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Freeport (Brazoria County)

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Freeport was developed in 1912–1913 by the Freeport Townsite Company, an affiliate of the Freeport Sulphur Company, both controlled by Texas-born, New York City bankers Eric P. and Swen A. Swenson, sons of Swedish immigrant S. M. Swenson, who came to Brazoria County in the Republic of Texas in 1838. Swenson and his sons moved to New York City after the Civil War. Freeport represents the increasing scale of capital-intensive, systematically integrated economic development ventures that occurred after the turn of the twentieth century. The town had been preceded at the mouth of the Brazos River by the unsuccessful development of the new town of Velasco on the north side of the river (now part of the city of Freeport) by midwestern investors in 1891–1892.

The Freeport Sulphur Company began working one of the largest sulfur deposits in the world at the Bryan Mound salt dome in 1912, just south of Freeport. The company ceased operations at Bryan Mound in 1935. In 1940, as part of defense-related industrialization—directed in part by Houston businessman Jesse H. Jones, who chaired the Reconstruction Finance Corporation—Dow Chemical Company of Midland, Michigan, chose Freeport as the location for a plant to produce magnesium. After a second plant went into operation in 1942, over 80 percent of the magnesium produced in the United States came from Freeport.

Today, Freeport is dominated by the massive installations of Dow's Plant A (which form a mountain chain of infrastructure that dwarfs the town) that make an impressive vista from atop the TX 332 bridge across the Gulf Intra-coastal Waterway at Surfside Beach. Dow has attracted other petrochemical installations and the Port of Freeport houses the largest rice mill in the nation. Yet Freeport gives the appearance of being semi-abandoned: industrial prosperity has brought neglect and decay.

Writing Credits

Gerald Moorhead et al.

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