We are Harrison County Texas

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Harrison County is located in northeastern Texas along the Louisiana border.

Native Texans, the Caddo Indians, lived in the East Texas timberlands that would become Harrison County.  They fished, hunted and became expert farmers.  Farming allowed them to live in one place and become the largest, most advanced, most peaceful group of native Texans.  They lived on farms, in villages, and in some larger towns with several hundred people.  The Caddo made fine pottery using the clay found near rivers and creeks.

In 1541, a Spanish expedition traveled from Arkansas through present-day Harrison County following historic Caddo trails.  The Spanish explorers depended on the Caddo to survive.  The Caddo would not meet Europeans again for more than a century when the French LaSalle expedition traveled through the area in 1686-1687.  The French and Spanish were in and out of the area for the next century.

The Caddo were friendly people.  The Spanish called the Caddo naguatex, a combination of the Caddoan words nawi, meaning “down there,” and techas meaning “friends.” Naguatex eventually became tay-chas, then Tejas.  Eventually the word was Americanized into Texas.  Now, the Texas state motto is “friendship.”

The Europeans introduced the Caddo to iron tools, guns and improved crop cultivation, but they also brought diseases to which the Caddo had no protection.  Hundreds, then thousands of Caddo died.  By 1700, the Caddo population dropped from thousands to a few hundred.  By 1790, Caddo Lake was the site of the one remaining Caddo village.  In 1859, the remaining Caddo were removed from their homeland in east Texas to new lands in the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma).  Many still live there today.

In 1803 the United States bought an enormous piece of land in North America from France—called the Louisiana Purchase.  But there were a few problems.  No American knew just how large its new territory was.  Few knew what it looked like.  And nobody knew its exact boundaries.  Both the United States and Spanish-owned Texas claimed the same land on the border between Texas and Louisiana Territory.   This disputed area included present-day Harrison County.  To avoid fighting over it, the two countries agreed to declare the area “Neutral Ground.” This meant that not settlers would be allowed in the area and neither country would claim or govern the disputed land before settling their differences.  With no one to govern for 20 years this land was a lawless zone attracting outlaws and a few brave settlers.   Trammel’s Trace that cut through the county became known as “Robber’s Road.”

American settlers began to arrive in large numbers during the 1830s.  A dozen Americans received land grants in the future Harrison County from Mexican authorities in the fall of 1835. The settlement of the area was well under way by the time of the Texas Revolution in 1836. After the revolution the area filled up so rapidly that the Congress of the Republic of Texas officially established Harrison County in 1839. It was drawn from Shelby County and named for Texas revolutionary leader Jonas Harrison.  The original county boundaries were reduced by the establishment of Panola and Upshur counties in 1846. The boundaries have remained unchanged with the exception of a small adjustment with Marion County after the Civil War.  Marshall was chosen as the county seat in 1842.

Harrison County was settled predominantly by natives of the southern United States who duplicated the cotton-plantation society they had known before moving to Texas.  Harrison County became one of the richest and most productive in antebellum Texas.

In 1861 Harrison County’s citizens overwhelmingly supported secession from the Union and joining the Confederate States of America. The area escaped invasion during the Civil War, but hundreds of its men fought.  Most of its people were called upon to make sacrifices to support the war.

After the end of the Civil War in 1865, Harrison County remained overwhelmingly agricultural. Cotton continued as the main crop, although it was 1930 before production in a census year surpassed the 21,440-bale crop reported in 1860.

The Southern Pacific Railroad, constructed from Caddo Lake to Marshall before the Civil War, became part of the Texas and Pacific Railway system during the 1870s. The T&P selected Marshall for their shops and general offices for Texas.   The railroad remained a major employer of county residents until employment began to decline after World War II.

Oil was discovered in the county in 1928.  The extraction of petroleum and natural gas would continue to contribute to the area’s economy into the 21st century.

The 1930s and 1940s marked the beginning of changes in Harrison County.  During the Great Depression, the value of farm property fell and there were almost 1,500 fewer farms in 1940 than in 1930. For the first time, a majority of workers depended on non-agricultural jobs.  Agriculture continued to employ fewer workers each year. In 1978 only one farmer reported growing cotton in the county, which in 1860 had produced the third largest crop in the state.  By 1960 a majority of the county’s people lived in towns.

Oil and gas production, lignite mining, lumber, and pottery and other manufacturers continue to be the key elements of the economy.  The largest employer is a chemical manufacturer.  Pine and hardwood timber are harvested in the county. Cattle and hay are the chief agricultural products.

Four institutions of higher education are located in the county—East Texas Baptist University, Wiley College, Panola College and Texas State Technical College.  Eight independent school districts provide education for public school students.

Harrison County is crisscrossed with federal and state highways, including Interstate Highway 20, the major artery from the east coast to Dallas.  The county operates a general aviation airport.  Railroads provide freight and passenger service.

Caddo Lake, Lake O’ the Pines, and other lakes provide water recreation.  About 20,000 acres on Caddo Lake were designated a wetland of international importance in 1993.  The county has numerous historic sites.  The county is home to the annual Josey Jr. World Barrel Race and communities in the county host parades, festivals and other events.

The 2010 census reported 65,632 people living in Harrison County. About 64 percent were Anglo, 23 percent were black, and 12 percent were Hispanic.  Incorporated towns in the county are Marshall, Hallsville, Waskom, Nesbitt, Scottsville, and Uncertain.  Other communities are Elysian Fields, Karnack, Woodlawn and Harleton.

Marshall, the county seat located near the center of the county, is 152 miles east of Dallas and 39 miles west of Shreveport. The center of the county lies at 32°30′ north latitude and 94°30′ west longitude. Harrison County comprises 900 square miles of the East Texas timberlands, an area that is heavily forested with a variety of softwoods and hardwoods, especially pine and oak. The terrain is gently rolling, with an elevation ranging from 200 to 400 feet above sea level. Northern and eastern Harrison County, about two-thirds of the total area, is drained to the Red River in Louisiana. The other third of the county is drained by the Sabine River, which forms a part of its southern boundary.  Mineral resources include oil, gas, lignite and clays.

Temperatures range from an average high of 95° F in July to an average low of 37° in January, rainfall averages slightly more than 46 inches a year, and the growing season extends 245 days.

Like the Caddo people who came before them, today the citizens of Harrison County are know as an  industrious and friendly people.
BIBLIOGRAPHY:
U.S. Census Quick Facts, Harrison County, (http://quickfacts.census.gov/qfd/states/48/48203.html) , accessed July 8, 2013
Randolph B. Campbell, “HARRISON COUNTY,” Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hch08), accessed July 08, 2013. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Harrison County Historical Museum, miscellaneous papers.