The rice industry did not spread into the coastal plains region west of Houston until the very end of the 19th century. In 1898, Captain William Dunovant (1845-1902), a local plantation owner and entrepreneur, planted 40 acres of rice at the southeast corner of Eagle Lake (2. 5 miles south) as an experiment, using convict labor from a nearby prison farm to construct levees and harvest the new crop. The small tract produced such encouraging results that in 1899 Dunvovant built a pumping plant on the lake and irrigated 250-300 acres. The second venture proved so successful that over 30,000 acres of rice were under cultivation in the Colorado River Valley in 1900, and over 56,000 acres in 1901, mostly in Colorado County.
Rice quickly replaced cotton and sugar cane as the primary cash crop in Colorado County. That the crop had a widespread economic impact was reflected in the increase in property values, the influx of new families, the reclamation of abandoned croplands, the rise in new railroad construction, and the rapid development of allied service industries, such as rice mills and irrigation and canal companies. Rice and the culture it supports continue to be a major economic factor in Colorado County.