History of Industry Texas
Industry, the “oldest German town in Texas,” is situated in the scenic rolling hills of western Austin County at the intersection of State Highway 159 and Farm to Market Road 109. Industry is known for its hospitality, great school and receptive business climate. It is steeped in German heritage, with historic structures, museums and churches while connected to the Republic period of Texas. The rolling hills are alive with roadsides covered in spectacular wildflowers during the spring and fall along with birds and wildlife.
It was founded by Friedrich Ernst of Oldenburg, Germany, who settled here with his family and fellow German Charles Fordtran in 1831. In 1832, Ernst sent a letter back home praising Texas, which was published in the newspaper, causing a stream of Germans to emigrate. By the late 1830s, hundreds of Germans had settled in this region, and in the 1840s Germans were flooding into Texas, gaining Ernst the title of “Father of German Immigration to Texas.”
At Industry, Ernst operated a store/post office and a hotel. He farmed, grew tobacco and developed a cigar manufacturing industry. Requests for the industrious German’s cigars gave the town its American name. Today Industry boasts a heritage pre-dating the Texas Revolution making it older than most Texas towns. History is one of Industry’s proudest claims to fame and is evident throughout the town.
Industry historical points of interest include Ernst Memorial Park, (Schroeder Road two blocks west of Ernst Parkway/FM 109) the original town center of Industry. The park was formed in 1972 as a Lion’s Club project.
The Lions restored the old Republic of Texas Post Office/Ernst Store building, Industry’s most cherished relic of the past. The park has a covered pavilion, public restrooms, picnic area and playground. A walking trail features Texas State Historical Markers where visitors can learn more about local history. Markers are dedicated to the Town of Industry (1936), Ernst (1986), Friedrich Ernst Jr. (1985) and the history of the Industry Post Office (2003).
Fisches Park (about a quarter mile west of Industry on Highway 159) consists of 4 acres of land that was part of the original Ernst league of land. The park with picnic facilities was created in 1939 when the Fisches family owned a farm here and donated the site to the Texas Highway Department for a roadside park.
A State Highway Department marker here acknowledges: “This site donated for park purposes to the State of Texas in memory of W.E. Fisches.” A Texas State Historical Marker was dedicated here in 1976 to honor Charles Fordtran who accompanied Ernst to the area in 1831. The highway department recently closed the park and it is now a community park maintained by descendants, volunteers, and the City of Industry.
Industry Recreation Park (725 Main St.) was the site of one of Austin County’s earliest gins constructed by German Ernst Knolle in 1857. Knolle employed skilled German workers as millwrights, mechanics, engineers and technicians. Consequently, Industry was recognized at the time as a technological center in Texas for workers of exceptional advanced expertise and technical skills.
Cotton was a mainstay of livelihood for many in Austin County for over 100 years, and this gin with renovations and upgrades is said to have been the last functioning gin in the county. Chronological ownership of this gin made it consecutively known as Knolle-Daum-Schramm-Lindemann Gin. The last bale of cotton was ginned in the county in 1973 under Lindemann ownership. In 1976, the gin was sold and in 1996 owner M. Huebner donated the 7-acre property to the City of Industry. The gin was adaptively repurposed to function as Industry City Hall, and the surrounding land contains a covered picnic pavilion, gazebo, public restrooms, a playground and lighted walking/jogging track. In 2006, the complex was dedicated during Industry’s 175th anniversary celebration.
Historical Museums & Buildings
Gin Museum (725 Main St.), a segment of the repurposed city hall/former gin contains restored equipment, educating visitors on the functions of this early gin’s operations. Tours are by appointment. Call (979) 357-2772 for information.
Lindemann Store Museum (2227 Main St.), Industry’s oldest surviving business, received a Texas historical marker in 1984 on the 100th anniversary of its founding. The museum is next to its original business site and features artifacts, rare equipment and original fixtures. The exhibit also includes merchandise from the store’s heyday: housewares, clothes, cosmetics, hardware and animal products including saddles and tools. A special store feature was a unique millinery department where women’s hats were custom fashioned. Tour are by appointment. Call (979) 357-2772.
Lindemann-Ott Museum (2207 Main St.) received a Texas State Historical Commission-Recorded Texas Historical Landmark designation in 2010. The original house was built in 1870 as a bakery/home for young German baker Jacob Ott. The home business was sold when Ott married and became a Methodist minister.
The building then became a store, and in 1884 Edward Lindemann bought the property for his general store, which moved across the street in 1894. Lindemann moved his family into the building and in 1899 added a five-room, two-story Queen Anne Victorian attachment to the original home, giving it an opulent appearance and greatly increasing the size.
The great grandson of the original owners has converted the structure into a house museum featuring original family furnishings along with possessions and collections of the blended German families related to the home’s owners. Tour are by appointment. Call (979) 357-2772.
Knolle Doctor’s Office Museum (9021 Highway 109 N.) is part of the Industry-West End Historical Society’s Heritage Center and is the original office of Dr. B.E. Knolle, who practiced medicine from 1886-1936. The two-room office consists of a patient waiting room and an examining room and includes many of Knolle’s original medical equipment, instruments and office furnishings.
Knolle’s family members acquired, restored and donated the office to the historical society in 1995 to memorialize the doctor’s life and the many contributions he made to the community professionally and in through civic leadership. Tours are by appointment. Call (979) 357-2772.
Welcome Hall (9021 Highway 109 N.), adjacent to the Heritage Center, was built in 1899 as a meeting and musical performance hall for the Welcome German Singing Society, the “Mannerchor.” The singing society declined after the two world wars when the German language began to fade. When the group disbanded, the hall was sold and moved to its current location in 1980 and restored. It now hosts receptions, reunions and other community activities. The hall gained national attention in 1988 when a made-for-TV movie was filmed here. Tours are by appointment. Call (979) 357-4749.
Industry Methodist Church (1914 Main St.) was built in 1867 and received a Texas State Historical Marker in 1967 on its 100th anniversary. It houses original furnishings, an organ and church bell along with memorabilia and photos that document the congregation’s history. The church is still used for worship. Tours are by appointment. Call (979) 357-2368.