Prairie Lea is an unincorporated community in Caldwell County, Texas,United States. According to the Handbook of Texas, the community had an estimated population of 255 in 2000. It is part of the Austin–Round RockMetropolitan Statistical Area.
Prairie Lea is located at . It is situated along State Highway 80 in southwestern Caldwell County, approximately six miles northwest of Luling and ten miles southwest of Lockhart. The nearest major city is Austin, located 44 miles to the north.
The community, Caldwell County's oldest, was built on the 1820 land grant of Joe Martin of Gonzales. Sam Houstonnamed the town for his future wife Margaret Lea Houston. Edmund Bellinger, a veteran of the Battle of San Jacinto andBattle of Plum Creek, became Prairie Lea's first settler in 1839. Other early settlers were largely slave-holding families. Growth followed the establishment of a sawmill, gristmill, and gin by Thomas Mooney on the nearby San Marcos River.
During the Civil War, men from Prairie Lea served with John Bell Hood's Texas Brigade and took part in the ill-fated Sibley Campaign in New Mexico Territory An 1877 fire destroyed the community's business district. By 1884, Prairie Lea had a population of 100 with several businesses, two churches, and a school. By 1914, The number of residents had grown to 350.
Development of the nearby Luling oilfield during the 1920s caused an increase in Prairie Lea's population. During the latter half of the twentieth century, the population slowly declined. By 1990, Prairie Lea was home to 100 residents. That number had risen to 255 in 2000 with eight businesses operating in the community.
Public education in the community of Prairie Lea is provided by the Prairie Lea Independent School District. The district has one campus, Prairie Lea School, that serves students in grades pre-kindergarten through twelve. A five-room school building was constructed in 1925 and by the 1940s, students from the nearby communities of Fentress and Stairtownwere attending Prairie Lea schools.