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Magnolia: Neighbors Helping Neighbors at the Crossroads

June 18, 2024 Texas, Texas History, Member Spotlight

Magnolia is a crossroads community located in one of the fastest growing counties in the United States, Montgomery County, but this city of fewer than 5,000 residents has retained its neighborly feel.

“Nestled amidst the serene landscapes of Texas, Magnolia stands as a hidden gem that captures the essence of small-town charm. The warm and welcoming nature of the Magnolia community is truly remarkable. The town exudes a strong sense of camaraderie and togetherness.,” wrote realtor Kim Hughston.

The City of Magnolia is located on the southwestern fringe of Montgomery County at the junction of FM 1774 and FM 1488, approximately 45 miles northwest of Houston and 25 miles southwest of Conroe. Magnolia is approximately 20 miles from both IH45 and US 290 - two of Houston’s main highway systems.

Do not let Magnolia’s official population (estimated at 4,420 by the Texas Demographic Center in 2024) fool you as those numbers are confined to the city’s 5.5 square miles, The greater Magnolia area spans 12 miles in all directions with an estimated population of more than 138,000.

That growth is also being spurred by the SH 249 extension, known as the Aggie Expressway, which runs just outside the northeast edge of town.

Magnolia is no stranger to tourists each year as the city is less than a 10-minute drive from the largest Renaissance-themed attraction in the United States, the Texas Renaissance Festival which draws more than a half million visitors each fall.

History: From Mink to Melton to Magnolia

Like many Texas communities, Magnolia owes its growth to its location on a railroad line, in this case, the modern-day Missouri Pacific.

The Texas State Historical Association (TSHA) handbook says that the area was first settled in the 1840s and named Mink’s Prairie for one of the early settlers. By 1850 the name had been shortened to Mink.

The area was as rural as rural can be with a population of just 25 residents in 1900.

“In 1902, when the International-Great Northern Railroad built a line through the area, the town moved to its present location. The railroad named it Melton, in honor of Jim Melton, a large landowner in the county, but the United States Post Office confused it with Milton,” said the TSHA handbook.

The area had an abundance of magnolia trees in the bottoms of the adjacent Mill Creek and the town took the name Magnolia officially on July 28, 1903.

The TSHA handbook says that by 1915 Magnolia had a population of 150 and telephone service, a sawmill, Baptist and Methodist churches, two general stores, a physician, a railroad and express agent, a hotel, a livery and real estate office, a cattle dealer, a druggist, a confectionery, a cotton gin, and a blacksmith.

By the 1920s, several large sawmills were operating in the area.

By World War II the Magnolia oilfield had been established a mile east of town, and the community's population had increased to 400. The Grogan-Cochran lumber camp was located two miles southeast of town.

Magnolia was finally incorporated as a city on Sept. 28, 1968, by a vote of 106 to 17.

Top things to do in Magnolia

There is plenty to do in the Magnolia area such as local breweries and farmer’s markets, a step back in time at the historic train depot, or way back in time to the Texas Renaissance Festival.

Here are some Magnolia activities to put on your day trip or weekend getaway:

  • Texas Renaissance Festival: While officially held in nearby Todd Mission, this epic renaissance festival, which spans 21 stages over eight weekends each fall over 70 acres, is closely tied to Magnolia, with the city a gold sponsor of the event. This year is the 50th anniversary of the festival, which runs weekends from Oct. 12 through Dec. 1 and Thanksgiving Friday. Each of the weekends of the festival takes on a different theme, influencing the performances, costumes, food, drink, art, shops, contests, and games throughout the festival grounds. Themed weekends in 2024 include:
    • Oktoberfest (Oct. 12-13): Break out your lederhosen!
    • 1001 Dreams (Oct. 19-20): Fairies, elves, and other fanciful creatures.
    • All Hallows Eve (Oct. 26-27): Scary Halloween fun.
    • Pirates Adventure (Nov. 2-3): Channel your inner Jack Sparrow.
    • Heroes and Villains (Nov. 9-10): Superheroes (and super villains!) take center stage.
    • Barbarian Invasion (Nov. 16-17): Plunder your way through food and drink!
    • Highland Fling (Nov. 23-24): Scotland takes over the festival.
    • Celtic Christmas (Nov. 29-Dec. 1): Christmas wonderland awaits.
  • Magnolia Depot Days: Every April, Magnolia celebrates its past with Magnolia Depot Days, but you can visit the Depot in the heart of downtown (426 Melton Street) year-round. The Depot, with its exposed wood trusses, plank flooring, and sliding freight door, is a reminder of the town’s railroad glory days. The Depot also sponsors annual Halloween and Christmas events. Visit the Depot Museum, a Southern Pacific caboose, an antique sawmill, and Dr. Ware’s office, the historic doctor’s office and barbershop of Mink’s first doctor.
  • Lone Pint Brewery: Try easy-to-drink local brews with an enjoyable hoppiness and delicious flavors and aromas at Lone Pint Brewery’s relaxed beer garden which is open every day of the week.
  • Magnolia Stroll: If you visit Lone Pint Brewery (above) then you will be on the Magnolia Stroll, a charming tree-shaded half-mile pedestrian walkway connecting Magnolia Sixth Grade Campus at the south end to Sullivan Park, a newly refurbished park, and Farmers Market to the north.

    The city says that the Magnolia Stroll serves “as a pathway for a leisurely walk or a brisk jog offering opportunities for walkers to exchange a morning "hello" while they move about. The Stroll features things such as beautiful street arbors, seating walls, public art locations, and rest areas suiting Magnolia's character and settings.”
  • Farmer’s Market on Tamina: Located on the eastern edge of greater Magnolia, this farmer’s market features 40 to 50 high-quality local vendors each week including produce and micro-green farmers, grass-fed/pasture meat and egg farmers, specialty food producers, bakers and cookie makers, soaps and body care products and select artisans of unique handmade goods. Every Saturday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., rain or shine.
  • Unity Park: This is where you can find the locals with an open amphitheater, covered pavilion, skateboard park, volleyball court, horseshoe pit, splash pad, playground, picnic areas, plant and wildlife wetlands, and 2.5 miles of walking trails. The park is popular with birding enthusiasts, though keep an eye out for alligators which have been known to roam the wetlands!

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