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The oldest building in downtown Conroe, the Conroe State Bank building, across from the courthouse originally built in early 1900’s. Photo- Kimberly Sutton

Featured Article

Our Miracle City

Historically Conroe finds ways to thrive while other communities struggle

From Isaac Conroe's lumber town that burnt down in 1911 only to rise again to the oil strike of George Strake and the area's recent population growth, Conroe has repeatedly been called a boom town and miracle city. As you drive by some of the oldest buildings downtown, it is easy to take their character and the history behind them for granted. Buildings, including the Montgomery County Courthouse, the Crighton Theater, and the old State Hotel, have witnessed a lot. 

In October 1881, Isaac Conroe purchased a tract of land, established a sawmill, and founded Conroe, Texas. It was officially incorporated as a city on February 24, 1904. Eventually, it became Montgomery County's seatOne reason Conroe was given the nickname "Miracle City" was due to the explosion of economic growth caused by the discovery of rich oil fields where geologists insisted there were none. It was a miracle because as the rest of the United States tried to survive the Great Depression, Conroe boomed. 

Overnight, wildcatter George Strake became a multi-millionaire when his attempt to drill a water well became the "Carter No. 1" after it instead struck oil in 1931. It was a gusher and proved that Conroe was sitting on a small but commercially viable oil field. The jobs created were significant, ranging from drilling and exploration to refining and transportation. It provided employment opportunities for many residents who were struggling due to unemployment during the Great Depression.

According to Montgomery County Historical Commission Chairman Larry Foerster, the increased tax revenue from the Conroe oil industry contributed substantial income to the City of Conroe and Montgomery County to improve infrastructure, build schools, and invest in public services. The courthouse, a bank, the hotel, Conroe schools, and retail stores were all built from the money coming in from the oil business. In the early 1930s, this was considered a miracle.

"I'm not sure anyone knows exactly where the name "Miracle City" was derived. Some believe it was in response to the Fire of 1911, where downtown was rebuilt within a year. Others would say that it was named after the Conroe oil boom," Foerster said. 

George Strake believed God guided him to Conroe. A devout Catholic, he was attending mass at Sacred Heart Catholic Church when one of Strake's roughnecks came and told him they had struck oil, according to Conroe Mayor Jody Czajkoski, who read a book about Strake, The Fisherman's Tomb by John O'Neill.

Other successful wells followed, making the Conroe oilfield the third-largest in the United States. Strake's discovery also proved that Cockfield sand was an oil-producing formation and opened wildcatting in a 50-mile-wide strip that was 500 miles long, from Texas into Louisiana and Mississippi. Strake's oil operations eventually spread across West Texas into New Mexico, Oklahoma, the southern states, and as far north as Michigan and Nebraska. His oil wealth was estimated to be between $100 million and $200 million. 

Due to this faith, Strake became a renowned philanthropist who donated much of his wealth to causes such as educational institutions, civic organizations, and charities. He served on the national executive board of the Boy Scouts and donated land for Camp Strake. The several thousand acres where the Grand Central Park shopping and housing development now stands was once the third largest scout camp in the United States. His positive influence touched lives across the community, state, and world. His work was even recognized with two Papal Honors.

With Conroe being one of the fastest-growing cities within one of the fastest-growing counties, the future is still bright here. People are moving to Montgomery County for many different reasons: a strong school system, Lake Conroe, the natural resources of the Sam Houston National Forest, and the overall quality of life.

When you stroll through downtown, little seems artificially manufactured. It has character. It stays true to its history without seeming 'old' or decaying. It is vibrant and alive without being congested or overcrowded. 

Today, the Miracle City has proven that anything is possible, according to the Conroe Lake Conroe Chamber Director of Marketing/Communications, Steve Scheffler.

"When many other parts of the country and even the state have experienced tough economic times, Conroe has found ways to insulate itself from these downturns," said Scheffler. "They are people who saw opportunities with the land and made the most of it. I would attribute that to a solid work ethic rather than a miracle."

Families that have called Conroe home for decades say the city is resilient and proactive in its economic development endeavors, and feel that the leaders in the community have a huge amount of respect for its past while embracing the future.

As a tribute to the sustainable businesses and people of the area, the Conroe/Lake Conroe Chamber of Commerce will be celebrating its 90th Anniversary in 2024, making it the oldest Chamber in the County. 

The Chamber has many important traditions ranging from the Montgomery County Fair and Rodeo, the development of Lake Conroe and the Conroe-North Houston Regional Airport, Leadership Montgomery County, and Candy Cane Park, with annual events the community looks forward to, such as Lobsterfest.  Businesses and residents are committed to preserving and promoting the history.

"Miracle City is where the Texas Wildcatter entrepreneurial spirit meerts innovation and Southern charm," said Jody Czajkoski, Mayor of Conroe.

  • The oldest building in downtown Conroe, the Conroe State Bank building, across from the courthouse originally built in early 1900’s. Photo- Kimberly Sutton
  • Present-day photo of the crosswalk between the courthouse and the Court Annex building over Davis Street in downtown Conroe. Photo-Kimberly Sutton
  • George Strake (1894-1969) In 1927 Strake moved to the Houston area and leased land near Conroe as an independent oilman. He struck oil in December 1931.
  • Conroe Mayor Jody Czajkoski, elected in 2020, is a business owner, an entrepreneur, and the founder of MHW Commercial Real Estate Investments. Photo-Kimberly Su
  • Representing the Montgomery County Historical Commission, Larry Foerster stands in front of the Montgomery County Courthouse. Photo-Kimberly Sutton
  • The Conroe/Lake Conroe Chamber is celebrating 90 years in the community in 2024.
  • Early days of the Crighton Theatre- built in 1934.
  • Scott Harper, President of the Conroe/Lake Conroe Chamber with Kristine Marlow, President/CEO of the MCFB.
  • Strake hits oil in 1931 and
  • The George W. Strake No. 1 at the Conroe oilfield. Courtesy of the Montgomery County Library