League City is on Clear Creek and Magnolia Bayou, State Highway 3, and U.S. Interstate 45, equidistant from Houston and Galveston, in northwestern Galveston County. It was formerly the site of a Karankawa Indian village. George W. Butler, the town's first resident, arrived from Louisiana in 1873 and settled at the conjunction of Clear Creek and Chigger Bayou; a brickyard was the first local business. The community was known as Butler's Ranch or Clear Creek until 1893, when J. C. League acquired the land from a man named Muldoon who, on entering the priesthood, relinquished his property rights. League laid out the townsite on the Galveston, Houston and Henderson Railroad, which built through the area in 1854, and also provided land for the town's first school, known as the Little Green School. The railroad depot and Straw Hall or Straggler's Hall, which first housed guests, were soon supplemented by general stores and a saloon. Early settlers raised cattle but turned to farming after 1890, when the Clear Creek Development was organized to sell lots to farmers.
A poor farm and a convict farm were established at League City in the 1890s. A post office was established by 1896, and by 1914, when the population numbered 500, the railroads through the town included the Galveston, Houston and Henderson, the International-Great Northern, the Missouri, Kansas and Texas, and the Galveston-Houston Electric Railroad, built in 1911. The Galveston hurricane of 1900 destroyed the original bridge over Clear Creek at Garson's Landing. A few residents operated dairies; other farmers raised satsuma oranges, cotton, corn, potatoes, sugarcane, cucumbers, strawberries, and truck crops and later experimented with grapefruit, figs, and dates. In 1913 the town had a high school, a pickling plant, two broom factories, a state bank founded in 1905, and four churches, including the Friends Church under construction. By that year the weekly League City News was published, improved roads were under construction, and electric lighting was proposed along the Interurban. A lumber company opened in 1915, and in 1923 thirty Italian families arrived in the area and began raising vegetables. League City became an independent school district in 1906 and later merged with the Clear Creek Consolidated Independent School District.
The population rose from 800 in 1925 to 1,200 in 1928 and fell briefly to 800 in 1931, when the town had thirty-five businesses. In 1943 the businesses dropped to a low of fifteen. After 1946 the town became a center for railroad shops and a Humble Oil tank farm. It grew to a population of 16,000 and 112 businesses in 1976 and 22,934 and 265 businesses in 1988. In 1990 League City had 189 businesses and 18,996 residents. By 2000 the population was 45,444. As the population expanded, the town incorporated land to the west as far as the Friendswood city limits; residents commuted to nearby cities or worked on the Humble Pipeline or at NASA facilities at the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center.