Anderson is on State Highway 90 and Farm roads 149 and 1774 ten miles northeast of Navasota in central Grimes County. Bidai, Coushatta, and Kickapoo Indians roamed this area before the arrival of Stephen F. Austin's first settlers. Francis Holland, one of the first settlers in the area, received his deed to a league of land from Austin on August 10, 1824. In 1833 Henry Fanthorp purchased the east quarter of Holland's league for twenty-five cents an acre and built a corn-storage building that served also as a dwelling and grain market. In 1834 he built a larger, dog-run house to live in. In order to take advantage of the stage lines, he enlarged this dwelling into a tavern known as the Fanthorp Inn. Mail was delivered here weekly, starting in 1835; the inn was thus the first post office in what was to be Grimes County.
In 1846 Grimes County was organized, and Fanthorp offered land for the county seat. In the following election a site between Alto Mira and Randolph was chosen. It was named Anderson, in honor of Kenneth L. Anderson, last vice president of the Republic of Texas, who had recently died at the Fanthorp Inn. In time the community encompassed Alto Mira, Randolph, and the inn.
Good soil, good crops, good water supply, and numerous stagecoach routes across Grimes County contributed to Anderson's growth. Lawyers, teachers, preachers, physicians, and political leaders from the southern United States, along with skilled farmers of German and Polish descent, came together in Anderson. The Masons opened Masonic Collegiate Institute, also known as Patrick Academy, in 1846; other schools followed: St. Paul's Episcopal College (1852), a Lutheran school (1882), a Catholic school (1890), and the school of Anderson Independent Free District (1893). Numerous churches provided worship services. The town boomed from 1846 to 1885; it had two steam sawmills, six cotton gins, five hotels, a drugstore, a mercantile house, a hardware store, a tailor, a blacksmith, a pistol factory that provided handguns for the Confederacy (see DANCE BROTHERS), and a population of 3,000. At least six different Anderson newspapers were published between 1854 and 1900.
For all of its promise in the stagecoach days, no major development in road or rail line construction passed through Anderson. Local landowners refused to give right-of-way to the Houston and Texas Central in 1857. In 1903 they agreed to construction of the Madisonville Branch of the Missouri Pacific, from Navasota to Madisonville. This line was discontinued in 1944, leaving Anderson without a public carrier. The first highway to pass through Anderson was not begun until 1930. Growth was also retarded by the lack of city government. Although the town was incorporated, records show elected officials only for the years 1867 and 1875. In 1983 a movement to revive city government was defeated at the polls.
Although Anderson is the county seat and was once the fourth largest town in Texas, its population in 1990 was only 370, composed of the residents within a half-mile radius of the historic county courthouse. The town has a number of historic homes. Special events that attract tourists are Texas Trek in April, a County Fair and Juneteenth celebration in June, and Texan Days in September, as well as church festivals and activities of fraternal organizations. By 1990 a dozen or more commercial business and offices, a post office, the bank, the school, law enforcement offices, and the county jail were within a three-block radius of the courthouse. Livestock, dairy farming, hay, and honeybees were the means of livelihood for the surrounding community. Many residents worked out of town. By 2000 the population dropped to 257 with fifty-eight businesses.