In 1848, James Nolan established a stagecoach stop at the intersection of the La Bahía and San Antonio–Nacogdoches roads and the Indian trail from Waco. By the mid-1850s four stage lines were operating at this convenient crossing of the Navasota River, and in 1854 the community was named Navasota. The arrival of the Houston and Texas Central Railway in 1859 brought a boom, making Navasota a shipping and market center for the surrounding farms and plantations. The town's commercial success, before and after the Civil War, was based on cotton production in the rich Brazos River bottoms. The town was partly destroyed by fire set by a mob of unpaid Confederate soldiers in 1865. This was followed in 1866 by cholera and yellow fever epidemics that reduced the population by more than half. Another fire in 1874 resulted in an ordinance requiring all new commercial structures to be fireproof. The new stone and brick buildings included decorative stringcourses and cornices and arched window lintels. Rubble-stone construction was often covered with stucco for further refinement. A statue in the esplanade of Washington Avenue honors René Robert Cavelier de La Salle, the French explorer who was killed by his own men in 1687 in the vicinity of Navasota.
Navasota was one of the first of five Texas cities to be included in the National Main Street Program when it was inaugurated in 1980 by the National Trust for Historic Preservation.
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