Magnolia,Texas, has a history with the railroad that spans more than 100 years. Construction of the International & Great Northern Railroad through the area, then known as Mink Prairie, was started in 1901. At the time, 16-year-old William Julius Gayle, later a long-time agent and telegrapher, began working as a laborer laying track for the IG&N. Isaac Lee "Cap" Miner, his uncle, was the extra gang foreman and later became section foreman.
On August 25, 1902, warranty deeds were made to the Smith Land and Improvement Company by R.T. Smith and T.J. Goodson for construction of a station building or depot by I&GN Railroad.
Depot agents from 1907 through 1963 included:
The Missouri Pacific water tower was built in 1925, and served the community until it was demolished in 1990. It also served as a swimming hole for some youngsters including Cedric and Sewall Smith. Cedric Smith later became the first mayor of Magnolia.
In 1963, the depot was auctioned off and used as a barn for many years. In 1993, Patsy Williams purchased the depot building and it was moved back to Magnolia. At that time Williams and Celeste Gayle Graves, the daughter and granddaughter of depot agents, established the Magnolia Historical Society to preserve the history of the depot and Magnolia. Just yards from where it originally stood the Magnolia Historical Society began restoration of the depot with volunteer donations and efforts, including rebuilding the platform.
In 2006, the historic Magnolia Depot was moved across the tracks to its present location on Melton Street adjacent to the Montgomery County Community Building. At that time the Magnolia Historical Society secured a 99-year lease from Montgomery County for the multiple city lots that now make up the Magnolia Depot Complex.
In 1999, the Depot was awarded an Official Historical Medallion from the Texas Historical Commission. It was cited as an excellent example of an early 20th century train depot, notable for features including folk Victorian architecture with clipped gable ends.
Since that time, the Magnolia Depot has become the true centerpiece of Magnolia history and community gatherings. The Depot Complex has expanded and houses the Magnolia Depot Museum, the first doctor's office in the area (C. 1885) along with a barbershop, a Greater Houston Blacksmith Association facility, an early post office, an antique sawmill and a red caboose - all harking back to the history of Magnolia which began with the railroad.
The International & Great Northern Railroad, which brought rail to Magnolia, remained an independent unit of the Missouri Pacific system until 1956 when it was folded into the parent company following its emergence from receivership, which had been entered into in 1933.In January 1980, the Missouri Pacific Railroad was purchased by the Union Pacific Railroad - creating a shared history between Union Pacific and Magnolia.