La Grange is a city in Fayette County, Texas, near the Colorado River. It is located about halfway between Houston and Austin on Highway 71. The population was 4,478 at the 2000 census. The 2006 estimated population was 4,645. But a 2010 census estimated that the city had a population of 4,923. La Grange is the county seat of Fayette County.
Colorado River at La Grange
Location of La Grange, Texas
|Coordinates: 29°54′30″N 96°52′30″W|
La Grange was the site of an early crossing of the Colorado River along La Bahía Road during the Spanish period. The earliest white settlers in the area were Aylett C. Buckner and Peter Powell, who lived slightly to the west. The first settlement on the city's present location was by Stephen F. Austin's band of colonists in 1822. John Henry Moore built ablockhouse in 1828 as protection from the Comanche. It is known today as Moore's Fort. (The fort is currently found in nearby Round Top, having been moved there for restoration.)
The town of La Grange was established in 1837, during the Republic of Texas period, as thecounty seat for the then-new county of Fayette. Both of these place names were in honor of the Marquis de Lafayette, who aided the cause of the American Revolution and who passed away in 1834. The castle in France for which La Grange was named is the Château de la Grange-Bléneau.
The town was a major site of German and Czech settlement, because the rolling hills and forests were reminiscent of their homelands. Even today the German and Czech influences on the town remain strong, seen in many local customs, the local architecture, and the town's reputation for not having participated in the prohibition of alcoholic beverages during the 1920s and 1930s - beyond a token effort by the local authorities. La Grange also became the home of many Jewish immigrants in the 19th century.
La Grange has a number of properties listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The town was the location from which the party in the Black Bean Episode departed, after gathering around a historic oak that is a local landmark. The tree is still standing and alive, although it suffered some damage after impact from a drunk driver and relies on a concrete support (which it has partially encompassed) to maintain its stability.
Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery State Historic Sites
On September 18, 1848, the remains of Texans killed in the 1842 Dawson Massacre and the black bean death lottery (Mier Expedition), which had been retrieved from their original burial sites, were reinterred in a common tomb with a sandstone vault at the location now known as Monument Hill. Over 1,000 people came for the ceremony, including Sam Houston.
On January 17, 1849, Heinrich Ludwig Kreische, a recent German immigrant, purchased 172 acres (70 ha) of land which included the tomb. He built a three-story house and, in 1860, began building a brewery. By 1879, it was the third-largest brewing operation in Texas, with its flagship product being "Kreische's Bluff Beer." Kreische maintained the tomb for the rest of his life, but the tomb and Kreische Brewery began to deteriorate after his death in 1882. The brewery closed in 1884.
The Kreische family asked the city to remove the tomb from their property, as it was frequently vandalized. On April 15, 1905, a new law passed by the Texas Legislature authorized acquisition, by purchase or condemnation, of the 0.36 acres (0.15 ha) of land occupied by the tomb. The state acquired the land by condemnation on June 24, 1907. In 1933, the State Highway Commission fenced the 0.36 acres (1,500 m2) and agreed to maintain it as a state park. In the same year, the Daughters of the Republic of Texas purchased a new granite vault for the tomb. For the 1936 Texas Centennial, the Texas Centennial Commission erected a 48-foot (15 m) shellstone monument with an art deco mural to prominently mark the mass grave.
In 1949 authority for the site was transferred to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. In 1956, the citizens of Fayette County purchased 3.54 acres (1.43 ha) around Monument Hill and deeded the land to the state for parkland. Another 36 acres (15 ha), including the Kreische Brewery and the Kreische Home, were added in 1977. The complete site, called Monument Hill and Kreische Brewery State Historic Sites, opened to the public in 1983, after archaeological studies were completed.
Outside La Grange was a brothel known as the Chicken Ranch. It was closed in 1973 largely through the investigative and reporting efforts of the Houston television journalist, Marvin Zindler.
In 1974, a little league team from La Grange won the Texas state championship.
The Texas Czech Heritage and Cultural Center is located at 250 Fair Grounds Road in La Grange. The center constructed a new archivesbuilding, aided by a seed donation in 2007 by the estate of Adolph R. Hanslik of Lubbock. Hanslik was known as the "dean of West Texascotton producers" and was a native of Hallettsville in Lavaca County.