Cherokee County, Texas
CHEROKEE COUNTY TOWNS
Alto. In southern Cherokee County, 11 miles south of Rusk. Alto was laid off on the old Indian highway-El Camino Real (The King's Road)-known locally as the Old San Antonio Road, now SH 21. The land was originally a part of an extension grant to Nacogdoches traders, William Barr and Samuel Davenport, patented by Col. John Durst, and purchased by Col. Robert F. Mitchell, who emigrated to Nacogdoches County with 10 slaves in 1837, became a partner with Durst in a mercantile business at Mt. Sterling on the Angelina River east shore at the lower San Antonio Road Crossing; however, settlement of his affairs in Natchez, Miss., and New Orleans, La. followed by service in the Mexican War, had kept him out of Texas the greater part of the time before 1849, when he founded the town of Alto. Several Texas Historical markers in city.1
Craft - First carlot shipment of tomatoes in Texas made from St. Louis-Southwestern Railroad (Cotton Belt) station here in 1897. Shipment by S. H. and C. D. Jarratt launched production-shipment of tomatoes which developed into largest tomato deal in nation. Town named for Thomas J. Craft, town site landowner. Town had stores, post office, schools, tomato packing-shipping facilities, railroad depot. Development of good highway, which by-passed original town, and automobile and truck travel killed town. 4 miles south of Jacksonville on US 69. Texas Historical Commission marker.2
Cuney. Only all-black Texas town founded by blacks for blacks and having a post office and local government. Incorporated 1985. Began as a community of former slaves 1870, grew after real estate promotion 1916, lost ground after World War I and in 1930s Depression. Once had a railroad station, cotton gins, sawmills, numerous stores, hotel, drug store, doctors. Named for Cuney Price, son of H. L. Price, Palestine black banker, real estate promoter. Cuney Price named for Norris Wright Cuney, prominent black Galveston banker, public office holder, Texas Republican Party official. Andrew Bragg was first resident, community known as "Andy" in his honor until 1916. 8 miles northwest of Jacksonville on US 175. Texas Historical Commission Marker.2
Dialville. Founded by John J. Dial, civil War veteran who came to Texas 1866 in 60-wagon train of Georgians starting new lives in new land. First called Dial's and Dial, was station on narrow-guage Kansas & Gulf Short Line Railroad being built from Tyler to Lufkin. Dial and Mrs. Dial (Ida Mae Jones) deeded eight acres of land for the town, laid it out in blocks and streets with stipulation that railroad would establish and operate station there. Name changed to Dialville 1885 when post office was established because Texas had another town named Dial. Community flourished as farming and lumber center, lost ground in world War I, never regained it. Still has large box and crate manufacturing plant, but numerous stores, newspaper, theatre, physicians, and large public school all gone. 8 miles south of Jacksonville on FM 347. Texas Historical Commission marker.2
Emmaus. The small rural community of Emmaus was settled in the 1860s. By the 1870s the Emmaus Baptist Church was organized. School classes were held in the church building until 1881, when Dr. J. M. Brittain donated two acres of land for a public school. At its height, the community consisted of farms, two general stores, two churches, a school, and a cotton gin. One of the few physical reminders of the settlement, the Emmaus Cemetery dates to 1886. The area became known as New Emmaus in 1953 with the construction of the New Emmaus Baptist Church. (1991) Texas Historical Commission marker.
Gent Village Located on FM 2138 about 3 miles north of Maydelle, on top of Gent Mountain between two creeks, the village of Gent was settled in the 1850s primarily by families from Alabama and Tennessee in search of good farmland. The early settlers quickly established religious and educational institutions, and by 1900 the village boasted several stores, mills and cotton gins as well. Construction of the Texas State Railroad from Rusk to Palestine and the founding of the town of Maydelle (1.5 mi. s.) in 1910 pulled business away from Gent. Gradually the village was abandoned, and today not a single structure remains. (1983)
Griffin Located about 4 miles north of Summerfield on SH 110. Founded by settlers who came from Griffin, Georgia. In the early 1850s became a flourishing town. Birthplace of John Benjamin Kendrick (1857-1933), Texas cowboy who settled in Wyoming in 1879 after going up the trail for years with herds of cattle. He served in Wyoming State Senate, 1910-1914, Governor, 1914-1916, then as U.S. Senator, 1916-1933. Town of Griffin gradually lost people and businesses to railroad towns after 1872. Last store here was closed 1930.
Henry's Chapel Community is located on FM 13, 6 miles southeast of Troup. In 1848, Presbyterian minister William Porter Henry (1820-1875) moved from Alabama to northeastern Cherokee County, where he preached throughout his life. In 1854, Tennessean investors bought land near his home and platted the town of Knoxville, which thrived until 1872 when the International and Great Northern Railway bypassed it for Troup. Many Knoxville residents relocated to Troup, but some farmers in Knoxville's outlying areas chose to stay in the vicinity. Though business and commercial needs began making travel to Troup necessary, remaining residents were able to maintain a community life with the assistance of the Rev. Henry, who in 1874 donated five acres of land for the establishment of a school, church and cemetery to serve their needs. The loosely-knit community became known as Henry's Chapel in honor of its benefactor. A school, known as the Sharp Top School because of its unusually steeply pitched roof, functioned until the 1930s, and a Presbyterian church was also active here for many years. Statewide trends such as school consolidations and the development of a state highway system impeded the community's growth. The historic cemetery serves as the only physical reminder of the original community. (1991)
Ironton. Civil War Iron Works. Chapel Hill Manufacturing Co. established 1863 to convert native iron into farm and hand tools. Used 100 Louisiana slaves sent here to protect them against possible capture by Union Army. Other industries also at site. Boiler explosion with large loss of lives among workers closed iron works. Raids on commissary by residents of area incensed because operator, Dr. Charles Glidden Young, did not serve in civil War, were death knell for operation. Raiders never arrested or punished. Young later became prominent in development of Texas railroads. 7 miles west of Jacksonville on US 79. Texas Historical Commission marker.2
Jacksonville. Jackson Smith founded town atop hill short distance northeast of original Gum Creek settlement. There he had blacksmith shop and first Jacksonville post office. He found site when he came through the area in 1836 and later as Indian Scout for Republic of Texas. Town had 150 population, 20-plus business. When International & Great Northern Railroad by-passed town in 1872, Jacksonville moved overnight to present site on railroad. Prominent features include: Tomato Bowl Stadium, W. A. Brown home, Lon Morris College, Jacksonville College, Newburn-Rawlinson home, John Wesley Love home, William Walter Newton home, Jacksonville City Cemetery, Judge Henry T. Brown grave, numerous churches, lodges, and a bottling plant. Several Texas Historical markers in city.2 Jacksonville, Texas
Knoxville In 1854 Thomas Norman (1812-1859), a native of Tennessee, sold 2/3 interest in a 30-acre tract to William A. Pope and Archibald Carmichael. They sold town lots for Knoxville and in 1856, they gave 3/4 acre for a community church. Soon mercantile stores, a mill, distillery, blacksmith shop and a new school opened. Knoxville never had a saloon although all the stores sold whiskey. In 1872 the International Railroad Company opened the Palestine-Troup line. Businesses moved to Troup and Knoxville declined. The Knoxville cemetery is all that remains.(1979) Texas Historical Commission marker.2
Linwood. Site inherited by Delilah Dill Durst from Helena Kimble Dill. Built about 1830 by John Durst, Delilah's husband, alcalde (mayor) of Nacogdoches (then in Mexico) 1826. Battle of Nacogdoches ended here 1832 with surrender of Col. Piedras' larger army to only 17 Texians. Later was home of George Whitfield Terrell (1802-1846), Republic of Texas prominent official. Also birthplace of George B. Terrell, State Representative, Commissioner of Agriculture, and Congressman-at-large. Linwood town also once port on Angelina River. 7 miles east of Alto on SH 21. Texas Historical Commission marker.2
Lone Star The ante bellum community of Lone Star, a center of trade, education and culture in the 1880s, experienced its greatest growth after the Civil War. Known first as "Skin Tight," it was named Lone Star when a post office opened in 1883. The town once had several businesses, a public school, four churches, two lodges and the Lone Star Institute. The town began to decline after a disastrous fire in 1893. Decline continued when the T & N O Railroad bypassed Lone Star. Hope for the community's revival died when two oil field discoveries did not prove to be profitable. (1985) Texas Historical Commission marker.2
Maydelle Maydelle In 1906, the Texas State Railroad built to this area for timber to fuel iron manufacturing at the penitentiary in Rusk. The branch prison established at the railhead was called Camp Wright. When Rusk native Thomas Campbell became governor, he persuaded the legislature to extend the line to Palestine, where it met the I&GN railway. The line brought new settlement to the Camp Wright area, and in 1910, residents platted the new town of Maydelle, named for the governor's daughter, who sang at the townsite's dedication. The town was an early center for cotton, timber and tomato production, but its population, like in other rural Texas towns, declined by the latter part of the 20th century. (2003) Texas Historical Commission marker.2
Mt. Selman. Once thriving town was death blow to Larissa with advent of railroad 1880s at one of the highest altitudes in East Texas, 692 feet above sea level. Once had bank, post offices, several physicians, railroad station, several businesses, cotton gins, livestock loading pens on railroad, good schools and churches. Originally called Mt. Vernon, name was changed to honor early physician in town. Development of automobiles and better highways started demise of town. 8 miles north of Jacksonville on US 69. No marker.2
New Birmingham Born during iron rush of 1880s. Population about 3000. Had 2 iron furnaces, "The Tassie Bell" and "The Star and Cresent," 15 brick business blocks included banks, ice plant, electric plant, pipe foundry, school and palacial southern hotel where Jay Gould and Grover Cleveland were guests. Street railway connected with Rusk. Became ghost town in 1890s due to financial troubles of iron companies. Texas Historical Commission marker.2
New Summerfield. The New Summerfield community began in the 1840's when free land became available for homesteading in the area. Homesteaders were joined by relatives and friends. By the mid-1850's pioneers went there to avoid the forth-coming Civil War. Most of the early pioneers were farmers who settled in small neighborhoods. New Summerfield developed by merging these small neighborhoods... In 1895 Caley Amos Summers, joined by Thomas L. and Eliza Dodson, donated land for a school to be located near the Rusk-Troup Road on the Summers' farm. In 1897 Isaac W. "Ike" Tipton opened the first store near the school on land purchased from Mr. Summers. The post office was discontinued in 1905 and mail was routed through Ponta. In 1938 the post office was re-established. By that time another Summerfield, Texas post office existed, so the name "New Summerfield" was selected.1 Texas Historical Commission marker.2
Ponta In 1901, a new townsite was laid out on the Texas & New Orleans Railroad. Promoted by brothers Lee D. and William T. Guinn, it was named Hubb for county surveyor Hubbard S. Guinn. It was renamed Ponta (an adaptation of the Latin "Ponte," which means bridge) when the post office was established in 1903. Ponta was a shipping center for such local products as lumber, cotton, tomatoes and peaches. In time, the town boasted such businesses as general stores, restaurants, banks, blacksmiths, cotton gins and sawmills, as well as a hotel, a Masonic lodge, churches and schools. Large scale greenhouse cultivation began in the area in the 1950s. The railroad ceased operation after World War II and the post office closed in 1972. Ponta Plant Nurseries remain a major factor in the Cherokee County economy.(1999) Texas Historical Commission marker.2
Rusk. Founded 1846 by Texas Legislature when it created county and named town for Gen. Thomas J. Rusk, leading pioneer and official Republic of Texas, State of Texas, and U.S. Senate. William Roark surveyed town site. Town was Confederacy industrial, supply, training, prisoner of war site in civil War; site of Rusk Unit of Texas Prison system in mid-1900s, now site of state mental hospital. Birthplace of James Stephen Hogg, first native Texas elected Governor of Texas, and Thomas Mitchell Campbell, also a Governor of Texas. Numerous historical sites in and ear city, including: Hatchett's Ferry & Inn, Rusk Footbridge, Dr. I. K. Frazer home, James I. Perkins home, Gregg Family home, Old Rusk Penitentiary Bldg., numerous churches, Confederate Gun Factory, Confederate Training Ground, Cook's Fort, Confederate Prisoner of War Compound, Cherokee Furnace Co., Texas State Railroad Park Several Texas Historical Commission markers in and near city.2 Rusk, Texas, Rusk State Penitentiary
Wells. Site of James H. and John J. Bowman graves. Brothers served in Texas Revolution 1836, buried in Mt. Hope Cemetery in north Wells. James H. Bowman, born 1820 Mississippi, died Texas Feb. 1886, was in Capt. Bailey Hardiman's Co. from Matagorda county. John J. bowman, born July 25, 1807, died March 30, 1890, was in Maj. George Collingsworth's Regt. at Goliad and La Bahia, in Capt. Phillips' Co. in Dimmit County, appointed 1st Lt. Inf. Regt. in Col. James W. Fannin's Regt. Because of illegible handwriting, military service of John J. Bowman not learned until 1984 although relation of the two men was well-known and their graves only few yards apart. Mt. Hope Cemetery of US 69 in Wells. Texas Centennial Commission marker on James H. Bowman's grave. Texas Historical Commission marker on John J. Bowman's grave.2
Wildhurst One of the many sawmill towns in East Texas in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Wildhurst was established by the Chronister Lumber Company in 1895. Operations included sawmills, mill ponds, drying kilns, a planing mill, commissary, locomotive and logging tram. Production peaked at 75,000 board feet of yellow pine cut daily in 1918, and the population of the company town reached 400 by the 1920s. Records indicate that three-fourths of the workforce was African American, and the town plat included segregated housing, schools and churches. Labor shortages during World War II and the lack of reserve trees in the region led to the demise of sawmill operations at Wildhurst by December 1944. (2000) Texas Historical Commission marker.2
Cherokee County History1. Copyright 1986 by the Cherokee County Historical Commission (A unit of the Texas Historical Commission) Post Office Box 1128, Jacksonville, Texas 75766.
Much of the information on Cherokee County Towns and Populated Places comes from a brochure2 published by the Cherokee County Historical Commission, Cherokee County Tourism Commission, Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, and Rusk Chamber of Commerce. Special appreciation is expressed to Jack Moore, Jacksonville historian, author, and Vice Chairman of the Cherokee County Historical Commission, for the use of his copyrighted history trails data. Used by permission.
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