Conroe is a city in and the county seat of Montgomery County, Texas, United States, about 40 miles (64 km) north of Houston. It is a principal city in the Houston–The Woodlands–Sugar Land metropolitan area.
As of 2021, the population was 98,081, up from 56,207 in 2010. Since 2007, the city has increased in size (and population) by annexation, with the city territory expanding from 52.8 to 74.4 square miles. Some communities have attempted to fight such annexation. According to the Census Bureau, Conroe was the fastest-growing large city in the United States between July 1, 2015, and July 1, 2016.
The city is named after Isaac Conroe. Born in the North, he served as a Union Cavalry officer and settled in Houston after the Civil War. There he became a lumberman. Conroe founded a sawmill in this area in 1881. The community built its early economy and wealth on the lumber industry. Originally named “Conroe’s Switch”, the community received an influx of workers and residents in the late 19th century who were attracted to the growth of the lumber industry, which harvested the local piney wood forest.
In 1886, Conroe Mill School was established in the expanding town. Conroe Normal and Industrial College, a school for African Americans, served the area.
Six lynchings were recorded in Montgomery County around the turn of the century, and some suspects were lynched at the courthouse in Conroe. In 1922, a young black man named Joe Winters was lynched, burned alive on the courthouse square for allegedly attacking a young white woman. Within the black community, it was known he was in a consensual relationship with the woman, who denied it when they were discovered.
In 1941 Bob White was shot to death in the courthouse, during his third trial. The African-American man was arrested in 1936 on charges of assaulting a white woman in Livingston, Texas. (Alternative accounts in the black community said they had a standing consensual relationship.) He was first tried there, before an all-white jury. They convicted him. The case was appealed with the help of the NAACP in Houston because he had not been given a lawyer or been able to contact family, and he was tortured in interrogation. The second trial was held in Conroe for a change of venue. Another all-white jury convicted White again. The case reached the United States Supreme Court on appeal, which had just ruled that coerced confessions were unconstitutional and remanded the case to the lower court for trial. During the proceedings in the courtroom, in front of the judge and numerous witnesses, the husband of the alleged victim shot White in the back of the head and immediately killed him. The husband was arrested and tried the following week, and was acquitted.
In 1931 George W. Strake discovered the Conroe Oil Field. cDistillate and natural gas were produced from the Cockfield Formation at a depth of about 5,000 feet (1,500 m). cA second well in 1932 produced 1200 BOPD. By 1935, the field had produced 40 million barrels of oil.
During the 1930s, because of oil profits, the city briefly boasted more millionaires per capita than any other U.S. city. After the construction of Interstate 45 in the postwar period improved automobile access, many Houstonians began to follow the highway to new suburban communities that developed around Conroe.
The Office of Management and Budget classifies Conroe as a principal city within the Houston–The Woodlands–Sugar Land metropolitan area. The city is about 40 miles (64 km) north of Houston.
When Conroe incorporated in 1904, the city limits encompassed a 5.44 square mile area. From 1970 to 2000, the city limits expanded from 7.15 square miles to 42.35 square miles. Beginning in 2007, the city outlined a plan to continue expanding its city limits through annexation. According to Chapter 43 of the Texas Local Government Code, home rule municipalities like Conroe may annex territory that is adjacent to the city’s current boundaries, with certain restrictions. The city’s 2007 plan projected doubling its size through a combination of voluntary and involuntary annexations. As of 2022, the city has annexed territory every year since 2007, increasing the city limits from 52.8 to 77.5 square miles.
In April 2015, residents of the gated community of April Sound filed a lawsuit against Conroe after their community was annexed on January 1, 2015. The lawsuit was dismissed in March 2017. Involuntary annexations were a major issue in the 2016 mayoral election, the first after April Sound residents were incorporated into the city. Proponents of annexation contended that it was a useful tool to “promote and facilitate growth and progress,” while those in opposition were concerned about whether annexed territories receive a “fair shake” in the negotiations. In 2017, the city council voted in favor of additional involuntary annexations.
Conroe is in the southwest corner of the East Texas Piney Woods. The Piney Woods consist of pine trees and hardwood forests. The most common type of tree in the southwest Piney Woods is the loblolly pine. Shortleaf pine are also abundant. Pockets of blackland prairie vegetation are also present, but are disappearing due to urbanization.
In 1926, the Texas A&M Forest Service purchased 1700 acres of Piney Woods to establish W. Goodrich Jones State Forest. The forest serves as a research and demonstration area for sustainable forestry techniques. The forest also preserves the habitat of the red-cockaded woodpecker, a species classified in the early 21st century as Near Threatened by the IUCN.
In 2017, Texas A&M asked Conroe state senator Brandon Creighton to author a bill setting aside 10 percent of the forest for educational and research-related development. The bill also opened the possibility of commercial development on the land. Public concern over the bill persuaded Creighton to revise it. The final version, which passed the Senate unanimously, protected the entire forest from development.
The West Fork of the San Jacinto River flows through the western edge of Conroe. The entire city is within the river’s watershed. The river flows southeast from Lake Conroe, a 19,640 surface acre lake created by a dam in 1973 to establish an alternative source of drinking water for Houston.
Conroe developed over several geologic layers of underground aquifers, which supply the city with fresh drinking water. Due to rapid development in this area, and the increased population of Conroe and the surrounding area, the groundwater supply is being withdrawn faster than it can be replenished. As a result, the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District, which oversees groundwater usage in Montgomery County, mandated that Conroe reduce its groundwater usage by 30 percent of 2009 amounts by January 1, 2016. As part of the groundwater usage reduction plan, the San Jacinto River Authority began in September 2015 to supplement Conroe’s groundwater supply with surface water pumped from Lake Conroe. The SJRA charges the city usage fees to cover the cost of pumping and treating the water.
On August 27, 2015, the City of Conroe filed a lawsuit against the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District, claiming that the LSGCD did not have the authority to limit the city’s groundwater usage. The city also refused to pay SJRA water usage fee increases in 2016, resulting in a separate lawsuit filed by the SJRA against the city. The LSGCD and Conroe reached a settlement agreement in January 2019. The SJRA case was dismissed in June 2020.
Parts of Conroe surrounding the West Fork of the San Jacinto River are in a floodplain. Significant flooding occurs along the floodplain when rainfall exceeds nine inches in a 48-hour period. The Conroe area has approximately a 10 percent chance of receiving this much rainfall in any given year. Urban development in Conroe and the surrounding area has also exacerbated the risk of flooding. Montgomery County had 500-year floods in three successive years, in May 2015, April 2016, and August 2017. A 500-year flood has a 0.2 percent chance of occurring in a year. In addition, a fourth major flood occurred in May 2016, resulting in two major floods in two months.
The flooding in August 2017 took place during Hurricane Harvey, when nearly 32 inches of rain fell on the city. To protect the integrity of the dam, San Jacinto River Authority officials released 79,100 cubic feet per second of water from Lake Conroe downstream into the West Fork of the San Jacinto River, exacerbating flooding already taking place in the floodplain. Conroe city officials ordered a mandatory evacuation of McDade Estates, a neighborhood on the banks of the river. As a response to the flooding, Montgomery County commissioners in October 2017 requested $1.25 million from the federal government for a flood mitigation study, along with an additional $95.5 million to implement various flood mitigation projects.
During the first decade of the 21st century, the city attracted many new residents from the Houston area. Renée C. Lee said that Conroe around 2002 was “a sleepy, backwater town” and that at the time, Conroe city officials needed to use financial incentives to attract home developers to Conroe. Between 2003 and 2006, Conroe became a hotbed of construction of new houses. As a result, Conroe’s population grew from 36,811 in 2000 to 56,207 in 2010.
As of the 2020 United States census, there were 89,956 people, 32,547 households, and 21,369 families residing in the city.
As of the census of 2010, there were 56,207 people, 18,651 households, and 13,086 families residing in the city. Since the 2010 census, Conroe’s population has continued to grow. Between 2014 and 2015, Conroe was the sixth fastest growing city in the United States. The following year, the US Census Bureau reported that Conroe was the fastest-growing large city in the United States. It had a 7.8% growth rate between 2015 and 2016. New housing developments throughout the city have contributed to the rapid population growth. Conroe’s annexation of growing communities within its extraterritorial jurisdiction has also contributed to its growth.
The demographics of the city’s downtown area south of SH 105 differs from the rest of the city. In 2010, the population density of the entire city was 1066.2 people per square mile (411.7/km). By contrast, the population density downtown was between 3,475.2 and 4,119.3 people per square mile.
The racial makeup of the city was 69.7% White (including Hispanic), 10.3% African American, 1.2% Native American, 1.8% Asian, less than 0.05% Pacific Islander, 13.7% from other races, and 3.2% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 38.5% of the population. White alone (not Hispanic or Latino) were 48.3% of the total population. In the southern portion of downtown, White alone made up between 20.4 and 22.4 percent, African American were between 19.0 and 20.3 percent, and Hispanic or Latino were between 56.6 and 57.7 percent of the population.
According to the 2016 American Community Survey, the median income for a household in the city was $50,517 and the median income for a family was $60,087. Males had a median income of $44,343 versus $37,747 for females. The per capita income for the city was $28,672. About 12.2% of families and 16.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.4% of those under age 18 and 7.6% of those age 65 or over. In response to income inequality, several non-profit groups including the Montgomery County United Way, The Salvation Army, and the Crisis Assistance Center help provide residents of the area with a variety of services ranging from transportation to food and shelter.
In the early 1980s, Exxon considered consolidating its employees to a site in Conroe. The company ended the plans after the local oil-based economy collapsed.
According to the City’s 2016 Comprehensive Annual Financial Report, the top employers in the city are:
Downtown Conroe’s Central Business District hosts multiple arts venues. The oldest is the Crighton Theatre, which opened on November 26, 1935. The theatre is named after Harry M. Crighton, Conroe’s mayor from 1932 to 1933. The theatre functioned as the community’s movie theatre until 1967, at which point it fell into disrepair. In 1979 it was renovated, and it now hosts live theatrical productions. Another theatre, the Owen Theatre, is also located in the district. The Central Business District has outdoor performance venues at Conroe Founder’s Plaza and Heritage Place, which host multiple festivals throughout the year.
The city supports several arts organizations, including the Greater Conroe Arts Alliance. The Alliance is a network of multiple arts groups in the city such as the Conroe Symphony, the Conroe Art League, and the Montgomery County Choral Society. The Alliance also sponsors, along with the state of Texas, the Young Texas Artists Music Competition. The competition, founded in 1983, showcases young musicians who aspire to careers in classical music. In 2009, the city sponsored the Art Bench Project, which converted 13 stone benches scattered throughout the central business district into works of art. Each bench portrays a different part of Conroe’s history and culture, from historical figures like George Strake and Charles B. Stewart to contemporary art groups such as the Crighton Players.
The city contains multiple parks which document local history. The Heritage Museum of Montgomery County maintains artifacts of Montgomery County’s early settlers.
The Lone Star Monument and Historical Flag Park displays the flags that flew over Texas. The flags are positioned in a circle around the park, with a statue of a Texian in the center. Each flag comes with a plaque that describes its connection to Texas history. At the park’s entrance is a statue of Charles B. Stewart, who is claimed to have designed the lone star flag.
Montgomery County War Memorial Park is a memorial to the 166 soldiers from Montgomery County who have been killed in active duty. The park’s dedication ceremony was in 1976 and featured a speech by President Gerald Ford. In 2017, the Montgomery County Commissioners Court and the City of Conroe agreed to relocate and expand the memorial, to include the names of up to 50,000 soldiers who have lived in Montgomery County. As of June 2019, the expansion is ongoing.
Lake Conroe, northwest of downtown Conroe, is a site for such water-based activities as boating and fishing. The most common fish in the lake are Largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish, white bass, and hybrid striped bass. Crappie may also be found in the early spring and fall.
For the 2019 Fiscal Year, the city had $157.8 million in revenues and $147.9 million in expenditures. The city’s net position was $189.7 million.
The structure of the management and coordination of city services is:
The Conroe Police Department has 142 full-time police officers and 42 support staff. The department has a number of bureaus. The Uniformed Services Bureau includes the Patrol Division, SWAT a part time unit and honor guard. The Support Services Bureau the Criminal Investigations Division and animal control unit.
On 14 September 1982, Sergeant Ed Holcomb was shot and killed while responding to a domestic disturbance call.
In July 2013, Conroe Police Sergeant Jason Blackwelder was off duty, and he observed store employees chasing a shoplifting suspect. He joined the chase. In an isolated area, Blackwelder killed the suspect with a single gunshot to the back of the head. In June 2014, he was convicted of manslaughter. He was sentenced to five years’ probation.
The county operates the main branch of the Montgomery County Memorial Library System.
98% of Conroe is represented in the Texas Senate (District 4) by Republican Brandon Creighton. A small portion of the northern part of Conroe is part of District 3, represented by Republican Robert Nichols.
In the Texas House of Representatives, 94% of Conroe is part of District 16, represented by Republican Will Metcalf. The southern portion of Conroe is in District 15, represented by Republican Mark Keough. Less than 1% of Conroe residents are part of District 3, represented by Republican Cecil Bell, Jr.
The Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) operates the Conroe District Parole Office in Conroe.
At the Federal level, the two U.S. senators from Texas are Republicans John Cornyn and Ted Cruz. Conroe is part of Texas’s 8th congressional district, which is represented by Republican Kevin Brady.
The United States Postal Service Conroe Post Office is located at 809 West Dallas Street.
Residents of both Conroe ISD and Willis ISD (and therefore the whole city of Conroe) are served by the Lone Star College System (formerly North Harris Montgomery Community College).
It is primarily served by the Lone Star College-Montgomery Campus and LSC University Center. Other campuses in the county include the EMCID Center in New Caney, and the Conroe Center. The territory in Conroe ISD joined the community college district in 1991, and the territory in Willis ISD joined the district in 1996.
The Catholic University of St. Thomas opened a campus in Conroe in fall 2020. The Old Conroe Police building has been adapted to serve as a temporary site for up to three years. The permanent campus is proposed to be at Deison Technology Park. Class of 1952 alumnus Vincent D’Amico offered the university 50 acres (20 ha) of land in east Montgomery County for the project.
Almost all areas of Conroe are within the Conroe Independent School District though a small northern section of Conroe is within the Willis Independent School District.
All of the schools listed here are in the city of Conroe. Approximately 60% of the Conroe ISD section of Conroe is zoned to Conroe High School though some parts of Conroe attend Oak Ridge High School and Caney Creek High School.
The junior high schools that serve the Conroe High School feeder zone are:
Some intermediate schools that serve the Conroe High School feeder zone are:
Some elementary schools that serve the Conroe High School feeder zone are:
The Willis ISD section is zoned to Turner Elementary School, Brabham Middle School, and Willis High School.
The closest Catholic high school is Frassati Catholic High School in north Harris County; Conroe is in the school’s intended catchment area.
The Courier is a daily newspaper published in Conroe, Texas, covering Montgomery County. In 2016, the newspaper was purchased by Hearst Communications, a media conglomerate which also owns and operates the Houston Chronicle.
Two Houston television stations, Ion owned-and-operated KPXB-TV (channel 49) and Quest owned-and-operated KTBU (channel 55), are licensed to Conroe. Both stations operate from studios located in the city of Houston.
In 2012 the U.S. Census Bureau classified the area around Conroe and The Woodlands as a “large urbanized transit area.” This is defined as an area having more than 200,000 residents, which makes it eligible to receive federal transportation funds, particularly to support transit.
Union Pacific Railroad Corporation operates another busy main line that runs north from Houston in Harris County to Palestine in Anderson County, known as the Palestine subdivision. The two railroads intersect at a diamond in downtown Conroe between Main and First Streets.
In the early 1920s the Mary Swain Sanitarium, was established as the first organized healthcare institution in the city. The Mary Swain Sanitarium was private.
In 1938 the Montgomery County Hospital, a public institution, replaced it. It had 25 beds. The hospital closed after a new hospital of the Montgomery County Hospital District opened in 1982.
The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen Climate Classification system, Conroe has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated “Cfa” on climate maps.