a Pecan Shell
The site Geneva
is on the Old San Antonio Road and considered to be the oldest continuously
occupied town in East Texas,
although there were times when it looked as if it might be abandoned.
In the mid-1700s Antonio
Gil y' Barbo established a ranch he called El Lobanillo.
In 1773 when the Spanish enforced an evacuation, the old and infirm
remained at Ibarvo's ranch. One Juan Ignacio Pifermo applied for the
land in 1794. It was confirmed in 1810, and was passed to his heirs
who lived in the area into the 1840s. A historical marker commemorates
the El Lobanillo Ranch. In the 1850s, a community called Shawnee
Village developed. It was latter called Jimtown, after
early settlers Jim Halbert and Jim Willis. A post office was granted
in 1884 under the name Geneva and by 1890 the population was
150. By 1925 the population had fallen to 100, a figure the town is
evidently comfortable with since it's been reported at that level
by Bob Bowman ("All
There are four faces of old Lobanillo, which straddles East
Texas’ oldest highway less than 20 miles from the Texas-Louisiana
But overriding the name is the fact that the site is considered to
be one the oldest places continuously occupied in East
First, of course, was La Lobanillo, the pueblo of Gil
y' Barbo, where his mother and other refugees remained when Spain
evacuated colonists from western Louisiana and East
Texas in 1773.
When Lobanillo exchanged hands, it was known as Shawnee Village and
later as Jimtown, a name shaped after the first names of Jim Halbert
and Jim Willis.
And, finally, along came Geneva, today’s name for the town at the
intersection of El
Camino Real (Texas Highway 21) and Farm Road 330 in northwestern
To tell the town’s story, you have to reach back to when Gil
y' Barbo was born at Los Adaes, Louisiana, then the provincial
capital of Spanish Texas, in 1729. His parents were colonists sent
to Texas the same year from Andalusia,
At Los Adaes, Gil
y' Barbo married Maria Padilla and they settled on Lobanillo Creek
in what is now Sabine County. They called their place Rancho Lobanillo.
When Spain recommended the abandonment of its missions and forts in
East Texas, Ybarbo became
the leader of the displaced persons of the area, who were given the
choice of settling at San
Antonio or the Rio Grande River.
y' Barbo petitioned Spanish authorities to let the settlers return
to their homes in East Texas
in 1774, they were allowed to travel as far east as the Trinity River,
where they founded the town of Bucareli in present-day Madison
y' Barbo and his fellow settlers soon abandoned Bucareli and went
to what is now Nacogdoches, where
he is credited with laying out the town. He died at his home on the
Attoyac River near Nacogdoches.
Lobanillo apparently did not have a post office during the Republic
of Texas years, but on July 23, 1884, a U.S. post office was established
with the name Geneva and William W. Johnson as the first postmaster.
In the latter part of the 1800s, Geneva began to grow and soon
had a population of 150. It acquired several cotton gins, a gristmill,
a hotel, two churches, a livery stable and at least five stores.
Sabine County’s first independent school district was organized at
Geneva in 1904. During the 1934-1935 school year, the community
had 351 students.
The town lost its post office and the last cotton gin in Sabine County
was operated by Joe Harris at Geneva until it went out of business
Today’s Geneva has only one store, a cluster of homes at the
intersection of its two highways, and a number of collapsed buildings.
Things Historical September 29, 2008 Column.
| 1940s Sabine
County Map showing Geneva
(N of Milam and Hemphill.
Above "A" in "S-A-B-I-N-E")
Courtesy Texas General Land Office
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