Prairie View is on U.S. Highway 290 and the Texas and New Orleans Railroad, between Hempstead and Waller in north central Waller County. It traces its roots to Alta Vista, the plantation home of Jared E. and Helen Marr (Swearingen) Kirby. Alta Vista was one of four plantations and several small farms owned by the Kirbys in the vicinity of Best and Iron creeks, and at one time claimed a population of 400 slaves. Kirby was a colonel in the Confederate Army, and his home was Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith's headquarters during the later phases of the Civil War. When her husband died soon after the war, Mrs. Kirby was left in debt. In 1867 she transformed the mansion into a boarding school for young ladies called Alta Vista Institute; when she moved the school to Austin in 1876 she sold Alta Vista to the state of Texas. That year the Fifteenth Legislature established the first public institution of higher learning for Blacks in Texas, to be located on the former Kirby plantation. The new agricultural and mechanical training school opened in March 1878 with only eight students, who did not remain long. In April 1879 an act of the state legislature established Prairie View Normal and Industrial Training School (now Prairie View A&M University) to extend broader educational opportunities to Black youth. It opened on October 6, 1879, with sixteen students, and flourished.
At a Glance
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Prairie View by the Numbers
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|8,184||2020||United States Census Bureau|
|6,560||2019||Texas Demographic Center|
|5,576||2010||United States Census Bureau|
|4,410||2000||United States Census Bureau|
|4,004||1990||United States Census Bureau|
|3,993||1980||United States Census Bureau|
|3,589||1970||United States Census Bureau|
|2,326||1960||United States Census Bureau|