“The county is bounded on the north by the Angelina River and on the south by the Neches River. It comprises 807 square miles of gently rolling terrain and is densely forested with pine and a great variety of hardwoods. Altitudes range from 200 to 380 feet above sea level.”
“The largest body of water in the county is Sam Rayburn Reservoir, on the Angelina River; the lake, which extends into Jasper, Sabine, Nacogdoches, and San Augustine counties, covers 114,500 acres and affords county residents good boating, fishing, and swimming, as well as water storage for municipal, agricultural, and industrial needs and for flood control and electric power.”
“The area that is now Angelina County was originally occupied by agricultural Indians of Caddoan and Atakapan-related stock. The county was named for a Hainai Indian girl who, according to Spanish legend, helped early Spanish missionaries of the area around 1690. Settlers who came to the county in the early nineteenth century found Indians of the Hasinai branch of the Caddo confederacies. The Hasinai, to which the Indian girl’s group belonged, had an abundant food supply, a relatively dense population, and a complex social organization.”
“The settlement by whites in the future Angelina County began before the Texas Revolution of 1836. The first deed on record, dated May 10, 1801, conveyed 5½ leagues of land to Vincente Micheli from Surdo, chief of the Bedias Indians, in exchange for a white shirt, eight brass bracelets, a handful of vermilion, a fathom of ribbon, a gun, and fifty charges of powder and ball. The first Anglo settlers in the district were the Burris family, who in 1820 settled in the northern part of what is now Lufkin at a place then called Burris Prairie.”
“Mexican authorities made land grants in the area in 1834–35.”
“Settlement was still thin when Texas won its independence. Angelina County was organized on April 22, 1846, when Nacogdoches County was divided. The first permanent settler after the county was formed is thought to have been George W. Collins. The population increased quickly thereafter due to the good farming land and to the rivers, which made steamboat transportation possible. The population reached 1,165, 196 of whom were slaves, in 1850.”
“The first county seat was Marion; successively, Jonesville became county seat in 1854, Homer in 1858, and Lufkin in 1892. Lufkin was favored by the route of the Houston, East and West Texas Railway (now the Southern Pacific), which had been built in 1882 from Houston to Shreveport.”
“In 1861 Angelina County was the only county in East Texas, and one of only a handful of other Texas counties, to reject secession. This election result was startling when compared with that of Angelina County’s neighbor to the immediate south, Tyler County, which supported secession by a 99 percent vote. Angelina County had also given the Constitutional Union party candidate, John Bell, a strong minority vote in the 1860 election. Two companies of county men were organized to fight in the Civil War, but they saw only limited action; only nineteen Angelina County men lost their lives in the war, and no Union soldiers entered the county before 1866.”
“Before the war, a principal source of wealth in Angelina County was the raising of livestock, since most of the early settlers were not slaveholding planters able to concentrate on agriculture. After the war, livestock was largely supplanted by the lumber industry, and therefore the numbers of cattle did not increase proportionately with the population.”
“Economically Angelina County improved greatly in the 1880s because of the arrival of the railroads. Exploitation of the county’s pine and hardwood timber became possible, and lumber began quickly to return a bonanza.”
“The World’s Fair of 1893 gave a boost to the popularity of southern pine as a building material, and thus to the new economic base of Angelina County. The Angelina County Lumber Company, founded by Joseph H. Kurth, Sr., and others in 1887 at Keltys, along with the Southern Pine Lumber Company, founded at Diboll in 1893 by T. L. L. Temple, became giant industries as southern pine became the chief commercial wood used in America. In addition to the two large mills, about fifteen other lumber companies were begun around the turn of the century in Angelina County.”
“Lumber and other industries such as foundry and the manufacture of oilfield equipment made Lufkin the fifth largest industrial area in Texas by the mid-1980s. Such smaller towns in the county as Diboll, Huntington, Fuller Springs, Hudson, Zavalla, and Burke were maintained chiefly by the lumber industry. Still other towns, now defunct or severely depopulated, flourished around early sawmills until the timber was cut out: these included Homer, Baker, Clawson, Emporia, Hamlet, Lay, Popher, Yuno, Baber, Davisville, Renova, and Retrieve.”
“The Great Depression hit Angelina County quite hard. By 1933 more than 2,500 residents were on relief rolls—about 10 percent of the county population. This was mainly because the timber industry in Texas was particularly vulnerable to the depression. The boom in housing and other businesses that depended on lumber ceased abruptly with the failure of banks and lending institutions and with unemployment.”
“The Civilian Conservation Corps for East Texas was headquartered in Lufkin during the depression. It served twenty-six counties and seventeen camps in efforts to bring about financial recovery.”
“By 1944, Angelina County had forty-four firms employing 400 persons, and the value of manufactured goods in 1945 was $25 million. Principal industries at that time were foundries, a creosoting plant, sawmills, and a $10 million newsprint mill, Southland Paper Mills. In 1954 and 1958 wholesale trade in Angelina County amounted to $37,114,000; the county topped a list of ten East Texas counties.”
“The county is a major producer of timber products. It ranked only twenty-first in the state for agricultural receipts in 1982, 82 percent of which were from livestock. County farmers also raise hay, rye, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tomatoes, watermelons, peaches, and pecans.”
- Handbook of Texas Online, Megan Biesele, “Angelina County”
I was the guest of Lufkin and Angelina County on July 12, 2016.
Angelina County Courthouse – 1847
This was a log cabin. No more can be said about it. It’s fascinating to mention, however, that this courthouse started serving Angelina County only two years after Texas joined the United States.
Angelina County Courthouse – 1873
With a two-story, wooden frame, and no further information about it known, this courthouse was the last to stand outside of Lufkin. An election moved the county seat from Homer to Lufkin in 1891.
Angelina County Courthouse – 1892
As the first courthouse in Lufkin, this building was also a two-story, wooden construction. Unfortunately, little information is available for this one, either.
Angelina County Courthouse – 1903
(Photo Courtesy: THC)
(Photo Courtesy: TxDOT)
This large, impressive specimen of a courthouse is attributed to architectural master James Riely Gordon. Gordon’s works (where they still exist) stand among the finest examples of late nineteenth century style. Employing excessive stylistic elements of the Romanesque Revival school, Gordon weaved a truly impressive patchwork across Central and East Texas, displaying the might and majesty of each county he visited with grandeur and elegance though their courthouses. Simply put, in my opinion, there are few who rival him.
This courthouse was built in 1903, a few years after the height of Gordon’s career in Texas. The Texas Historical Commission attributes the building to him, though there is no certainty he designed it. His name is surprisingly absent from the historic cornerstone, while in most all of his other works, it’s proudly displayed.
However, the overall similarity of this courthouse to Harrison County’s (which Gordon did design) points to the fact that he was at hand in Lufkin at the turn of the century.
In 1953, after declaring that the large, boisterous courthouse no longer served the county’s needs, the Commissioners Court held a bond election for a new one. In 1953, it was demolished.
Angelina County Courthouse – 1955
(Photo Courtesy: rootsweb.com)
Wilbur Kent was the architect behind this sad building. Crafted in the modern style, the principal elements of construction here were brick, limestone, and steel. Doesn’t that just sound beautiful?
1962 saw the addition of wings to both the north and south sides. This courthouse was “dramatically altered” from its original form by architects Rittenberry & Rittenberry with Timmons Construction Co. serving as contractor.
Entering Downtown Lufkin
The courthouse is as unassuming as you’d assume.
This is the southeast corner.
The Ward R. Burke United States Courthouse, on 3rd Street
Word to the wise, don’t approach this building if you don’t like getting harassed by rude, jumpy, and inexperienced security guards.
The courthouse’s eastern façade rises above a sea of cars.
Some things never change, no matter what the courthouse looks like. There will always be birds who call the building home.
This is a courthouse addition and what looks like a picnicking area. With all of the beautiful countryside around Lufkin, I think I’d take my lunch elsewhere.
The northeast corner of the courthouse property
The northwest corner
Another addition that looks even more modern than the building it was attached to
Here’s the southwest corner of the courthouse.
They’re always on watch here in Lufkin. Believe me.
This is the main entrance, facing south-southwest on Lufkin Avenue.
Lufkin & Angelina County
Previous Courthouse: Tyler County
Next Courthouse: Dickens County