Eagle Lake, TX

By: Rosanne Harrison

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: September 5, 2019

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Eagle Lake is on Highway 90A east of the Colorado River and fifty miles southwest of Houston in southeast Colorado County. The town is beside a lake of some 1,400 acres, also known as Eagle Lake. Below the lake is the Lower Lake. Both lakes are privately owned and are leased for hunting and fishing. As early as 1835, Gideon Lincecum studied the numerous fish in the lake and the fauna of the surrounding land; in 1990 snowy egrets, roseate spoonbills, great blue herons, white pelicans, coots, cormorants, and alligators were still common sights. North of the town is the Attwater Prairie Chicken National Wild Life Refuge.

Eagle Lake is marked on early Texas maps. The name was probably given in 1821 by William W. Little and James Beard, two of Austin's scouts, when one of them killed an eagle on the lake and called the water Laguna del Águila. On March 22, 1838, Patrick Reels was granted 13½ labores of land (2,391 acres) on the shores of the lake, adjoining land grants owned by A. L. McLain and James McNair. In 1848 this grant was patented to the heirs of P. Reels by the state. In 1856 Gamaliel Good purchased most of the land from the heirs of Patrick Reels. It was divided among Good and his sons. Good subsequently deeded half interest in 600 acres to DeWitt Clinton Harris, a director of the Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado Railway. Together they planned the town to be a station on a new railroad between Harrisburg and Austin. The rails reached Eagle Lake in 1859. Later the Southern Pacific, the Cane Belt, the San Antonio and Aransas Pass, and the Santa Fe railroads all made Eagle Lake accessible for shipment of crops and, later, of gravel. In 1888 the town was incorporated, and Capt. J. W. McCarty was elected the first mayor.

After the Civil War, Capt. William Dunovant started raising sugarcane and built a sugar mill at Lakeside, on the eastern shore of the lake. In 1913 the mill was sold and moved to Jamaica. Dunovant also introduced the cultivation of rice irrigated by lake water in 1896. John Linderholm of Chesterville expanded the rice industry, irrigated by wells, to the prairie north of Eagle Lake. Rice mills were also established in Eagle Lake. In the 1980s the mills were gone, though rice culture was still one of the major local industries.

Huge sand and gravel deposits were mined west of the lake, leaving stretches of water for fishing and waterskiing and bringing the manufacture of concrete products to Eagle Lake. Numerous bones of ancient animals were found in the gravel mines. Production of both oil and natural gas in the area also contributed to the economy. In the 1960s Eagle Lake became a recreational center for hunting geese and ducks that wintered on the prairies in the rice stubble and around the lake. In the 1980s the planting and harvesting of hundreds of acres of wildflowers brought new interest to Eagle Lake. In 1990 the population of the town was 3,551. In 2000 it was 3,664.

Lois Wood Burkhalter, Gideon Lincecum, 1793–1874: A Biography (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1965). Colorado County Historical Commission, Colorado County Chronicles from the Beginning to 1923 (2 vols., Austin: Nortex, 1986). Colorado County Sesquicentennial Commemorative Book (La Grange, Texas: Hengst Printing, 1986). Eagle Lake Historical Committee, A History of Eagle Lake (Austin: Eakin Press, 1987).


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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Rosanne Harrison, “Eagle Lake, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 19, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/eagle-lake-tx.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

September 5, 2019