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Huntsville is 30 miles north of Conroe. Located In the center of Walker County, Huntsville is also the county seat. It has a population of approximately 42,000. In 1835 or 1836 Pleasant and Ephraim Gray founded an Indian trading post named Huntsville, after their former Huntsville, Alabama home. The 1840s and 1850s saw more arrivals from the Carolinas, Alabama, Mississippi, and Tennessee. In 1849 Huntsville became the site of the first state penitentiary and lost the bid for state capital to the city of Austin. In 1872 the 8-mile Huntsville Branch linked Huntsville to the Houston & Great Northern Railroad. In 1879 the first teacher-training institution in Texas, Sam Houston Normal Institute (later Sam Houston State University) opened in Huntsville. Lumber, livestock, farming, and tourism have formed the base of the city’s economy. In the 1970s and 1980s the local economy was revitalized by growth in metropolitan Houston, the penitentiary system, and Sam Houston State University. Home to Sam Houston, Texas hero and first President, Huntsville was called the “Mount Vernon of Texas.” Historical attractions include the Sam Houston Memorial Museum and the Sam Houston home. Outdoor attractions include Lake Livingston, Sam Houston National Forest, and Huntsville State Park.