Friendswood, situated on FM 518 in the northwest corner of Galveston County half-way between Houston and Galveston, has the distinction of being the only permanent town in Texas that started as a Quaker settlement. A State Historical Marker, erected in 1967, states that Friendswood was founded by a group of Quakers led by T. Hadley Lewis and Frank J. Brown. They were looking for a “promised land” to start a settlement of the people who belonged to the religious denomination called Friends or Quakers. The carefully thought-out name for the new settlement – FRIENDSWOOD – was registered at the Galveston County Courthouse July 16, 1895.
From its beginning, all life was centered around the church and school. After their small church and school building was demolished in the 1900 Galveston Storm, the two-dozen families erected a large two-story frame structure for their church and school. They used the lumber they milled from the trees that were felled by the Great Storm. The building, called The Academy, housed all grades until 1914, and a parochial high school until 1928. It served as the church sanctuary 1902 until 1949, when a larger, stone building replaced it. (Present-day location—502 S. Friendswood Dr.)
Through the 1940s, Friendswood was predominately a small, remote farming Quaker community with fewer than 500 persons. Their economy depended largely on growing and preserving Magnolia figs. After 1950, it became increasingly a suburban bedroom community as Houstonians discovered the idyllic country setting and farmlands were converted to subdivision home-sites. The community became a city when it incorporated in 1960 with 960 residents. By 1970, the population had grown to 5,675. By 1990, the count was 22,814. At the turn of the century the population passed 33,000.
Today Friendswood is an attractive, growing, vibrant city with a strong sense of community and volunteerism, many businesses and churches and an Exemplary school district.
The vestiges of the Quaker homes and enterprises are mostly gone; however, the legacy of the values of family, God, education and community left by the founders remains. The story of the first 50 years of Friendswood is well documented and presented in the Frank J. Brown Heritage Museum at 108 Skyview.