Industry, on State Highway 159 in northwest Austin County, was the first permanent German settlement in Texas. Its first residents were Johann Friedrich Ernst and his family, who had come from Germany, briefly resided in New York, and en route to Missouri learned about free land available in Texas. The Mexican government granted Ernst a league of land on April 16, 1831, and Charles Fordtran, who had accompanied the family to Texas, received a quarter of it as payment for surveying the entire tract. Ernst established his home on the eastern part of his league near the main road from San Felipe to Bastrop. "Ernst's Place" established a reputation as a resting place for immigrants and travelers. Ernst planted fruit trees and began to grow crops, including tobacco, which he made into cigars and sold in San Felipe, Houston, and Galveston. Early residents were described as very industrious, and the cigar industry is purported to be the source for the name of the town. In December 1837 the Republic of Texas authorized a post office. In 1838 Ernst laid out lots on his land for the town of Industry and advertised them for sale. Between 1846 and 1850 Ernst F. G. Knolle and his brother Frederick purchased 3,000 acres of the John F. Pettus league, adjacent to and southeast of the Ernst league. By the time Friedrich Ernst died in 1848, Industry was experiencing modest growth. By the 1850s cotton was the area's major crop. In 1857 Knolle, aided by Andreas Buenger, built the town's first cotton gin, and by the 1890s twelve gins were in operation in the vicinity. Germans, Czechs, and African Americans steadily settled the Industry area from the 1850s until the 1890s, although growth slowed briefly during the Civil War. Between the late 1920s and the 1960s the population declined. Farming and cotton production were the major sources of income in the Industry area until the 1950s. After that, ranching dominated the economy. In 1985 churches, clubs, and civic organizations remained active. The town had a school, a post office, a bank, a public park, twenty-seven businesses, and a population of 600. A substantial number of residents commuted to jobs outside the town. In 1990 the population was 475.
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