Text and Photos
by Terry Jeanson
1941 Art-Moderne style Cherokee
County courthouse in Rusk
is not your run of the mill W.P.A. project. The attractive stone veneer
sets it apart from some other modern courthouses of the time period,
but it is the inside of the courthouse that really deserves more attention.
It is becoming apparent to me that some of the finest artists in Texas
are residents of our state's jails. About five or six years ago, a
Cherokee County inmate was enlisted to create a mural of the history
of Cherokee County on the upper floor of the courthouse. The mural
extends from the east to the west side of the building and is, mostly,
in chronological order. The ground floor also contains portraits of
famous Texans, famous Cherokee County residents and local heroes.
The walls of the first floor are also lined with vintage photographs
of the county and, just like in the Anderson
County courthouse in Palestine,
District Court Judge Bascom Bentley has a plethora of his political
and sports memorabilia displayed.
So, if you have the time, take a moment to explore, either here or
at the courthouse
and get to know the history of the people and places of Cherokee
Depiction of the early inhabitants of Cherokee County, the Caddo and
Cherokee Indians, along with the Spanish missionaries.
The current monument dedicated to the Killough
Massacre of 1838. To the left, Mrs. Killough and her baby son
are being saved by a friendly Indian. To the right is an outline of
Cherokee County and a portrait of General Thomas Jefferson Rusk, the
namesake of the county seat.
On the left is the Forest Hill Plantation which is in south central
Cherokee County near Alto.
The heroes of the Texas Revolution are seen perched over the Hatchett
Ferry Inn that was built before 1850 on the Angelina River at the
Nacogdoches and Cherokee County boundary. (It was torn down over 25
years ago.) On the extreme right is a portrait of Jim
Hogg, who was born near Rusk
and was the first native Texan to become the state's governor. The
house he was born in is also depicted.
Honoring the over 2,000 men from Cherokee County who served in the
Civil War. The Confederate Memorial on the courthouse grounds is seen
in the center of this picture.
Antique steam engines still roll into Rusk
as part of the Texas
State Railroad. The gray building is the Lon Morris College in
Jacksonville. The portrait is of John Benjamin Kendrick. Born near
Kendrick went to Wyoming on a cattle drive, settled there and became
the Wyoming state governor in 1914 and later a U.S. Senator. I think
the red building on the right is the old Rusk Penitentiary building
and the buildings behind it are the manufacturing plants where prisoners
worked, building things like the dome for the State Capitol.
On the left is the 546 foot bridge in Footbridge Garden Park in Rusk.
Built in 1861 to cross a flood prone valley, it is thought to be the
nation's longest footbridge. In the middle is the Tomato Queen of
in a field of tomato vines. On top right is the Tomato Bowl Stadium
Underneath that is the Jacksonville Baptist College and a depiction
of Cherokee County soldiers in World
The final section of the mural shows the current
county courthouse in front of several historic buildings on the
square in Rusk. In
the top left corner is a portrait honoring Captain Francis W. Townsend,
a Cherokee County resident who was declared missing in action in the