Waller County, named for Edwin
Waller, was created from Austin and Grimes counties in 1873 and organized the same year
with Hempstead as county seat. The area of the county is 507 square miles; altitude, 250
feet; average annual rainfall, 40.2 inches; and mean annual temperature, 68.9 degrees. The
county, situated in Southeast Texas has a topography varying from a rolling post oak
region in the north to prairies in the south.The area is well drained by the Brazos River,
which forms the western boundary. Soils range from sandy loams and heavy clays in the
upland to rich alluvials in the bottoms and black waxy in the central part. Native timber
includes post oak, pine, cottonwood, and elm. Principal industries are ranching,
agriculture, and dairying. Cotton, corn, peanuts, grains, watermelons, and rice are grown
commercially. Beef cattle, hogs, and sheep are raised for market. Mineral resources
include oil, gas, gravel, and brick clay. Transportation is provided by the Gulf,
Colorado, and Santa Fe and the Texas and New Orleans Railroads.
The area now included in Waller County was part of Stephen F. Austin's first colony.
Liendo and Bernardo Plantations were part of Jared E. Groce's grant. Called the
"father of agriculture in Texas", Groce established a plantation center with
cotton gin, blacksmith shop, and commissary which became the nucleus of the colony. Edwin
Waller joined the colony in 1831, coming from Virginia to settle on the east bank of the
The area was included in the department of Bexar under the Mexican regime and in 1834
was made part of the Brazos judicial District with San Felipe as the seat of government.
The county was the scene of the Runaway Scrape and of Sam Houston's retreat from Gonzales
toward San Felipe. The "Twin Sisters'" were placed in front of Bernardo
Plantation for several days during the retreat.
In 1849 Leonard Groce, established a new plantation at Liendo in the bend of Pond
Creek; this plantation was later occupied by Dr. Edmund Montgomery and his wife, Elisabeth
There was no extensive settlement until after the building of the Houston and Texas
Central Railroad in 1857, when Hempstead became the terminus of the road and the shipping
center and supply point for the surrounding area. In 1876 a legislative act established
Prairie View State Normal and Industrial College for Negroes (later Prairie View
University ) with a land grant of 1,434 acres situated near Hempstead. Population of the
county was 10,280 in 1940 and 11,961 in 1950. BIBLIOGRAPHY: Frank Ed White. A History of
the Territory That Now Constitutes Waller County, Texas,1821-1884 (M.A. Thesis, University
of Texas, 1936); H. S. Thrall, Pictorial History of Texas (1879); Texas Almanac (1945).
Liendo Plantation was built in 1853 by
Leonard Waller Groce, the son of Jared Groce, who was one of the largest most respected
land owners in Texas. Originally a Spanish land grant of 67,000 acres assigned to Justo
Liendo, the plantation's namesake, Liendo was one of Texas earliest cotton plantations. It
was considered the social center of Texas receiving and lavishly entertaining early Texas
dignitaries and notorieties. Liendo was considered a typical Southern plantation.
Sufficient in all its needs; it was a self contained community. Like most Southern
plantations, , Liendo fell on hard times after the Civil War and changed owners several
times thereafter. Liendo had always been recognized for its warm Southern Hospitality, but
few people know that this same tradition of generosity probably saved it from destruction.
Among the more notable statesmen and historical figures that have spent time at Liendo was
George A. Custer. At the end of the Civil War, he was stationed at Liendo. It is said that
both Mr. Custer and his wife were so impressed with the plantation and the gracious
hospitality shown them during their stay, that they made sure Liendo was not harmed in any
way in appreciation.
Liendo was also occupied by world renowned sculptress Elisabeth Ney and her husband Dr.
Edmond Montgomery from 1873 to 1911. She and her husband had immigrated years before from
Europe to the United States but had never found a new home until they found Liendo. It is
reported that she, upon arriving at Liendo, walked out on the balcony, threw out her arms
and said "This is where I will live and die". She lived out her life at Liendo,
commuting to her art studio in Austin. She and Dr. Montgomery are buried on the Plantation
grounds. She sculpted many notable works, two of her most recognized pieces being the
statues of Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston which now stand in the state capitol.
In 1960 Carl and Phyllis Detering purchased Liendo from Miss Willene Compton and began
their 10 year job of restoring the plantation home. Traveling throughout the deep South
and Europe, the Deterings acquired period furnishings and faithfully restored Liendo to
its former glory. Liendo is recognized as a Texas historic landmark and is fisted on the
national register of historic places. Today, Will Detering owns and operates Liendo
Plantation and continues the work of preserving and sharing this Texas landmark.
Liendo is also the location of the Old South Festival which is held annually the third
weekend in April. Home tours, folk life demonstrations, and local entertainment are some
of the weekend's attractions. Craft vendors and children's activities make this an event
for the whole family to enjoy.