorder.
La Grange was occupied by federal troops in 1866 and an
agency of the Freedmen's Bureau was established.
early years, the economy was based largely on subsistence
farming but during the late 1840s and 1850s, a thriving
plantation economy emerged with planters bringing in
African-American slaves. By 1860, Fayette County had 3,786
continued to pour into the area, by 1890 approximately 25%
of the local population was foreign-born. La Grange boasted
two foreign newspapers -- one in Czech and another in
German. After Fayette County reached its population peak of
approximately 36,000 in 1900, the population steadily
declined. Gradually, the economy of the county transitioned
from small farms that raised cotton and corn to larger, more
mechanized operations that focus on cattle. Another factor
contributing to the dwindling population of the county was
the prospect of better paying jobs in nearby cities. That
served as an enticement to servicemen who were returning
after Word War II not to return to the farm.
best known chapter in recent La Grange history is the legend
of the Chicken Ranch, a brothel made famous by a stage play,
movie and the lyrics of a popular song. While the house of
ill repute thrived for decades in the Fayette County
countryside, it was officially closed in 1973. The ladies
who worked there moved on and the plain white, one-story
home was eventually hauled to Dallas. All that’s left today
is the legend.
information online, please visit:
the Muster Oak and Marker and the City’s Big Oaks
on the northeast corner of the square, this ancient oak
has been a witness to history. Military recruits from
six conflicts, beginning with the struggle for Texas
independence from Mexico have mustered at this historic
oak tree. It stands as a memorial to the many soldiers
who gathered under its branches to go off to war. This
tree is recognized in Famous Trees of Texas.
slowly or walk through the residential neighborhoods on
the south side of Hwy. 71 to discover who really owns
the road in La Grange. Massive oaks that are hundreds
of years old were here before the streets were laid
out. Therefore, the traffic is routed around the trees.
Visit the Old City Cemetery
through the Old La Grange City Cemetery that features
Texas State Historical Markers, ornate Italian marble
statuary and wooden markets that have become almost
illegible over time. One of the interesting grave
markers at the site is that of P. Carl J. Von Rosenburg,
who fought at Waterloo. The Old La Grange City Cemetery
is located on Hwy. Bus 71 East.