Swedish native Swante Magnus Swenson and his two sons, Eric Pierson and Swen Albin Swenson, came to Texas in 1882 to establish the SMS ranches. In 1899, Eric P. and Swen A. Swenson donated a large section of land for a townsite on an extension of the Texas Central Railway. Railway president Henry McHarg named the new town Stamford for his hometown in Connecticut. A Cumberland Presbyterian church was organized in members' homes and a post office was established in a railroad boxcar in 1899. The Bank of Stamford opened for business in January 1900 and the first train pulled out of the Stamford depot in February. Businesses, churches and utilities soon were established.
The booming town was incorporated in January 1901 and P.P. Berthelot became the first mayor. Stamford relied primarily on agriculture for its economy. Cotton, Swenson's Herefords and other area livestock brought substantial income. The town also boasted a flour mill, cottonseed oil plant, iron foundry, gins, brick manufacturers and a railroad roundhouse. Both passenger and freight trains brought business to town. Stamford Collegiate Institution (later Stamford College), a Methodist school, opened in 1907. Oil was discovered near Stamford in 1935 and broadened the town's economic base still further. U.S. Army pilots trained at nearby Arledge Field during World War II.
The town of Stamford thrived throughout the 20th century. Though the Burlington Northern Railroad (final proprietor of the railway through Stamford) abandoned the track in the late 1990s, the Swenson Land and Cattle Company remained in operation, and cotton, cattle and wheat continued to be among Stamford's leading industries at the dawn of the 21st century.