in 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 since 1933.
by Bob Bowman ("All
are four faces of old Lobanillo, which straddles East
Texas’ oldest highway less than 20 miles from the Texas-Louisiana border.
overriding the name is the fact that the site is considered to be one the oldest
places continuously occupied in East Texas.
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 Sabine County.
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, Spain.
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.
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 County.
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.
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 in 1959.
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.
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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