Hempstead, Texas, History: Remember When?

Hempstead, Texas’ history is filled with all sorts of fascinating insight. From watermelon crops that made our small town somethin’ famous, to a Wild West persona that earned us the nickname “Six Shooter Junction” and our on-again, off-again status as a city, it’s all pretty interesting (and more importantly, it’s true).

Of course, not every bit of information that piques people’s curiosity happened way back when. There’s plenty that’s taken place in modern times that will have folks nodding their heads and saying “Oh yeah, remember that?” We’ve pulled together a few bits of Hempstead, Texas, history from the not-too-distant past — happenings that helped our fair town become what it is today, and helped set the stage for our future. Read on, reminisce and see what you remember.

Remember When: The World Caught Wind of Our Wonderful Crops?
Early on in Hempstead’s history, we grew mainly corn and cotton. As time progressed and farmers decided to see exactly what they could do, produce really took off. Our watermelons made us world-famous, and the introduction of truck farming spread our incredible produce far and wide. The DiIorios, a well-known family of growers, helped to seal our watermelon fame, although they set their sights on vegetables, other crops and cattle, too. A later addition by the family not only helped shape our town, but gave folks yet another reason to drop in for a visit. Their popular market, now a must-experience Hempstead attraction, opened for business in the early 1980s.

Remember When: Highway 290 Ran Right Through Town?
It used to be that all roads ran through Hempstead. (Or at least, it seemed that way.) Busy U.S. 290 is a well-traveled thoroughfare that takes college kids to and from their academic endeavors, allows businesspeople to carry out their day-to-day work and connects many cities throughout our region. Booming traffic meant we had all sorts of retail and restaurant options around to cater to those passing through. After years of planning and construction, however, the opening of an overpass in late 2020 meant fewer travelers stopping by in town. The change led to business closures, and has impacted our economy some. But with all the exciting opportunities making their way to town, rest assured there’s lots of growth to come.

Remember When: Hempstead Was Big at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo?
The world’s largest indoor rodeo sits only about 50 miles or so from Hempstead, Texas, and we’ve always enjoyed being part of the fun. Although we still have incredible kids showing — and selling — their animals at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, we used to have an even bigger presence. Waller County Nights presented Hempstead and other towns in our county the opportunity to get our names out there, and even take part in that wonderful wagon-filled grand entrance that serves as the starting point for the day’s rodeo. More than 400 people (in 44 buses!) used to make the trek out to Houston for the evening where our county sat front and center. Who knows? With all the excitement taking place here in town, there’s a chance that tradition could eventually make a comeback.

See what we mean? Hempstead, Texas, history (even its fairly recent history) is pretty interesting. We hope you find our story as intriguing as we do, and that you’re excited to see what comes next for our town. If you have questions about any of the above, feel free to contact the HCCA. And if you’d like to become part of the group helping to lead that change? Become a member! We’d love to have ya. Just follow this link to get started!

Photo Credit: Waller County Texas Historical Commission/Society

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