Giddings, county seat of Lee County, is on U.S. highways 290 and 77, fifty-five miles east of Austin and 100 miles west of Houston. The land was originally part of Stephen F. Austin’s colony and later in the Robertson colony. Giddings was founded in 1871, when the Houston and Texas Central Railway came through the area. A town and a post office were established to serve communities that were bypassed. The town is usually said to have been named for Jabez Deming Giddings, a stockholder in the railroad, though some sources state that the source of the name was Dewitt C. Giddings. Local farmers raised cotton, and many businesses soon were started by residents from surrounding communities. Ethnic groups included Jewish and Wendish families from the Serbin area. A syndicate headed by William Marsh Rice owned the whole townsite and sold property to settlers. Later Rice Institute (now Rice University) in Houston had control and sold the lots.
Wide streets were a distinguishing characteristic of Giddings; both main thoroughfares were 100 feet wide, and other streets were eighty feet wide. The town’s first church, established in 1871, was Methodist. J. D. Giddings Masonic Lodge, chartered in Evergreen in 1865, moved to Giddings, and early churches and a public school met in its building. Soon after the Civil War freed slaves from farms and plantations settled in Giddings. Classes for more than fifty black students were held in a church in 1883, and the first black public school was built in 1887.
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reprinted from Texas State Historical Association | photo by Leonard G. Lane, Jr.