Pasadena, southeast of Houston in Harris County, is the birthplace of Free Texas. After the Battle of San Jacinto, General Santa Anna was captured at the convergence of Vince and Buffalo bayous, which today is in Pasadena.
The area around the battlefield remained prairie and was used primarily by cattlemen for their herds. In the mid-19th century, the La Porte Houston and Northern Railroad laid track through the open scrub and settlers soon followed. Pasadena was platted in 1895 by Colonel J. H. Burnett, who had previously established two towns in the area, Deepwater, now part of Pasadena, and Genoa. By 1898, the Pasadena school system was in place and was the first independent school district in Harris County.
After the great Galveston hurricane of 1900, Pasadena’s population grew as many who were displaced by the storm migrated inland. Clara Barton, founder of the Red Cross, sent strawberry plants to the region to help farmers start cash crops. Barton’s strawberry plants found fertile soil and soon Pasadena strawberries were famous across the country.
Industry ultimately surpassed farming as the primary employment in the area. The Port of Houston was officially opened by Woodrow Wilson in 1914 and Buffalo Bayou became the Houston Ship Channel. Large industrial plants located in Pasadena to take advantage of the channel’s easy access to the Gulf. During the 1930s and ‘40s, Pasadena continued to expand and encompassed Deepwater and surrounding hamlets. Then as now, employment was closely linked to ship channel industries and the emerging Bayport facility.
Although impacted by Hurricane Ike in 2008, Pasadena has rebounded rapidly and continues to grow. Clara Barton’s gift of Strawberries is remembered during the annual Strawberry Festival, and Strawberry Road runs through town where fields of the berries used to flourish. Gilley’s, made famous in the film “Urban Cowboy,” was located in Pasadena. The city has several museums, including the Pasadena Historical Museum, the Bay Area Museum and Armand Bayou Nature Center. Pasadena also has a community theater (Pasadena Little Theatre), a large rodeo each year (Pasadena Livestock Show & Rodeo) and orchestra (the Pasadena Philharmonic).
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