Smith County, Texas

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Formed From

Smith County was created and organized in 1846 from Nacogdoches County, It was named for Texas Revolutionary General James Smith. Tyler is the county seat. [1]

Adjacent Counties

Van Zandt County
"Sabine River"
Wood County
" Sabine River"
Upshur County
North arrow
"Neches River"
Van Zandt County
West arrow Smith County, Texas East arrow East
Gregg County
South arrow
"Neches River"
"Lake Palestine"
Henderson County
Cherokee County
Rusk County


Smith county seal
1700sThe first known inhabitants of the area now known as Smith County were the Caddo Indians. Their tribes, particularly the Anadarko, occupied the area for centuries before Europeans arrived.
1765 - Spanish missionary named José Francisco Calahorra y Saenz traveled here, mentioning Neches Saline, saline plains in his notes in the SW corner of the county. [2]
1788 Frenchmen, Pedro Vial and Francisco Xavier Fragoso traveled through en route from Santa Fe, New Mexico to Natchitoches, Louisiana.[2]
late 18th century, disease as well as other Indian threats forcd the Caddos to move.[2]
1820 Cherokees (leader Chief Bowl), settled on the Niches Saline after being driven away from North Texas by other hostile Indians. led by Chief Bowl, had settled at the Neches Saline after being driven from North Texas by hostile tribes. [2]
1823 George W. Bays, was first Anglo settler, arrived on the Neches Saline. In 1836 there were forty people, three trading posts, and a salt works on the Neches Saline, but after the fall of the Alamo the settlers retreated for a while to Lacy's Fort, located nearby in what is now Cherokee County.[2]
1826, 28, 31 -Mexican government issued land grants for Smith County land to grants to David G. Burnet in 1826, Peter Ellis Bean in 1828, and Vicente Filisola in 1831. [2]
1823 - George W Bays was the first Anglo settler on the Neches Saline, but left after the Fredonian Rebellion.
1836- 40 people, 3 trading posts, and a salt works were on the Neches Saline. [2]
March 13-1836 After fall of the Alamo, settlers retreated to Lacy's Fort, in Cherokee County. Settlement was retarded due to the Cherokees. [2]
1839 war with Cherokee ended with the removal of the tribe. [2]
1840-46 -small farmers from Alabama and Tennessee arrived to homestead. [2]
July 1846 Smith County was marked off from the Nacogdoches District and named for Gen. James Smith, hero of the Texas Revolution and the Republic of Texas. Tyler was designated as the county seat and has remained so. The county commissioners' court was elected and met for the first time before the end of the year. [2]
1850 the county had population of 4,292, with 717 black slaves. There were 7 local churches, and 1 Missionary Baptist, and 1 Methodist church in Tyler. It had several stores, with 276 residents with 7 schools, being taught by one teacher, containing about 19 students each. The school in Tyler had 4 students. [2]

Trade was shipped to New Orleans via Shreveport, then hauled by ox-drawn wagons to Tyler on the Dallas-Shreveport Road.[2] Residents grew peaches, apples, grapes, blackberries, and vegetables for home use.[2]

1850s Alfred W. Ferguson built 5 brick buildings. Doctors, more settlers in new towns such as Starrville, Jamestown, Canton (also known as Omen), Garden Valley, Flora, Mount Carmel, Mount Vernon.[2]
1851 - Smith co. newspaper, Tyler Telegraph was published weekly by David Clopton. Travel was dependent on good weather. Ferries operated along the Sabine and Neches rivers. travel remained treacherous and dependent on good weather. [2]
1852-53 Tyler University, an academy sponsored by the Cherokee Baptist Association began.[2]
1857 the men's department was destroyed by fire but soon reopened under the name Masonic Male Academy. The women's department became Eastern Texas Female College, also called Tyler Female Seminary. [2]
1860 the county population was13,392,with 4,980 slaves and two free blacks. (1,021 lived in Tyler. County farmers ginned 9,763 bales of cotton and delivered it to the Shreveport and Jefferson markets in wagons built in the county and drawn by locally grown oxen. [2]
1860-70 wild Hogs tripled (to 34,003), and in ten years the number of cattle increased 14,716. With a larger population, a slave labor force, and growth in livestock production came general expansion in the growth of subsistence crops. Farmers grew 605,326 bushels of corn, 66,981 of sweet potatoes, and 19,189 of peas and beans for families and livestock. The county had 6 sawmills, 5 gristmills, 3 corn-whiskey distilleries, 17 blacksmith shops, 9 wagonmakers, 3 saddle shops, 5 cabinetmakers, and 31 general stores. The lawyers included future governors O. M. Roberts and Richard B. Hubbard..[2]
April, 1861 - some disillusioned Democrats, loyal to unionist Sam Houston and upset that the states'-rights faction controlled the party, called a Constitutional Union party convention in Tyler, but only six people attended.[2]
1861- residents were fearful of slave insurrections. Newspapers urged secession.Fire destroyed downtown Henderson. The great majority of Smith County voters supported John Breckinridge, the Southern Democratic party candidate, and upon Lincoln's election they organized one infantry and two cavalry units. [2]
January 1861 the county sent Oliver Loftin, Tignal Jones, George W. Chilton, John C. Robertson, and O. M. Roberts to the state Secession Convention in Austin, where Roberts served as president and helped lead Texas into the Confederacy. [2]
June, 1861 - Smith County Cavalry traveled to Dallas to answer the Confederate call to arms. During the Civil War, Smith County was important in the Confederacy. In the summer of 1862 Gen. Henry E. McCulloch camped at Camp Clough, three miles east of Tyler, while preparing his troops for a march to Little Rock. Camp Ford, named for Capt. John S. (Rip) Ford.[2]
Confederate Memorial
Camp Ford was the largest Confederate Prisoner of War Camp west of the Mississippi River during the American Civil War and was where Sheriff Jim Reed of Collin County and Judge McReynolds, former chief justice of the district, were seized and lynched by "Regulators." The original site of the Camp stockade is now a public historic park, owned by Smith County, Texas, and managed by the Smith County Historical Society. The park contains a kiosk, paved trail, a cabin reconstruction, and a picnic area. It is located on Highway 271, 0.8 miles north of Loop 323.[2]
1862-65 - army physicians established a post hospital at Planter's Hotel. Medicines were made for the Confederate Army at the Confederate States Chemical Laboratory, E of Tyler at Headache Springs. The blockade ended the importing of foreign medical supplies, surgeon W. R. Johnston and his staff made medicine and liniments from native plants, as well as distilling medicinal whiskey. [2]
1862-65"Kirbyville," established near Tyler by Capt. John C. Kirby, operated as a transport depot, housing workers who made wagons, harnesses, caissons, and saddles. A local shoe shop was one of only five in the Trans-Mississippi Department of the Confederacy. Vegetables and meat, primarily pork, produced by county farmers were used to feed military personnel. [2]
Slavery Slavery movement
1866-70 Reconstruction was a difficult time. The war cost the lives of many of the county's young men and had brought drastic material loss. County residents were faced with loss of value in businesses and farms. Land values had decreased from a total of $1,764,661.[2]
1870-Tyler had become a stop on the routes of five stagecoach lines for passengers and mail and became a legal center, with 31 common schools, 45 churches, and 5 Masonic lodges were here.[2]
1871- several Anglo citizens were on trial for violence against blacks. This resulted in a gunfight in the streets of Tyler between white citizens and black state policemen that left two whites dead and several African American policemen wounded. Three years later Jack Johnson, an African American man accused of murder, was lynched by whites. Violent years.[2]
1880- Smith County contained 104 miles of track. Small industries were Taft's Iron (a rolling mill), Daniel Jones's wagon factory, and the Mechanicsville furniture factory.
1890-1924- Industries-a box manufacturer, a bottling works, and a cigar factory, 2 national banks, 4 sawmills, an ice factory, and 6 canning companies. Texas College, a black Methodist college primarily for educating schoolteachers, opened in Tyler in 1894. A second black school, Texas opened in Tyler in 1905 and changed its name to Butler College in 1924.Baptist Academy,
1920- 38,000 bushels of peaches and nectarines, and yielded 1,832,612 quarts of strawberries on667 acres. They harvested large numbers of peanuts. The cotton output remained stable, with 24,154 bales of cotton harvested. Swift and Company and the Armour Company had come to Tyler, and the number of hogs had risen by 3,000 during the decade. [2]
Tyler oil field
1920-30 boll weevil often destroyed a field before it could be harvested. The number of livestock had also fallen drastically. The rose industry continued to thrive. [2]
1932 the Southern Pacific purchased controlling interest in the Cotton Belt and intended to move the central offices out of Tyler. More than 1,000 employees faced losing for their jobs. Tyler won the case after a court trial. Tyler, however, won the case, and the offices remained there.Highway 80, which bypassed Smith County and diverted the Shreveport-Dallas traffic.[2]
1931 Guy V. Lewis drilled on the first oil well in Smith County. His well was part of the original East Texas oilfield; soon other fields, including Chapel Hill, South Tyler, Mount Sylvan, and Sand Flat, were being developed. Many oil companies and field developers established offices in Tyler. Suddenly, land was a valuable commodity. The value of county farms increased to $82,351,187.
1959- The Smith County Historical Society, a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, was founded by individuals and business firms dedicated to discovering, collecting and preserving data, records and other items relating to the history of Smith County, Texas.

Land Grants

The Mexican government issued grants for parcels of land on the Neches Salone (now in Smith County). These included grants to [[Burnet-247|David G Burnet] in 1826, Peter Ellis Bean in 1828, and Vicente Filisola in 1831.


  • Smith County has had five courthouses: 1846, 1848, 1851, 1910 and 1955
1846 Courthouse, - no image
1848 Courthouse - no image Within 5 years, (3) three log cabins were courthouses for Smith County.
1851 Courthouse -
Then in Dec. 1851 a cornerstone was laid for a new courthouse to be the first brick building in Tyler. The building was 2-story, dimensions 40 X 70 feet. It was placed in center of square. [3]
1851 courthouse.
1876 -They added a third story in 1876 plus a clock tower that never had a timepiece installed." - From "Tyler" by Robert E. Reed Jr. [4]
1910 Courthouse - a Beautiful courthouse was built, which lasted many years..
1910 courthouse oil painting
1910 postcard
1955.- Courthouse, the magnificent 1910 courthouse was dismantled and a new courthouse was built in its place. The Smith County courthouse retains its dignity even while being dismantled in front of its replacement in 1955. [5]
1955- current


The county has a total area of 950 square miles, of which 921 square miles is land and 28 square miles is water. It is comprised of rolling hills, many of which have timber The Sabine River forms the northern border while the Neches River and Lake Palestine form part of t he southwestern/western border In addition to the major highways (listed below), the county infrastructure includes some 1,180 miles of two lane county roads.


  • Oaks Airport, Arp = Private
  • Pineridge Airport, Tyler - Private
  • Kay Ranch Airport, Winona - Private
  • Nuttall Airport, Whitehouse - Private
  • Tyler Pounds Regional Airport, Tyler - Public
  • Trap Travelstead Field Airport, Winona - Private


  • East Texas Medical Center, Tyler
  • Mother Frances Hospital, Tyler
  • Texas Spine & Joint Hospital, Tyler
  • Trinity Mother Frances, Tyler


  • Lake Palestine
  • Lake Tyler
  • Lake Tyler East

Major Highways

  • Interstate Highway 20
  • US Highway 69
  • US Highway 80
  • US Highway 271
  • State Highway 31
  • State Highway 57
  • State Highway 64
  • State Highway 110
  • State Highway 135
  • State Highway 155
  • Loop 49 Toll
  • Loop 323


  • UP - Union Pacific Railroad Company

County Resources


  • Beef Cattle
  • Christmas Tees
  • Forages
  • Fruits and Vegetables
  • Horticultural Crops and Nurseries
  • Horses
  • Timber Sales


  • Natural Gas
  • Oil

Protected Areas

  • Old Sabine Bottom Wildlife Management Area
  • Tyler State Park


As of the census[9] of 2010, there were 209,714 people and 76,427 households residing in the county. The population density was 227.6 people per square mile (73/km²). There were 87,309 housing units. The racial makeup of the county was 70.1% White, 17.9% Black or African American, 0.5% American Indian and Alaska Native, 1.2% Asian, and 2.0% persons reporting two or more races. 17.2% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.

There were 76,427 households, out of which 34.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.8% were married couples living together, 13.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.7% were non-families. 25.3% of all households were made up of a householder living alone. The average household size was 2.60, the average family size was 3.13.

The median income for a household in the county was $46,139. The per capita income for the county was $25,374. About 15.4% of families and 13.80% of the population were below the poverty line.

In the county, the population was spread out with 26.60% under the age of 18, 9.80% from 18 to 24, 27.40% from 25 to 44, 22.10% from 45 to 64, and 14.10% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 92.10 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 87.90 males.


Tyler, Tx oilfield.


Unincorporated Towns and Communities

Ghost Towns


  • Tyler Rose Gardens
  • Tyler Rose Garden
  • Yesteryear Festival in June, Whitehouse
  • Country Fest in October, Lindale
  • Crawfish Boil in May, Troup
  • Sweet Onion Festival in May, Noonday
  • Strawberry Festival in May, Arp

National Register of Historic Places

There are 32 locations in Smith County on the National Register of Historic Places.

  • Azalea Residential Historic District, Tyler
  • Blackstone Building, Tyler
  • Brick Streets Neighborhood Historic District, Tyler
  • Carnegie Public Library, Public
  • Charnwood Residential Historic District, Tyler
  • Colonel John Dewberry House, Teaselville
  • Donnybrook Duplex Residential Historic District, Tyler
  • John B and Ketura (Kettie) Douglas House, Tyler
  • East Ferguson Residential Historic District, Tyler
  • D R Glass Library at Texas College, Tyler
  • Goodman-LeGrand House, Tyler
  • Jenkins-Harvey Super Service Station and Garage, Tyler
  • Martin Hall at Texas College, Tyler
  • Marvin Methodist Episcopal Church, South, Tyler
  • Moore Grocery Company Building, Tyler
  • People's National Bank Building, Tyler
  • President's House at Texas College, Tyler
  • Short-Line Residential Historic District, Tyler
  • Smith County Jail, 1881, Tyler
  • St James Colored Methodist Episcopal Church, Tyler
  • St John's AF & AM Lodge, Tyler
  • St Louis Southwestern Railway (Cotton Belt) Passenger Depot, Tyler
  • Tyler City Hall, Tyler
  • Tyler Grocery Company, Tyler
  • Tyler Hydraulic-Fill Dam, West of Tyler off State Highway 31, Tyler
  • Tyler US Post Office and Courthouse, Tyler
  • Whitaker-McClendon House, Tyler
  • Williams-Anderson House, Tyler

Places of Interest

  • Caldwell Zoo
  • Carnegie History Center
  • Cotton Belt Depot Train Museum
  • Goodman-LeGrand House
  • List of museums in East Texas
  • National Register of Historic Places listings in Smith County, Texas
  • Texas Rose Festival
  • Tyler Museum of Art
  • Whitaker-McClendon House


Rockin Schoolhouse.

The following school districts serve school-age children in Smith County:

Arp Independent School District
Bullard Independent School District (also partially in Cherokee County)
Chapel Hill Independent School District
Gladewater Independent School District (also partially in Gregg County and Upshur County)
Lindale Independent School District (also partially in Van Zandt County)
Troup Independent School District (also partially in Cherokee County)
Tyler Independent School District
Van Independent School District (also partially in Van Zandt County)
Whitehouse Independent School District
Winona Independent School District

Those wishing to attend institutions of higher learning in the area can attend:

  • Tyler Junior College
  • Texas College
  • University of Texas at Tyler
WikiTree Families of Smith County, Texas




Year Census Change
1850 4,292
1860 13,392 212.0%
1870 16,532 23.4%
1880 21,863 32.2%
1890 28,324 29.6%
1900 37,370 31.9%
1910 41,746 11.7%
1920 46,769 12.0%
1930 53,123 13.6%
1940 69,090 30.1%
1950 74,701 8.1%
1960 86,350 15.6%
1970 97,096 12.4%
1980 128,366 32.2%
1990 151,309 17.9%
2000 174,706 15.5%
2010 209,714 20.0%
Est. 2014 218,842


  • Travis Clardy, a Republican from Nacogdoches, is the Texas State Representative for House District 11, which includes Rusk County.
  • Trent Ashby, a Republican from Lufkin who was born in Rusk County in 1972, represents District 57, which includes Angelina and several other mostly rural East Texas counties.

County Resources

  • National Register of Historic Places listings in Texas



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  3. "Tyler" by Robert E. Reed Jr., courtesy Texas Escapes
  4. "Tyler" by Robert E. Reed Jr., courtesy Texas Escapes
  5. Courtesy Smith County Historical Society

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