Webster is on State Highway 3 and the Galveston, Houston, and Henderson railroad twenty miles south of Houston and three miles west of the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center in extreme southern Harris County. The community was called Gardentown when it was founded in 1879 by James W. Webster, who brought a group of English colonists to the site. As a crossroads for travelers to Galveston, Kemah, and Seabrook, it was later served by the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas and International-Great Northern railroads. The town had a post office called Websterville as early as 1882, but danger of floods and the proximity of Houston made development slow. By 1890 Websterville had a population of 140, a school, and several market gardeners and livestock dealers. J. W. Thompson, who served as postmaster and justice of the peace, established a grocery and the Webster post office in 1893. Settlers from the Midwest raised pears, and Henry Waldo Bouton raised okra. A weekly newspaper, the Webster Star, was first published in 1896, by which time the town had three churches, a hotel, two general stores, and a population of 225. In 1904 a colony of seventy Japanese farmers settled nearby to experiment in growing oranges and rice under the leadership of Seito and Kiyoaki Saibara. Other area farmers ran dairies and raised livestock. The local White school had forty-four pupils and one teacher in 1905, and the local Black school had eleven students and one teacher. A local powerhouse for the Interurban railroad operated after 1911. The population remained at 200 from the mid-1920s to the end of World War II. Although oil pipelines were laid in the community in 1919 and oil was discovered at the Webster-Friendswood oilfield in the 1930s, the population fell to 120 by 1950. State highway maps in 1936 showed a school, a church, and a tourist camp at the townsite. Webster incorporated in 1958 but had no more than five businesses until a boom in 1961 caused by construction of the space center. After 1962 the town completed a hospital and civic center complex and annexed an additional 300 acres in southern Harris County. In 1976 Webster had a population of 3,250 and forty-seven businesses, after which population fluctuated. In 1978 the community had 1,981 residents and fifty-one businesses, and in 1989 it had 3,001 residents and 331 businesses. In 1990 the population was 2,757.