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After Texas independence the territory was originally a part of
Nacogdoches County. Rusk County was formed on January 16, 1843, and
was named for Thomas Jefferson Rusk, who had been secretary of war
under President Sam Houston. The county seat was established as near
the center of the county as possible by the five commissioners
appointed to acquire land for the purpose. Gen. James Smith donated
the original townsite of 65.5 acres, and he later sold 69.5 acres
more to the town. Later, William B. Ochiltree donated five acres
north of the town square and in the deed named the town for his
friend James Pinckney Henderson.
Settlers continued to pour
into the area during the late 1840s, and by 1850 Rusk County had a
population of 8,148, the second largest county population in the
state, surpassed only by Harrison County. The majority of the
residents were farmers, with merchants, lawyers, and carpenters the
most common other occupations. More than one-fourth of the
inhabitants (2,136) were slaves, a reflection of the flourishing
plantation economy that had already begun to develop. The 1850
census listed seventeen plantations of 10,000 acres or more; James
Smith, owner of 53,000 acres, was the largest landowner. A number of
noted plantations were located around Henderson, including those of
John Graham, Richard B. Tutt, Milton M. Boggess, and William Wright
Morris. Numerous new communities sprang up during the late 1840s and
early 1850s, and by 1857 twenty-two localities had post offices, the
largest of them being Henderson, Camden, Harmony Hill, Millville,
Mount Enterprise, New Salem, and Pine Hill. The "Wire Road," so
called because in the early 1850s it was flanked by one of the
earliest Texas telegraph lines strung on brackets nailed to trees,
was a busy thoroughfare with regular stagecoach lines carrying
passengers and freight from Marshall and Jefferson to Crockett and
points south and west.
The end of the Civil War brought
disaster to the county's economy. For many of Rusk County's white
residents, the abolition of slavery meant devastating economic loss.
Before the Civil War slaves had constituted nearly half of all
taxable property in the county, and their loss, coupled with a sharp
decline in property values, caused a profound disruption for most
planters. Residents of the northern part of the county petitioned to
be separated to form their own county and in 1874, the legislature
approved the request to form Gregg County. The 1870s brought a
slow recovery to the area, with the first railroad brought in,
opening access to new markets.
The discovery of the East Texas
Oilfield in 1930 brought prosperity to the area and swelled the
population of the county.
Oil remains the leading industry of
[Extracted from: Virginia Knapp and
Megan Biesele, "RUSK COUNTY," Handbook of Texas Online; Published by
the Texas State Historical Association.]
and Populated Areas
Easton (mostly in Gregg County)
* Henderson (County Seat) * Kilgore (mostly in
Gregg County) * Mount Enterprise * New London
(partly in Smith County) * Reklaw (mostly in Cherokee
County) * Tatum (partly in Panola County)
* Concord * Elderville * Joinerville * Laird Hill
* Laneville * Leverett's Chapel *
Price * Selman City * Turnertown
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Rusk County Online Data
Church Histories / Records
- Website Updates:
- Sept 2014: Mil: WW2 Honor
Roll; 1914 County Description
- June 2014: Bio: JOWELL -
Transcribed by Sandra Stutzman; Bio: OBERTHIER -
Transcribed by Vicki Bryan
Jan 2014: 1883 PENSIONERS LIST, COUNTY
HISTORY - THOMAS J. RUSK; obits for BOGGESS JR.,
ELKINS, KILGORE, LEATH, MARCH, MORRIS, SHEDD, STONE,
WOOLEY; bios for BOWDEN, CHILDRESS, ELLIOTT, FREDDELL,
GARVIN, GIBSON, HOLLINGSWORTH, KILGORE, LASSETER,
LINDSAY, MAYFIELD, MCKAY, MILLER, MORRIS, PARKER,
WORNEL, WYNNE; news of THE RIOT IN RUSK COUNTY, CROP
CONDITIONS, TREASURY/OUT OF DEBT, GIN-HOUSE FIRES,
RUSK COUNTY'S POLITICAL POT, DIED FROM FEVER, EASTERN
TEXAS INCENDIARISM, THE HENDERSON FIRE, DWELLING
BURNED AT HENDERSON, TWO VICTIMS DIE, ASSASSIN DOES
HIS WORK, A GREAT CROWD, INJURED IN RAILWAY ACCIDENT,
ATTENDING SISTER'S FUNERAL, DISASTROUS CONFLAGRATION
AT MALAKOFF, SOCIAL NEWS FROM THE JEWISH
Dec 2013: obits for DODSON, CLINTON,
Nov 2013: bios for BIRDWELL,
MCFARLAND, WHITE, BUCHANAN, WOOD, WOLFE, HARRIS,
WELLS; Marriage records for 1966-1969
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