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Area History


Old HendersonRusk County, one of the older and more historic counties of the State, is located in deep East Texas near the Louisiana line. Drained by the headwaters of both the Sabine and Angelina rivers, it is a picturesque land of heavily wooded red clay hills and rich valleys now often turned into meadows.

Older than the State of Texas itself, Henderson and Rusk County have an early historical background unexcelled in interest by any section of the country. It is a story of Indian raids perpetrated in one of the largest settlements in the State; of pioneering when Texas was a Republic; and of small town happenings and gradual growth with cotton the king throughout a period of almost a hundred years before a new era dawned with the discovery of oil six miles west of Henderson in September, 1930 - the great East Texas Oil Field.

Until several years after Texas was a Republic, land in this county was owned by the Cherokee tribe of Indians. It had originally been given to them by the Mexican Government before Texas gained her independence, and included territory between the Trinity and Sabine Rivers. The Indians owned the land as individuals, since their request to have it as a nation was never granted by Mexico. Relations between the Indians and the Whites were friendly until the well-known massacre in 1838 of a prominent white family, at which time white settlers rose up and drove the Indians out of this section, killing their leader, Chief Bowles, and many of the tribe. The land, abandoned by the Indians, was then disposed of by the State. On January 16, 1843, an act was passed creating Rusk County which was named for General Thomas J. Rusk. In the same year, the County Seat was established one mile south of the center of the county and given the name Henderson. The land for the town of Henderson was donated by William B. Ochiltree with the understanding that it be named "HENDERSON" in honor of his friend and first Governor of the State - J. Pickney Henderson; with the further understanding that if the name should ever be changed the land would revert to the heirs of Ochiltree.

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