Living in Wharton County offers residents an affordable and close-knit community atmosphere with access to outdoor recreational opportunities. The county’s rural charm, agricultural heritage, and friendly community create a strong sense of belonging. Residents can enjoy the natural beauty of the Colorado River, San Bernard River, and nearby parks. While enjoying a rural lifestyle, Wharton County’s proximity to larger urban centers like Houston provides convenience. The county is known for its safety and offers affordable housing options.
Overall, living in Wharton County offers a balanced and fulfilling lifestyle.
Wharton County is a rural county located in southeastern Texas. It has a population of approximately 41,000 residents and covers an area of about 1,090 square miles. The county’s economy is driven by agriculture, focusing on crops like cotton, rice, soybeans, and livestock production. The energy sector, particularly oil and gas exploration, also contributes to the local economy. Wharton County offers educational opportunities through its public school districts and Wharton County Junior College. Outdoor recreation is abundant, with access to the Colorado River, San Bernard River, parks, and nature reserves. The county has a strong community spirit, celebrates its agricultural heritage, and preserves historical sites. While enjoying a rural lifestyle, residents have the convenience of proximity to larger urban centers, such as Houston.
Native American Influence: Before European settlement, various Native American tribes, including the Karankawa, Atakapa, and Coahuiltecan, inhabited the region. They relied on the land’s resources for sustenance and established their own distinct cultures.
European Settlement: The first European settlers arrived in the area in the early 1820s. Stephen F. Austin’s colonization efforts brought Anglo-American settlers to the region, establishing the town of Wharton in 1846. The county was officially organized in 1848, and named after brothers William H. and John A. Wharton, who were significant figures during the Texas Revolution.
Agricultural Development: Wharton County quickly became an agricultural hub, with cotton as the primary crop. The railroad’s arrival in the late 1800s further spurred economic growth, allowing for the efficient transportation of goods. The county’s fertile land attracted farmers and contributed to its prosperity.
African American History: The county’s history also includes a significant African American presence. Many freed slaves and their descendants settled in the area, establishing communities and contributing to the county’s development.
Economic and Social Changes: Throughout the 20th century, Wharton County experienced various economic and social changes. The decline of the cotton industry led to a diversification of agriculture, with crops like rice and soybeans gaining prominence. The county also saw the growth of oil and gas exploration industries.
Cultural Heritage: Wharton County has preserved its cultural heritage through various historical sites and museums. The Wharton County Historical Museum showcases the region’s history, while the county’s architecture reflects different eras, from the Victorian era to mid-century modern designs.
Plains and Prairies: Most Wharton County is characterized by expansive plains and prairies. These flat to gently rolling landscapes are ideal for agriculture, with fertile soil supporting the growth of crops such as cotton, rice, and soybeans.
Colorado River: The Colorado River flows through the eastern portion of Wharton County, offering recreational opportunities and scenic beauty. It provides a water source for irrigation and supports diverse wildlife and vegetation along its banks.
San Bernard River: The San Bernard River forms a portion of Wharton County’s southern border. It is known for its picturesque surroundings, including forested areas and wetlands, attracting outdoor enthusiasts for fishing, boating, and birdwatching activities.
Lakes and Reservoirs: Wharton County is home to several lakes and reservoirs, including Lake Texana, which is situated on the Navidad River. These water bodies offer water-based recreation opportunities, such as fishing, swimming, and boating.
Wooded Areas: While open plains predominantly characterize the county, pockets of wooded areas are scattered throughout. These include small forests, patches of trees, and riparian zones along rivers and creeks, adding to the natural diversity of the landscape.
Wildlife and Natural Areas: Wharton County is known for its diverse wildlife, including white-tailed deer, waterfowl, migratory birds, and various fish species. The county also has wildlife management areas and reserves that preserve and protect the natural environment.
Agriculture: Agriculture plays a significant role in Wharton County’s economy. The county is known for its fertile soil, making it ideal for cultivating crops such as cotton, rice, soybeans, corn, and livestock production. Many farms and ranches contribute to the agricultural sector, generating jobs and income for the community.
Oil and Gas: Wharton County is in the energy industry, with oil and gas exploration and production contributing to the local economy. The county benefits from its proximity to the Eagle Ford Shale formation, leading to opportunities for employment and revenue generation.
Manufacturing and Industry: Wharton County has various manufacturing and industrial operations. These include food processing, construction materials, metal fabrication, and machinery manufacturing. These industries provide employment opportunities and contribute to the county’s economic output.
Retail and Services: The retail and services sector plays a vital role in Wharton County’s economy, providing employment and meeting the needs of the local population. Retail stores, restaurants, healthcare services, and hospitality establishments contribute to the county’s commercial activity.
Education and Government: Wharton County benefits from educational institutions such as Wharton County Junior College. These institutions provide education and training opportunities for students and contribute to the local economy through employment and spending. Government services and public administration also play a role in the county’s economy.
Small Businesses and Entrepreneurship: Wharton County has a thriving small business community. Local entrepreneurs and small business owners contribute to the economic landscape by providing goods, services, and employment opportunities. These businesses often reflect the unique character and needs of the community.
Community Engagement: The people of Wharton County value community and actively participate in various social and cultural activities. They often come together for local events, festivals, and gatherings, fostering a sense of unity and belonging.
Agricultural Heritage: Wharton County’s agricultural roots are significant in its culture. The county has a strong farming and ranching tradition, and residents take pride in the region’s agricultural heritage. The county fair and other agricultural events celebrate this important community aspect.
Arts and Crafts: Wharton County showcases local artistic talent through various art exhibitions, craft shows, and performances. The county encourages creativity and provides platforms for artists to express themselves, adding to the community’s cultural fabric.
Historic Preservation: Wharton County recognizes the importance of preserving its history and heritage. Historical sites, museums, and architectural landmarks are cherished and maintained, allowing residents and visitors to learn about the area’s past and appreciate its cultural significance.
Culinary Traditions: The food culture in Wharton County reflects its southern roots, with traditional Texan and southern cuisine being prominent. Barbecue, comfort foods, and Tex-Mex dishes are popular, and local eateries often showcase regional flavors and homemade recipes.
Sporting and Recreational Activities: Wharton County residents enjoy various sporting activities and recreational pursuits. High school sports, particularly football, hold a special place in the community, fostering a sense of pride and camaraderie.
Multiculturalism: Wharton County is home to a diverse population, including people from different ethnic backgrounds and cultural traditions. This diversity adds to the county’s cultural richness, promoting understanding and appreciation of various customs and traditions.
Highways: Wharton County is well-connected by a network of highways. U.S. Route 59, a major north-south corridor, runs through the county, providing access to nearby cities and towns. State Highways 60 and 71 also pass through the county, offering convenient travel routes.
Railways: The county is served by railways operated by Union Pacific Railroad. These rail lines support transporting goods and commodities, facilitating economic activities related to agriculture, manufacturing, and other industries.
Airports: Wharton Regional Airport in the county offers general aviation services and a transportation hub for private and small aircraft. For commercial air travel, residents can access major airports like George Bush Intercontinental Airport in Houston, approximately an hour’s drive away.
Public Transportation: Wharton County does not have a comprehensive public transportation system. However, some local communities may have limited bus or shuttle services provided by educational institutions or senior centers. Taxis and rideshare services are also available for local transportation needs.
Personal Vehicles: Personal vehicles are the primary mode of transportation for most residents in Wharton County. The well-maintained road network and highways allow for convenient travel within the county and beyond.
Bicycle and Pedestrian Infrastructure: Wharton County is gradually developing bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure to promote alternative modes of transportation and recreational activities. This includes the construction of sidewalks, bike lanes, and trails in certain areas.
K-12 Education: Wharton County is served by several school districts, including the Wharton Independent School District, Boling Independent School District, El Campo Independent School District, and others. These districts provide quality education to kindergarten through twelfth grade students, offering a comprehensive curriculum and extracurricular activities.
Wharton County Junior College: Wharton County is home to Wharton County Junior College (WCJC), a two-year community college. WCJC offers a variety of academic and vocational programs, granting associate degrees and certifications. It provides opportunities for students to continue their education or gain workforce skills.
Higher Education Access: Wharton County residents can access higher education institutions beyond the county. The nearby University of Houston-Victoria offers undergraduate and graduate degree programs, providing opportunities for students to pursue higher education close to home.
Adult Education: Wharton County also offers adult education programs and resources. These programs include adult literacy classes, English as a Second Language (ESL) instruction, and vocational training, providing opportunities for lifelong learning and skill development.
Vocational Training: Wharton County recognizes the importance of vocational and technical training. Vocational programs in healthcare, welding, automotive technology, and more are available to equip students with practical skills and prepare them for the workforce.
Community Engagement: The education system in Wharton County encourages community engagement and involvement. Parent-teacher organizations, school boards, and volunteer opportunities allow community members to contribute to the educational experience and support student success.