Contact the Breya Warnstaff
Harrison County Coordinator

Welcome to Harrison County!


A bit of our history:

American settlers began to arrive in large numbers during the 1830s. The settlement of the area was well under way by the time of the Texas Revolution in 1836. A dozen Americans received land grants there from Mexican authorities in the fall of 1835. 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, organized in 1842, and named for Texas revolutionary leader Jonas Harrison. Marshall, founded in 1841, became the county seat in 1842. The original county boundaries were reduced by the establishment of Panola and Upshur counties in 1846. Since then, with the exception of a small adjustment with Marion County during Reconstruction, they have remained unchanged. Harrison County was settled predominantly by natives of the southern United States who duplicated the slaveholding, cotton-plantation society they had known before moving to Texas. By 1850 the county had more slaves than any other in the state, a distinction that it maintained through the next decade. The census of 1860 enumerated 8,784 slaves (59 percent of the total population), 145 planters who owned at least twenty bondsmen, and a cotton crop of 21,440 bales. Harrison County was among the richest and most productive in antebellum Texas.

In 1861 Harrison County's citizens overwhelmingly supported secession. The area escaped invasion during the Civil War, but hundreds of its men fought, and the majority of its people were called upon to make at least some material sacrifice. Defeat brought military occupation, the end of slavery, and Reconstruction. White citizens bitterly resented federal authority, especially when it meant enfranchisement of the black majority and a Republican party county government that continued even after the Democratic party regained control statewide in 1874. African Americans found that freedom did not bring significant economic or educational opportunities. Harrison County was "redeemed"-returned to white Democratic rule-in 1878 when residents formed the Citizen's Party of Harrison County and appealed to voters with the argument that Republican government was too expensive. Amidst charges of fraud and coercion, Citizen's party candidates won the election on a technicality involving the placement of a key ballot box and took firm control of local government. The county has remained politically conservative since Reconstruction. Until 1900 its black voters returned Republican majorities in national elections, but the Citizen's party controlled county offices. Once black voters were disfranchised, the county voted solidly Democratic in all elections until 1948. At that point, with the national Democratic party tending toward liberal policies, Harrison County began to support conservative Southerners such as Strom Thurmond in 1948 and George Wallace in 1968, and it began to vote Republican. Dwight D. Eisenhower twice carried the area easily. Lyndon B. Johnson (in spite of the fact that his wife came from the county) barely defeated Barry Goldwater there in 1964, and Republican candidates won in 1980, 1984, and 1988. The county voted Democratic in the 1992 election.

As in antebellum times Harrison County remained overwhelmingly agricultural and rural from 1880 to 1930. During these fifty years, while the population grew slowly from 25,171 to 48,397, the number of farms rose from 2,748 to an all-time high of 6,802. 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. Production in 1930 was 33,755 bales . The county also retained its black majority through these years. Blacks constituted more than 60 percent of the total population in every census from 1880 to 1930. Harrison County enjoyed transportation facilities that were better than average for East Texas counties, but its nonagricultural economy expanded slowly from 1880 to 1930. 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, and the area was soon linked with Shreveport to the east, Dallas-Fort Worth to the west, and Texarkana to the north. The railroad's shops and general offices for Texas were located in Marshall. The county seat benefited from the railroad and from its position as a retail center for the surrounding area, and by 1930 its population was 16,203, approximately one-third of the county's residents. Manufacturing establishments, located primarily in and around Marshall, employed 2,319 workers in 1930. Nevertheless, a majority of the county's workers were employed in agriculture.

The 1930s and 1940s, years of the Great Depression and World War II, marked the beginning of changes in Harrison County at least as significant as those brought on by the Civil War. Depression hit the county hard. The value of farm property fell 30 percent between 1930 and 1935, and there were almost 1,500 fewer farms in 1940 than in 1930. For the first time, a majority of workers depended on nonagricultural occupations, and unemployment became a problem. During the depths of the depression in 1935, 1,114 heads of families in Harrison County were on government relief. As late as 1940, 850 workers were employed on public emergency works, and another 838 were without jobs. World War II ended the economic disaster of the thirties, but it also brought about a significant emigration of blacks from the county. Between 1940 and 1950, although they continued to constitute a majority, blacks decreased by 17 percent in number while whites increased 8 percent. The total population rose from 48,937 to 50,900 during the 1930s and then fell to 47,745 by 1950. The trends that originated during the years of depression and war continued for another twenty years after 1950. The white population increased, but the number of blacks declined so rapidly that the county showed an overall population loss in each census,  by 1970. Agriculture occupied fewer workers each year, and cotton planting virtually disappeared.



Surrounding Counties:


All TXGenWeb Counties



This Site Was Last Updated: October 6, 2018

search engine by freefind advanced