a Pecan Shell
The town is situated
on land that was granted to Englishman Robert B. Longbotham by Mexico
in 1834, predating the Texas Revolution. Things didn’t get started
from a community point of view until the Houston and Texas Central
Railroad came through in 1871.
Longbotham sold the railroad a right-of-way for a token five dollars
and a townsite was purchased (presumably for more than five dollars)
by an investment group that planned to name the town Tehuacana. When
a post office was opened, however, the name was changed to Long Bottom.
The corrupted name only lasted until 1874 when it was renamed to honor
Col. Rice Wortham, a merchant who had coaxed the railroad into making
the town a stop on their line.
In 1885 Wortham was still a very small place with a population of
just 30 residents.
The 1890s provided the much-needed growth and by 1914 there were 950
people calling Wortham home.
The next spurt of growth occurred in 1924 when the Wortham field came
in with a gusher from the Roy Simmons No. 1 well. In three weeks there
were more than 300 derricks spotting the landscape.
Wortham joined the list of Texas boomtowns with the population jumping
from 1,000 to 30,000 by 1925.
The overwhelmed infrastructure came near the breaking point and lawlessness
and chaos threatened the community. In 1927 the wells started losing
production and the population dropped back to a manageable 2,000 for
The Great Depression took a hard swipe at Wortham, reducing businesses
by one third. The population declined to a low by 1975 that nearly
matched the 1914 census of 950.
Methodist Church Historical Marker
Lemon by Bob Bowman
Born on the western fringes of East Texas in 1897, Blind Lemon Jefferson
was one of our most famous blues musicians....
Jefferson was buried in the black cemetery at Wortham... One of his
best-known songs was "See That My Grave Is Kept Clean". The good folks
of Freestone County have dutifully followed his wishes. more
Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing
Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their local history, stories,
landmarks and recent or vintage photos, please contact
Escapes' 1700th Town, November 12, 2007