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A Household Name – A Tribute to Thomas Henry Ball

Tomball is a town name one might not hear every day, but to the patriarchs of the Tomball area the name is reflective of a key part of the town’s history and prosperity. Tomball was named after the prominent lawyer and politician Thomas Henry Ball, who is also known as the “Father of the Port of Houston.” The town chose to honor Ball with the naming as a way of paying homage to him for his efforts in the economical foundation he laid for the town.

“He was instrumental in getting the railroad extended through Tomball,” said Jean Alexander, former director of the Tomball Museum and local historian. “This was especially helpful for agriculture and economics for the area. Farmers were able to get their crops distributed.”

The Tomball area was mainly settled by farmers who used its rolling pastures, abundant streams and pines as agricultural sources.

Alexander said the addition of the railroad to the area was also a great asset in regards to travel.

“Having the railroad as a means of travel made it much easier for people to get into the city of Houston to do business and take care of other needs in the city,” she said. “This was a great advantage and people really appreciated that he (Ball) thought of the area as a potential growth area and one that should be invested in.”

Tomball was originally named Peck when the town was incorporated in 1906 after an engineer on the T & BV railroad. However, shortly there after in 1907, it was decided that Ball had more of an influence on the decision to extend the rail through the area and impact on the town’s prosperity, Alexander said. Therefore, the town was renamed Tom Ball on December 2, 1907. It was later shortened to one word: Tomball.

Ball, a native and resident of Huntsville, was elected to the U.S. Congress from the first District of Texas in 1896 and served in his position until 1903. He acquired the title, “Father of the Port of Houston,” for his work developing the Buffalo Bayou, Alexander said. In 1914, Ball ran for Texas governor as a strong prohibition supporter. Alexander said history shows, Ball lost the election in part because his opponent hired people to take photos of saloons in Tomball and distribute them to the public. Although Ball lost the election, he had a very successful career as a three-time mayor of Huntsville and a four-term U.S. Congressman in addition to his thriving law practice.

Today, Tomball is known for its small town atmosphere and as a peaceful home to thousands who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of downtown Houston. Ball’s vision and efforts for the town continue to flourish today.