Hempstead is a city in Waller County, Texas, United States, part of theHouston–The Woodlands–Sugar Land metropolitan area. It is the county seat of Waller County.
|Nickname(s): Watermelon Capital of Texas|
On December 29, 1856 Dr. Richard Rodgers Peebles and James W. McDade organized the Hempstead Town Company to sell lots in the newly established community of Hempstead, which was located at the projected terminus of Houston and Texas Central Railway. Peebles named Hempstead after Dr. G. S. B. Hempstead, Peebles's brother in law. Peebles and Mary Ann Groce Peebles, his wife, contributed 2,000 acres (8.1 km2) of the estate of Jared E. Groce, Jr. for the community. On June 29, 1858 the Houston and Texas Central Railway was extended to Hempstead, causing the community to become a distribution center between the Gulf Coast and the interior of Texas. On November 10 of that year Hempstead incorporated. The Washington County Railroad, which ran from Hempstead to Brenham, enhanced the city upon its completion.
Hempstead is famous for its watermelon crop, and until the 1940s the town was the top shipper of watermelons in the United States. Billy DiIorio was known as the Watermelon King and Angelina DiIorio was known as the Watermelon Queen. Both resided in Hempstead, Texas. The town holds an annual Watermelon Festival in July.
The town has grown in recent years because of its relative closeness to Houston along U.S. Highway 290. The current economy is based on county government, shipping, and a small, but growing, industrial base. However the closing of a large auto dealership (Lawerence Marshall) in 2009, hurt the community's economy and correlated with a drop in the towns population. The town has, however, rebounded in its population since 2010.
One of the town's residents was Lillie E. Drennan, who in 1929 became the first woman to hold a commercial driver's license in Texas. She ran a regional hauling company called the Drennan Truck Line while maintaining an excellent driving record. Drennan received periodical attention in national newspapers and radio broadcasts.
Another notable Hempstead resident is RL Bucher who, along with his two sons, runs the privately owned, 2 ft (610 mm)narrow gaugeHempstead & Northern Railroad on his property.
Until February 2009 the Lawrence Marshall car dealership was Hempstead's largest employer. The sudden closure of the dealership lead the city to reconsider capital projects such as sewer upgrades and park beautification.