In 1882 a railroad camp was located where El Campo now stands. The camp was first named "Prairie Switch" and then "Pearl of the Prairie" but was later changed by the Mexican Cowboys to "El Campo" which means "the camp." Ranching was the main industry, and thousands of cattle were shipped annually. At that time El Campo was surrounded by four large ranches; to the north was the Brown Ranch; to the south was the Texas Land and Cattle Company, to the west was the Herder Ranch, and to the east was the Pierce Ranch.
El Campo was incorporated in 1905. The municipal government was composed of a mayor and five aldermen. Mr. Mack Webb was elected mayor, with a salary of $10.00 per month. W. G. McDonald was the first city attorney; W. E. Franz, the first city secretary. Members of the first council were H. G. Beard, E. L. Correll and W. W. Duson.
Soon after the establishment of a formal government, came adequate police protection and a volunteer fire department. Utility services were expanded. The City of El Campo has been the result of a steady and continual growth by citizens who came and saw the great possibilities that El Campo has to offer.