Named for Robert Calvert, a descendent of Lord Baltimore and an early planter in the county, the community owed its existence to the Houston and Texas Central Railway that Calvert promoted, which arrived in 1868. In 1870 Calvert became county seat but lost the distinction to Morgan (Franklin) in 1879. The community has a colorful and rich social and ethnic history with a large collection of high-style Victorian-era buildings constructed during its heyday as a cotton center, and claiming in 1871 to have the largest cotton gin in the world. A culture of large cotton plantations made possible by slave labor developed in the Brazos River Bottoms in the 1850s. With returning prosperity later in the nineteenth century, many of the planters, who had converted their lands to tenant farms for freed slaves and imported Chinese labor, moved into town and built large houses. At the end of the nineteenth century, Calvert was the fourth-largest city in the state, a boomtown with saloons, gambling houses, and an opera house in addition to mercantile businesses. The historic district is one of the largest in the nation, encompassing more than thirty-seven full blocks and nine partial blocks of commercial and residential structures.
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