East Montgomery County Historical Society

Porter is located in the most Southeastern part of Montgomery County. The Southern boundary is defined by the San Jacinto River and the East fork of that same river. White Oak Creek and Ben's Branch make their way to the river, cutting through East County.

In the pre-Civil War years, virtually the entire area of East County was referred to as Boggy Precinct or Boggy Precinct, part of the Danville post office district. The Western part of the expansive, yet sparsely populated enclave of settlers, known as Boggy Prairie, was a nearly treeless, boggy swamp, infested with alligators." There were random stands of pines and all types of hardwood but by and large it was a 'boggy prairie.'

During an interviewed for a local newspaper article in the early 1970s, Josie Mayer Fatheree, who was born in Porters in the 1880s, gave us a glimpse of what the area was like before the 20th century rolled around. When she was a small child, seedling pine trees were planted. "By the very early 1900s those trees were large enough to be used for log houses. Neighbors from all around would gather for 'a house warming', where they built homes for their relatives and friends." The Northern and Eastern portions of this area were heavily wooded, and more similarly resembled the adjoining 'Big Thicket'. "She went on to say that "At night the 'ole gators would beller like bulls." When Josie was a small child, seeds were sown for pine trees.

Cattle drives, originating mostly from North East Texas towns, enroute to Houston, traveled via Old Houston Road, passed through Boggy Prairie, on a trail that took them through this area. Since there was no bridge, the San Jacinto River had to be forded at a shallow area near Spring Creek, with access located near the present day Sorters/McClellan Road. At the time cattle sold for a top price of $5.00 a head and land was $.50-$2.00 an acre, at most.

New Caney, Splendora and Porters were enumerated together so it is virtually impossible to discern, what percentage of the 740 people were actually living at Porters. There were 123 family dwellings. Of that number, 120 heads of households listed their occupation as farmers. Two were Physicians and 1 was a Tobacconist. One in every 6 residents was colored.

There was abundant wildlife and the river and creeks provided fish to feed the inhabitants. The soil was a 'rich bottom land' sandy loam that produced plentiful gardens. Many of the farmers, in that time made the journey to Houston, a few times a year, to sell or trade vegetables, fruit, game and meat for the much needed staples and farm supplies necessary to maintain their households and farms.

By the 1880's the sawmills were springing up like pine saplings. The area had 4 sawmill owners listed. Paul Murray of Pennsylvania, James Ayers of Georgia, Thomas L. & David Hackney of Tennessee all had sawmills. Sometime in the 1880's James Hampton Porter settled here and opened a mill or bought out one of the existing ones. He called it Porter's Mill. Josie Mayer's father, Alfred, was listed on the 1880 census as a worker at one of those mills.

There was an equal number of farmers and workers of some capacity with the mills. Thomas Ryan, from Ireland, was listed as the 'Section Boss' and John Morris was the engineer for the new railroad that ran through the area. Dr. Samuel Fox cared for the local citizenry. William Arlt, who was born in Germany, but grew up during his teen years in the area, served as constable during the early1880's. John Kyle Needham served in that capacity from 1886-1888 and then again from1892-1894.

As with any burgeoning town, the services of lawyers were needed to handle legal transactions, Porters had 3. With all the influx of workers, there were at least 2 boarding houses. Several of the young ladies listed their occupation as washwomen. One would assume that all those mill workers, choppers, saw men, blacksmith, wheelwrights, teamsters, haulers and iron molders got plenty dirty. The teacher in 1880 was listed as Simeon Rawls.

Mr. James Porter operated a sawmill here for about10 years, beginning around 1877. Porter sold his mill and moved on; leaving no family behind, in the town that bears his name today.

The earliest records of the United States Postmasters indicate that about 1891, the post office servicing the area was known as Entre and John Singleton was postmaster. The post office at Entre was discontinued in 1892. A request for the name of Porter's Mill, Texas was made. The post office denied the name, cutting off the word Mill. Thus the name Porter's, Texas was used from that time through 1953, at which time the Post Office Department dropped the 's' and the name became Porter, Texas. William Hardy Epperson was appointed as post master on Aug 20, 1892 and served in that capacity off and on for about 10 years.

Clennie Needham served as constable for two terms. About that same time Sidney, Robertson and G.S Bruce, began operating The Bruce Brothers Lumber Company in Porter's which was in business from 1905-1910. They had a capacity of 20,000 board feet daily.

The area was sparsely populated, with only one store located near the railroad tracks, on the road that would become Old Highway 59. All the children attended a one-room school called Boggy Prairie School (located about where the Porter Elementary School is in present day.) In 1900 the teachers educating the area children were Fannie Humphries and Robert Ezel. A.D. Matthews served as teacher of the school in 1915.

The rail road, sawmills and lumber companies, were the life's blood of the entire area. Numerous mills came and went with regularity over the next few years. There was a relatively large mill located between Paulie and Porter, south of the present site of North Park Drive. J.C. Steadman owned and operated this sawmill complex and community. The complex was capable of producing its own lighting and power. It was in operation prior to 1923. In April 1923, Mr. Steadman sold the mill to M.S. Beach and R.O. Harris who operated the lumber company and community from 1923-1927 under the name, Japan (pronounced Jay-pan) Lumber Company before selling out in 1927 to J.P. Rose of Liberty County and John Arthur of Houston. Men worked as farmers or made and hauled railroad ties, and later, others followed the oilfield work. The men worked 12 hour days which earned them the top wages of $5.00 per day.

M.M. Ferrell also operated a mill for a short period of time in 1928. It was located 2 miles west of Japan. The mill produced all types of lumber, pine, and hardwoods, using steam power. Ferrell sold to A.O. Zylks later in 1928. L.D. Fussell and Red Pitts operated a mill and lumber company located about ¼ miles south of present day North Park Drive, near Kingwood.

Charles H. Daniel and his sons, Charles H., June, R.W. and Jack opened a sawmill and lumber company in 1935 which operated the longest of any of the mills in the area, continuing production well into the 1950's. During the 1930's several grocery stores served this sawmill town, among them Lube Casey, Red Lee and Jack Ellis operated stores that catered to the needs of the mill hands. The workers could purchase a single slice of bologna or a chunk of cheese for their lunch and have that amount carried on a credit account until payday. For a time the post office was located in Lube Casey's store. The Post Office Department later built its own building to house its operation.

In the early 1940's there were several businesses. The Matthews family opened a cafe; William Matthews owned a Shell gas station on the north corner of the intersection of Old Highway 59 (494) and Hester Highway (F M 1314); Mr. Ellis ran a grocery store on the other end of the same property; there was a drinking establishment to the north of Ellis' store; the Hills ran a gas station; further down the highway toward Humble, Bill Reaves had a café and across from the Pitts and Fussell Lumber Company was a gas station. Later in the 1940's the Porter area boasted many businesses. L.Roy Mayer owned a grocery, feed and hardware store; J.T. Sallas ran a Texaco station owned by L. Roy Mayer; Forrest Edward Needham owned a barber shop; Mr. Herb Crippen ran a gas station and Mrs. Ruth Crippen had a café and drinking establishment; the Weckter's had a gas station and grocery which also housed the post office; for a time. Floyd Sorter operated an auto mechanic shop; and Sam Asberry had a gas station.

Sometime in the later 1930's or early 1940's the road was cut through from Porter's to Conroe. This opened access to the county seat making life much easier Local laborers were used to complete the job. It was an iron ore road and then eventually blacktopped. The road was named Hester Highway. Previously when making the trip to Conroe, you had to travel to Westfield and then cut through, or travel by train to Houston then on to Conroe.

Doug Alley served as county commissioner and later Albert Sallas, who had been with the Sheriff's Department, won election to that position. A.D. Matthews was Justice of the Peace for 2 terms and after his untimely death, Homer Hamil served from 1954 until his death in 1960.

From 1970 to 1990 the town's population was listed as 2,146. In 1980, its population was estimated at 8,000. It grew rapidly in the 1980s, and continues to grow even more rapidly because of its proximity to the Houston metropolitan area. Schools in Porter are operated by the New Caney Independent School District and many of the schools have been awarded exemplary status. Development of a state of the art shopping area and residential communities are under way at present.

In April 2007, the first annual Sawmill Festival in East Montgomery County was celebrated. We have come full circle by paying tribute to our rich history and to our ancestors who "laid the bottom rail."