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Physical Features: Largest county in eastern half of state; level; typically coastal surface and soils; many bayous, canals for artificial drainage; Lake Houston, Sheldon Reservoir; partly forested.
Economy: Highly industrialized county with largest population; more than 92 foreign governments maintain offices in Houston; corporate management center; nation’s largest concentration of petrochemical plants; largest U.S wheat-exporting port, among top U.S. ports in the value of foreign trade and total tonnage.
Petroleum refining, chemicals, food, fabricated metal products, non-electrical machinery, primary metals, scientific instruments; paper and allied products, printing and publishing; center for energy, space and medical research; center of international business.
History: Orcoquiza villages visited by Spanish authorities in 1746. Pioneer settlers arrived by boat from Louisiana in 1822. Antebellum planters brought black slaves. Mexican migration increased after Mexican Revolution. County created in 1836, organized in 1837; named for John R. Harris, founder of Harrisburg (now part of Houston).
Race/Ethnicity: (In percent) Anglo, 32.66; Black, 18.34; Hispanic, 41.40; Asian, 6.21; Other, 1.39.
Vital Statistics, annual: Births, 68,166; deaths, 21,897; marriages, 28,549; divorces, 13,516.
Recreation: Professional baseball, basketball, football, soccer; rodeo and livestock show; Jones Hall for the Performing Arts; Nina Vance Alley Theatre; Convention Center; Toyota Center, a 19,000-seat sports and entertainment center; Reliant Stadium and downtown ballpark.
Sam Houston Park, with restored early Houston homes, church, stores; Museum of Fine Arts, Contemporary Arts Museum, Rice Museum; Wortham Theater; Hobby Center for Performing Arts; museum of natural science, planetarium, zoo in Hermann Park.
San Jacinto Battleground, Battleship Texas; Johnson Space Center.
Fishing, boating, other freshwater and saltwater activities.
Minerals: Among leading oil, gas, petrochemical areas; production of petroleum, cement, natural gas, salt, lime, sulfur, sand and gravel, clays, stone.
Agriculture: Nursery crops, grass (third in acreage of sod), cattle, hay, horses, vegetables, Christmas trees, goats, rice, corn. Market value $62.5 million. Substantial income from forest products.
Education: Houston is a major center of higher education, with more than 300,000 students enrolled in 28 colleges and universities in the county. Among these are Rice University, the University of Houston, Texas Southern University, University of St. Thomas, Houston Baptist University.
Medical schools include Houston Baptist University School of Nursing, University of Texas Health Science Center, Baylor College of Medicine, Institute of Religion and Human Development, Texas Chiropractic College, Texas Woman’s University-Houston Center.
HOUSTON (2,100,263, small parts in Fort Bend, Montgomery counties) county seat; largest Texas city; fourth-largest in nation.
A leading center for manufacture of petroleum equipment, agricultural chemicals, fertilizers, pesticides, oil and gas pipeline transmission; a leading scientific center; manufacture of machinery, fabricated metals; a major distribution, shipping center; engineering and research center; food processing; 85 hospitals.
Plants make apparel, lumber and wood products; furniture, paper, chemical, petroleum and coal products; publishing center; one of the nation’s largest public school systems; prominent corporate center; Go Texan Days (rodeo) in February/March, international festival in March/April.
Pasadena (149,043) residential city with large industrial area manufacturing petrochemicals and other petroleum-related products; civic center; San Jacinto College, Texas Chiropractic College; hospitals; historical museum; Strawberry Festival in May.
Baytown (71,802) refining, petrochemical center; commuters to Houston; Lee College; hospital, museum, library; historical homes; Chili When It’s Chilly cookoff in January.
The Clear Lake Area — which includes El Lago (2,706); Nassau Bay (4,002); Seabrook (11,952); Taylor Lake Village (3,544); Webster (10,400) — tourism, Johnson Space Center, University of Houston-Clear Lake, commuting to Houston; Bayport Industrial Complex includes Port of Bayport; 12 major marinas; hospitals; Christmas lighted boat parade.
Other towns include: Aldine (15,869); Atascocita (65,844); Barrett (3,199); Bellaire (16,855) residential city with several major office buildings; Bunker Hill Village (3,633); Channelview (38,289) hospital; Crosby (2,299) government/services, chemical plant, Czech Fest in October; Deer Park (32,010) ship-channel industries, Totally Texas celebration in April; Galena Park (10,887); Hedwig Village (2,557); Highlands (7,522) commuters, heritage museum, Jamboree in October; Hilshire Village (746); Hockley (400); Huffman (15,000); Humble (15,133) oil-field equipment manufactured, retail center, hospital; Hunters Creek Village (4,367); Jacinto City (10,553); Jersey Village (7,620).
Also, Katy (14,102, partly in Fort Bend, Waller counties) corporate headquarters, distribution center, hospitals; museums, park; Rice Harvest festival in October; Klein (45,000); La Porte (33,800) petrochemical industry; depot museum; Sylvan Beach Festival in April; Galveston Bay; Morgan’s Point (339); Piney Point Village (3,125); Sheldon (1,990); Shoreacres (1,493); South Houston (16,983).
Also, Southside Place (1,715); Spring (54,298); Spring Valley (3,715); Tomball (10,753) computers, oil equipment, retail center, antiques, hospital, sports medical center, museum, junior college, parks, Germanfest in March; West University Place (14,787).
The Houston skyline and the Houston Police Officers Memorial. Photo by Robert Plocheck.