Willis, a lumbering and agricultural market town, is on the Missouri Pacific Railroad eight miles north of Conroe in north central Montgomery County. In 1870, as the Houston and Great Northern Railroad began surveying Montgomery County's first rail line, Galveston merchants Peter J. and Richard S. Willis, landholders in Montgomery County, donated a town site to the railroad along the proposed route.
By 1884, in addition to its various schools and churches, Willis boasted several steam-powered saw and grist mills, two cotton gins, a brickyard, a saloon and gambling house, a Grange hall, numerous grocery and dry-goods stores, and a population of 600. During the late nineteenth century the Willis area became the leading tobacco growing region in the state; before the lifting of the tariff on Cuban tobacco killed the boom in the early twentieth century, Willis supported as many as seven cigar factories. As tobacco culture declined, a boom in the production of timber and agricultural products kept the town's economy thriving.
The town's growth came to a temporary halt, however, with the onset of the Great Depression and the resulting slump in local timber production. From an estimated 900 in 1929, population fell to an estimated 750 by 1931. But an oil boom in central Montgomery County that began southeast of Conroe in 1931 soon spread its effects to the Willis area, bringing renewed economic activity and an influx of population. Then, during World War II, the lumber industry and agricultural activity revived. By the 1980's the Willis area was at last benefiting from the spillover effects of the postwar booms of Houston and Conroe, but the economy remained based on lumbering and agriculture.Above Information found in Handbook of Texas Online, s.v. "WILLIS, TX," http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/WW/hjw12.html (accessed June 17, 2005). Marker located at SH 75 and Fm 2432.