Angleton, on State highways 288, 35/227, and the Union Pacific Railroad, was founded in 1890 by Lewis R. Bryan, Sr., and Faustino Kiber near the center of Brazoria County and named for the wife of the general manager of the Velasco Terminal Railway. The founders deeded one-half interest in the original townsite to that railroad in 1892 for $1,000, with the stipulation that the rail line be routed through the town and a depot be built on Front Street, between Mulberry and Myrtle streets. An Angleton post office was established in 1892.
In 1896 Angleton was chosen the new county seat of Brazoria County. The move followed a political battle so bitter that county records were said to have been moved to Angleton at night by citizens who feared they would be destroyed. The controversy resurfaced in 1913, when another election was called to make Brazoria the county seat again. The proposal failed, 1,348 to 1,058. The courthouse built in Angleton in 1897 has been restored for use as a museum. A five-story courthouse was completed in 1940 and a five-story annex added in 1976. In 1989 several smaller buildings were also being used to house county offices.
The Angleton schools began operation in 1897 as a county district, and in 1899 citizens voted to incorporate as a school district only. A two-story brick school was built but was destroyed in the Galveston hurricane of 1900. A second two-story brick school went down in the hurricane of 1909 and was rebuilt. The third school, which stood for many years, was named in honor of one of the county's most famous former residents, Albert Sidney Johnston. A college, the University of South Texas, operated briefly at Angleton, but closed after its buildings were demolished in the 1900 storm. In 1989 Angleton Independent School District employed a staff of 359 and enrolled 6,000 students.
On November 12, 1912, Angleton residents voted to incorporate as a city and elected the first city officials, headed by F. M. Harvin as mayor. Soon afterward electrical service was made available. Angleton's founders donated block 25 of their town to the Methodists, and soon afterward the first church in the new town was built. It was used by all denominations until others built their own. Early social life of the community included amateur theatricals, ice cream suppers to help raise money for the churches, and a "reading and rest room" provided by women of the community to give area farmers' wives and children a place to wait while the men transacted business in town. A volunteer fire department was organized and was still in operation in 1989. A community baseball team was so popular that special trains took citizens to out-of-town games. Several clubs were organized, one of which, the Angleton Embroidery Club, was begun in 1923 and was still active in 1989. W. F. Reed, editor of the local newspaper, organized a community band in 1907 and taught the twenty or so members to play their instruments. Attired in snappy white uniforms, the band marched in parades throughout the Houston-Galveston area and played for local citizens downtown each week. What is believed to be the last legal hanging in Texas occurred in Angleton on August 31, 1923. The largest county fair in the state, the Brazoria County Fair, is headquartered on a 120-acre, county-owned site just south of the city. During World War II the fairgrounds were turned over to the federal government for use first as a prisoner of war camp and later as a base for a United States Signal Corps radar unit.
Angleton was originally a trade center for agriculture, devoted primarily to cotton, corn, truck farming, and cattle, and later to rice and soybeans. It still derives considerable income from agriculture but has followed the general industrial trend of Brazoria County, which began in 1940 with the location of Dow Chemical Company at Freeport and continued with the introduction of a number of other petrochemical manufacturing companies. In 1989 Angleton was a banking and distribution center for a large oil, chemical, and agricultural area. The 1980 federal census showed a population of 13,929; it was 80 percent white, 8.6 percent black, 13.6 percent Hispanic, and 6.1 percent other. The population in 1990 was 17,140.
Angleton is served by one local newspaper, the Angleton Times, which was established in Velasco in 1892 and about 1894 moved to Angleton, where it grew from a weekly to a five-day daily. The Angleton Times stopped publication in 2004 and sold its readership to The Facts newspaper in Clute. The Brazoria County Historical Commission and Brazoria County Historical Museum conduct historical-preservation programs. Restoration of the 1897 courthouse, which is leased to the museum association, was recognized by a state marker dedicated in 1983. In 1989 the city had five parks, in one of which was a swimming pool. A flagpole and marker were placed on the courthouse grounds to commemorate the Texas Sesquicentennial.