Katy is a city in the U.S. state of Texas, within the Houston–The Woodlands–Sugar Land metropolitan area. The city is approximately centered at the tripoint of Harris, Fort Bend, and Waller counties. Katy had a population of 14,102 at the 2010 census, up from 11,775 in 2000. Its population was estimated at 19,216 in 2018.
First formally settled in the mid-1890s, Katy was a railroad town along the Missouri–Kansas–Texas (MKT) Railroad which ran parallel to U.S. Route 90 (today Interstate 10) into Downtown Houston. The fertile floodplain of Buffalo Bayou, which has its source near Katy, and its tributaries made Katy and other communities in the surrounding prairie an attractive location for rice farming. Beginning in the 1960s, the rapid growth of Houston moved westward along the new Interstate 10 corridor, bringing Katy into its environs. Today, the municipality of Katy lies at the center of a broader area known as Greater Katy, which has become heavily urbanized.
While largely subsumed into Greater Houston, the town of Katy is still notable for Katy Mills Mall, the Katy Independent School District, and its historic town square along the former right-of-way of the MKT railroad.
In the early 1800s Katy was known as "Cane Island", named for the creek that runs through the area, a branch of Buffalo Bayou. The creek was filled with tall cane, not native to the area. It was presumed to have been planted by either the Karankawa Indians or Spanish explorers to aid in fur trapping until the 1820s.
In 1845 James J. Crawford received a land grant that included this area. The hot summers and thick clay soil made it difficult to attract settlers to the area. Crawford, Peter Black, John Sills and the families of former slaves Thomas (Mary) Robinson and Milto McGinnis were the only recorded residents of Cane Island in 1875.
In 1895, James Oliver Thomas laid out a town, and in January 1896 the town of Katy was named through Thomas's post office application. The name "Katy" was derived from the MKT Railroad Company, which was commonly referred to as "the K-T" (also its stock exchange symbol). This common designation soon evolved into "the Katy."
Katy Residents gather for a photo at Cane Island Creek Bridge in 1911.
The anticipations of prosperity would bring growth to the new town which was developed around the original train stop and railroad tracks. By the early 1900s many families had come by train and wagon to establish Katy. Cotton and peanuts and corn were the first successful crops, but rice soon became the primary commodity crop. Katy later became known for rice farming; the first concrete rice driers in the state of Texas were built here in 1944 and still stand as landmarks. The farming community well supported local businesses as several hotels, stores, livery stables and saloons were prospering.
1900 Galveston hurricane track
On September 8, 1900, the town’s early efforts were swept clean by the Great Galveston Hurricane of 1900, the deadliest hurricane in US history. All but two of the original Katy homes were lost in the storm. Despite this, Cane Island rebuilt and continued to grow.
In 1945 the city of Katy was incorporated as a municipality. C. L. Baird was the first mayor. Boundaries were determined by finding the area that contained the most residents and was reasonably sized so that it could be managed by city services.
The construction and opening of Interstate 10 in 1966 allowed for rapid development of the area, as Houston expanded westward. This section was widened in 2008 to an average of 26 lanes, and in some areas 30 lanes total including 6 feeder and 4 HOV lanes for roughly 22 miles, making it the widest Freeway in the world. The population was 9,866 in 1988, 8,005 in 1990, 11,775 in 2000, and 15,591 in 2014. Currently Katy has grown to a population of well over 16,000 residents and almost 270,000 in the Greater Katy area. Katy has won national accolades for growth and sustainability. including the Gadberry Group naming Katy as one of "9 from 2009" most notable high-growth areas in the United States.