Smith County, Texas
Cities, Towns and Communities
Arp | Belzora | Berrien | Bullard | Clopton | Flora | Flint | Garden Valley | Gum Springs | Hickory Grove | Hideaway | Jamestown | Lindale | Mount Carmel | Mount Sylvan | New Chapel Hill | New Harmony | Noonday | Ogsburn | Omen | Sand Flat | Seven Leagues | Starrville | Summer Grove | Troup | Tyler - county seat | Whitehouse | Winona
Smith County 1858. This county lies above the 32d degree of north latitude, and in the north-eastern part of the State ; it is a well-watered county, and has plenty of timber ; the soil is fertile and productive, and climate healthy. Tyler, the county-seat, is directly on the line of the Pacific Railroad ; it is already a place of considerable importance, and contains many buildings of taste and beauty. The public square is very large, and in the centre is a natural mound, on which the courthouse is built. Education has received the especial attention of the people of Tyler, as is evidenced by the commodious buildings devoted to learning. - Braman's information about Texas, 1858
Smith County. This was one of the numerous counties created by the first state legislature, its 920 square miles of territory being taken from Nacogdoches. It is one of the few East Texas counties formed at that time whose boundaries have not since been changed. It was named for General James Smith of the adjoining County of Rusk, and its county seat for President John Tyler who had recently advanced the annexation of Texas to the United States. Tyler does not appear in a list of postoffices compiled in the spring of 1847, nor at the end of that year did the assessor respond to the requirement that he report the population and number of voters, though organization of the county was perfected in July, 1846. The commission charged with surveying the county lines and locating the county seat were John Dewberry, W. B. Duncan, J. C. Hill, John Lollar and E. E. Lott. The Sabine River forms the northern boundary and the Neches a large part of the western, which simplified the problem of surveying. The townsite was laid off in twenty-eight lots. Until 1839, when the Indians were driven out, white settlers in this section were few and far between, but the country filled up rapidly afterwards. Soon after locating the town of Tyler, John Lollar laid out a road westward to the Neches River, corduroyed the bottoms and bridged the channel. Three years later Sam Huffer, who lived near Big Rock along the Henderson‑ Van Zandt County line, was employed to survey a road from Lollar's bridge on the Neches to Porter's Bluff on the Trinity. Lollar's bridge was about where State Highway 64 now crosses the Neches, and after Canton was established (about 1850) another road was laid out from the bridge via Canton to Kaufman. In 1847 Major J. M. Rush arrived in Tyler from Tennessee by way of Mississippi and secured a mail contract for the ninety-two mile route from Tyler to Buffalo (Henderson County) three times a week for $565 per year, Benjamin F. Wheeler being the carrier. The road to Shreveport via Marshall was also an early mail route, and this became one of the principal routes from the east into the interior of Texas. When the county was officially four years old it had a population 4,292, of which 717 were negroes.
The following decade brought a great influx of wealthy people with numbers of slaves, fixing the character of the county as a typically aristocratic slave-holding and highly cultured com‑ munity. In 1856 Braman wrote: " Tyler . . . is directly on the line of the Pacific Railroad; it is already a place of consider‑ able importance, and contains many buildings of taste and beauty. The public square is very large, and in the center is a natural mound, on which the courthouse is built. Education has received the especial attention of the people of Tyler, as evidenced by the commodious buildings devoted to learning." Doubtless thus was planted the seed which gave Tyler a predominant place in state affairs years afterward.
The Sabine River furnished an erratic outlet for cotton and other produce of the country, and flatboats would carry a bale of cotton to Sabine Pass for $2. Belzora, about twenty miles from Tyler, was sometimes reached by small steamboats, and appears on the map of 1855. Most of the commerce, however, moved by ox wagon to and from Jefferson and Shreveport. Tyler was fated to be disappointed in securing the ante-bellum "Southern Pacific" Railroad, of which only a few miles were built prior to the war. When it was revived afterward, new charters and new plans were mapped and the railroad (now the Texas & Pacific) passed to the north of Smith County. Continue Reading History of Smith County Written in 1940 >>