by Archie P.
Few find the community of Hemphill, county seat of Sabine County,
by accident unless they are lost. One generally has a purpose for
visiting this old town. A good one might be finding a place to fish
or to retire since the completion of Toledo
Bend Reservoir provided the area with a fine 'fishing hole' not
Milam served as the seat of local government
in Sabine County until 1858, when voters decided to move the courthouse
to a more central location. E.P. Beddoe drew the assignment of finding
the right spot and platting a town there. They named it Hemphill in
honor of John Hemphill, former chief justice of the Supreme
Court of the Republic of Texas and of the State of Texas.
Hemphill assumed its role as a government center in 1859, and Michael
Watson became postmaster there the same year. Despite its promising
beginning as a central location of the Sabine County, the county itself
lay in the grip of dense forest.
With the Sabine River on one side and trees all around, Hemphill was
not benefited by the Houston, East and West Texas Railway,
the first constructed in East
Texas in 1882-1883.
In 1884, Hemphill had a population of only 350 souls, few retail businesses,
a cotton gin, and a lumber mill. Population declined to less than
300 in 1900, rose to 400 by World
War I, and reached perhaps 1,500 or so by the 1920s before declining
again during the Depression. In 1990 the official count stood at 1,182
residents. A significant portion of the present population resulted
from the economic stimulation of Toledo
I have some fond memories of Hemphill. On many weekends back in the
1960s, we drove from Nacogdoches
to the southern part of Sabine County to help my father-in-law, Bert
Barrett, clear brush from a lakeside subdivision he and his partners
were developing. Our route followed Highway 21 to Milam,
then south, through Hemphill, to the subdivision.
We rarely stopped, unless it was at the old Peddy's Restaurant, for
a cup of coffee or a meal. On one trip my wife wanted to stop in town
for a purchase, and my then four-year-old son and I strolled around
the square while she shopped. We received a guided tour of the old
jail, just then unoccupied, that shares the square with the seat of
justice in Sabine County. I had never seen the inside of a jail before,
and determined that this would be my last visit. So far, that has
turned out to be the case.
© Archie P. McDonald, PhD All
Things HIstorical July, 2002 Column
Hotels > Book
by the Texas Historical Commission as the oldest standing hand hewn
log structure in the state. A double pen planked log story and a half
building with a dog trot...
(201 Main St, Hemphill) Text:
In 1858, Sabine
County organized the community of Hemphill, named for Texas Supreme
Court Justice John Hemphill (1803-1862). An election determined that
the county seat would be moved from Milam
to this new settlement in the center of Sabine County. Earl Percy
Beddoe surveyed and laid out the town site on an 80-acre tract owned
by Richard Fendall Slaughter and his wife, Anna (Holman). A post office
was established in Hemphill in 1859.
Builders constructed the first courthouse in Hemphill shortly after
the community’s establishment; it was replaced in 1864 by another
building, which burned down in 1875. Builder completed another courthouse
in 1877, which was eventually replaced by the current structure in
1906. Other significant early institutions included Sabine Valley
University, established in 1879, and First National Bank, which opened
in 1907 and closed during the Great Depression. Hemphill Common School
District No. 1 organized in the late 1800s, and by 1890 listed three
trustees, two teachers and eighty-eight students.
The population of Hemphill increased steadily between 1850 and 1930,
due in great part to the presence of the Knox Sawmill in the western
part of town. Temple Lumber Company later bought the mill, which burned
in 1937. Combined with post-World
War II rural-to-urban migration trends and the lack of major thoroughfares
in the town, the closing of the sawmill promoted a decline in the
community’s population. Today, Hemphill remains the seat of the Sabine
County government, and is home to several national, state and local
offices, remaining a community of vital importance in the state of
feed store in Hemphill
gunfight in Hemphill by Bob Bowman
With deep roots in East Texas, John Wesley Hardin was our most famous
outlaw and gunfighter, but many of his raids and shootings in the
pineywoods have remained unchronicled. A little-known incident in
which he won a gunfight with a Sabine County deputy sheriff at Hemphill...
Mystery of Lady Bountiful by Bob Bowman
November 22 will mark the 85th anniversary of an East Texas murder
that created a still-lingering mystery and put a timber baroness
in a pauper’s grave.
Sallie's Home by Bob Bowman
Today, more than a few Hemphill townspeople are convinced Sallie's
prayers 95 years ago have protected her house from the wrecker's
ball and will lead to its eventual restoration.
Personal Hero by Bob Bowman
My favorite East Texans are the senior citizens whose agile memories
have helped me write columns such as this. Leon Herman Adickes,
88, who was high on my list, died recently at Hemphill -- a place
where he helped make history by simply doing things to make his
community a better place. Most of what he did were acts like making
sure Hemphill had a doctor, a hospital, a nursing home and a Lions
Twirler by Bob Bowman
When Audrey Dean Leighton passed away in mid-2005, East Texas lost
one of its most entertaining and colorful characters.
in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing Texas,
asks that anyone wishing to share their local history and vintage/historic
photos, please contact