feed store in Hemphill|
Archie P. McDonald, PhD
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 far away.
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 Bend
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...
Marker (201 Main St, Hemphill) Text:|
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.
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
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 Texas.
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...The
Mystery of Lady Bountiful by Bob Bowman
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. Saving
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 Club. The
Twirler by Bob Bowman
When Audrey Dean Leighton passed away in mid-2005,
East Texas lost one of its most entertaining and colorful characters.
Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing
Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their local history, stories, and vintage/historic
photos of their town, please contact
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