The town of Wharton was founded as the seat of Wharton County
in April 1846, named for two brothers, William Harris and
John Austin Wharton, who were Texas heroes. The town site was
surveyed by Virgil Stewart and William J.E. Heard, and rich
farmland attracted many settlers. Land for a courthouse
named Monterey Square was given from the land grant of
William Kincheloe, one of Stephen F. Austin's Old 300
colonists who settled in this area in 1822.The advent of
railroads and irrigation brought increased settlement to the
town, which remains a center of agricultural, educational,
industrial, and medical services for a large area.
The Wharton County Courthous, pictured below, has been
restored to its 1888 status.
City of Wharton Tour Movie
1985 Wharton Country Youth Fair Parade
Prospective landowners first came to the plains of the Colorado River in 1822,
having been led there by Stephen F. Austin under contract with the
Mexican Government. The Mexican Imperial Colonization Law of 1823
granted 177 acres to the heads of families for farming, 4428 acres for raising
cattle and 80 extra acres for each slave owned by the settler.
During the time of the Republic of Texas, 1836-1846, the area was divided
into three counties: Matagorda, Jackson, and Colorado,
each consisting of isolated plantation homes and two
growing towns, Preston and Egypt. When Texas entered
the United States in 1845, Wharton County was formed of
parts of the three existing counties near the intersection
of mail routes from Matagorda to Columbus and from
Houston to Victoria. The town and county were named
after William H. Wharton, a lawyer, member of the Convention
of 1832 and Minister to the United States, and his brother
John A. Wharton, also a lawyer, soldier, Secretary of War and
representative from Brazoria County to the First Congress of the
Republic of Texas. The land where the city of Wharton is now
located was originally part of a league granted to William Kincheloe
and his family in 1824. Located on the east bank of the Colorado River,
in what was known as the "Great Prairie Canebrake" of "Bay Prairie",
this rich flood plain was covered with a dense stand of 20’ tall switch
cane through which flowed Caney Creek, originally a bed of the
Colorado River. This cane had to be cut down by the first team
to survey the town site. Kincheloe donated the land for the courthouse
and central square. Land below the square providing access to the
river was designated as Kincheloe Common. Under Mexican and
Texan laws, water rights remained with the government. Rain collected
in cisterns and well water provided the drinking water.
The town In its earliest days consisted of a
few houses made of logs or imported lumber.
Heart pine shipped from Louisiana was
frequently used. Brick buildings were
scarce but slaves made bricks for f
oundations and chimneys. On the riverbank
where the City Hall now stands was Lucinda
Flowers' cabin, built about 1843, and nearby
were cabins for about one hundred slaves.
Farther away on the main road, towards
Matagorda was the two-story brick-and-scantlings
plantation home of Albert Horton, elected
Lieutenant Governor in .
1845. A. A. McWillie's 228 acre plantation was located at the northern edge of town.
The first courthouse of Wharton County, a small frame building, was built in 1848,
enclosed within a wire fence in 1851. In June, 1852, the first courthouse was torn
down. The new courthouse was finished in March of 1852. Built of brick, the 40’
square building was two stories, with the first floor divided by intersecting
north-south and east-west passageways. In 1857, the wire fence was replaced
by a plank fence of heart pine which stood until the early 1900's
The second official building to be built was the jail in 1854.
It was made of 8” logs on a 3’ brick base, topped by a second
story made of a wooden wall enclosed by a brick wall.