El Campo

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Promotion: Nearby Map of Wharton County

El Campo is on U.S. Highway 59 and State Highway 71, thirteen miles southwest of Wharton in south central Wharton County. The Lower Colorado River Authority provides water, and several creeks flow near the city limits. In 1882 a railroad camp called Prairie Switch was situated where El Campo now stands and served as a switching point on New York, Texas and Mexican Railway. Cowboys called the camp "Pearl of the Prairies." Located in the midst of cattle country, the camp was used by Mexican cowboys who changed the name to El Campo in 1890. Ranching was the chief industry, and thousands of cattle were shipped yearly to San Antonio. Four large ranches surrounded the settlement: the Texas Land and Cattle Company (KO Ranch) to the south, the Pierce Ranch to the east, the Herder Ranch to the west, and the Brown Ranch to the north.

For several years El Campo had no permanent structures except the section house and a switch serving the cattle-loading chute. In 1889 a general store was built. In 1890 a post office opened. In 1892 the community had an estimated population of twenty-five, a general store, a mill and gin, and a justice of the peace. Settlers began moving into the area and planted rice, cotton, and corn. Hay soon became one of the chief products, and in the early 1900s the town was the second largest hay-shipping center in the United States. The Farmers Union Warehouse Company was established in El Campo. A one-room schoolhouse was built in 1891, and in 1895 an independent school district was established. By 1901 it enrolled 177 students. Between 1890 and 1898 Swedish Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, Presbyterian, Catholic, German Lutheran, and Swedish Methodist churches were organized.

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Karen H. Meinardus | © TSHA

Handbook of Texas Logo

Adapted from the official Handbook of Texas, a state encyclopedia developed by Texas State Historical Association (TSHA). It is an authoritative source of trusted historical records.

Great Texas Land Rush logo
Adoption Status:
This place has been adopted and will not be available until December 12, 2025
Adopted by:
James W McClure, Jr
Dedication Message:
My home town

Belongs to

El Campo is part of or belongs to the following places:

Currently Exists


Place type

El Campo is classified as a Town

Associated Names

  • (Prairie Switch)


Latitude: 29.19698540
Longitude: -96.27158900

Has Post Office


Is Incorporated


El Campo by the Numbers

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Population Counts

El Campo
Pop. Year Source
12,350 2020 United States Census Bureau
11,782 2019 Texas Demographic Center
11,602 2010 United States Census Bureau
10,945 2000 United States Census Bureau
10,511 1990 United States Census Bureau
10,462 1980 United States Census Bureau
9,332 1970 United States Census Bureau
7,700 1960 United States Census Bureau
6,237 1950 United States Census Bureau
3,906 1940 United States Census Bureau
2,034 1930 United States Census Bureau
1,766 1920 United States Census Bureau
17,788 1910 United States Census Bureau