FRIENDSWOOD, TEXAS. Friendswood is an incorporated residential community on Farm Road 518 twenty-seven miles northwest of Galveston and twenty miles south of Houston in northwestern Galveston and southern Harris counties. The surrounding area was originally wooded. The community was founded after a colony of English Quakers (see RELIGIOUS SOCIETY OF FRIENDS) from Kansas moved to Texas and settled in Estacado, Crosby County, in 1880. They found the plains intolerable, however, and sent Francis Jacob Brown, a buffalo hunter and Indian fighter of Quaker heritage, out to locate a colony in South Texas. Brown located a tract of more than 1,500 acres and negotiated with J. C. League for the property in 1895. After a brief time near Alvin, where they disapproved of local customs (which included dancing), a group of three of the original families, including T. H. and Alistus Lewis, acquired land drained by four creeks—Chigger, Coward's, Mary's, and Clear—and named the new settlement in honor of the Friends. The settlers built traditional gabled homes, one of which was used as a monthly meeting place and Sunday school. A post office was established at the community in 1899. Brown set up a sawmill, and pine felled by the Galveston hurricane of 1900 was used to build Friendswood Academy, which graduated its first class in 1907 and served as the local church. Some residents worked in dairying or raised poultry, but the principal agricultural staples were Satsuma oranges, strawberries, figs, and rice, and the Quakers operated several processing plants until costs grew prohibitive. Oil was discovered in the area during the 1930s, and the population subsequently increased; in 1933 Friendswood reported 100 residents and seven businesses. In the 1940s it had a population of seventy-five and two businesses. A new church was constructed at the community by 1948.
Friendswood remained predominantly Quaker until 1958, when a local Baptist church was organized. The community incorporated in 1960. With the location of the NASA Manned Spacecraft Center (see LYNDON B. JOHNSON SPACE CENTER) ten miles away in 1962, many community residents began to commute there or to Houston, and Friendswood became a bedroom suburb. For a time astronaut Donald K. Slayton lived there. On April 8, 1963, the community became the only dry town in the county; at the time, smoking and drinking were already forbidden for local public school teachers. From a population of 1,675 with twenty-six businesses in 1968, Friendswood grew to 13,585 residents and 158 businesses by 1980. It then declined to 10,719 residents by 1982. The number of businesses grew to 315 by 1988. In 1990 Friendswood had 22,814 residents.
Galveston County, Texas: An Economic Base Study (University of Houston Center for Research on Business and Economics, 1965). Samuel Butler Graham and Ellen Newman, Galveston Community Book: A Historical and Biographical Record of Galveston and Galveston County (Galveston: Cawston, 1945). Edith McGinnis, Promised Land (Friendswood, Texas, 1947; 3d ed. 1969). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.