Pattison is near the junction of Farm roads 1458 and 359, thirty miles west of Houston in southern Waller County. It was named for James Tarrant Pattison, who purchased a large tract of William Heady's Mexican land grant in 1839 and built his plantation house on a hill. Pattison's plantation was a stage stop at the intersection of the Atascosito Road and the San Felipe Trail and included a gin, a gristmill, a sawmill, and a race track for the local gentry's favorite sport. According to Pattison family lore, the name of the town was the result of a horse race: Pattison and a rival plantation owner matched their favorite horses for the winner's privilege of naming the proposed town after himself. The George Parker Church, established in 1854 and named for its first minister, was also located in the vicinity of the present town. The town was organized in 1877, when three of Pattison's children granted the Texas Western Narrow Gauge Railroad a right-of-way through their property and donated additional land for a turntable and townsite. The preexisting community of Pine Grove, centered around Edwin Waller's general store and post office and already a supply point for the surrounding rich agricultural area by 1873, soon moved to the railroad terminus on the Pattison plantation. The new post office was first called Patterson's Station (1879), then Patterson (1883). The name of the railway stop, however, was always Pattison, and the post office finally took that name in 1916. The railroad, which primarily shipped cotton to Houston, opened for traffic in August 1878, and the town flourished. German, Jewish, and Armenian entrepreneurs contributed to the town's development. By 1883 a population of 250 made Pattison the second largest community in Waller County. Thirteen years later the town had five cotton gins, a steam gristmill, seven general stores, two doctors, and a population of 500. Germans, the predominant immigrant group, founded the German Methodist Church in 1875 and Christ Lutheran Church in 1890. Anglo-Americans organized Pattison Methodist Church in the early 1880s. Itinerant black ministers held frequent camp meetings at Pattison, where Mount Calvary Baptist Church was founded in 1889. The town's first public school opened in 1881, and by 1892 Pattison was headquarters for a school district that included Pattison Negro School.
The railroad ceased operation in 1899, and nearby Brookshire on the Missouri, Kansas and Texas line replaced Pattison as southern Waller County's distribution center. The Galveston hurricane of 1900 destroyed Pattison's school, Methodist church, and many businesses; a downtown fire in the same year hastened business relocation to Brookshire. By 1925 the population in Pattison had decreased to 100, but a strong sense of community, strong churches, and good farmland helped citizens rebuild. Electricity came in 1930, when Peter Donigan paid Houston Light and Power to run a line to his cotton gin, and in 1934 the community established a high school. Pattison had a population estimated at 250 in 1941 and 316 in 1968. The town was incorporated on November 16, 1972. Waller County's last operating cotton gin, at Pattison, closed in 1976. In 1988 the town retained its post office, a justice of the peace, a state health clinic, a school, four churches, and two cemeteries. The town's population in the late 1980s was just under 450. In 1990 it was 327. By 2000 the population was 447.