“Gregg County comprises 273 square miles, with an elevation ranging from 230 to 524 feet above sea level. It is within the East Texas timberlands. The terrain is gently sloping to hilly, with well-drained to moderately well-drained loamy and gravelly soils. Numerous streams drain to the Sabine River, which runs through Gregg County from northwest to southeast.”
“Soon after 1800 the Cherokees were driven west across the Mississippi River, and they in turn drove the other Indians out of Northeast Texas and occupied the area. There is much remaining evidence of the Cherokees in Gregg County. One of the earliest roads across Gregg County was the Cherokee Trace, which crosses from north to south and passes over the Sabine near Longview; it was used by the Cherokees when driven from East Texas by President Mirabeau B. Lamar in 1838, and later served as a military road from South Texas to Fort Lawson on the Red River.”
“The first land patents in the area that became Gregg County were issued in 1835 by the Republic of Mexico and were subsequently recognized by the Republic of Texas. The earliest Republic of Texas grants were issued in 1838, and by 1858 almost all of the area that became Gregg County had been surveyed and patented.”
“By 1872 both the International-Great Northern and the Texas and Pacific had built rail lines in the area that became Gregg County, which was marked off from southern Upshur County by the Thirteenth Texas Legislature on April 12, 1873. The bill originally called the new county Roanoke, but during passage of the legislation the name was changed to Gregg, in honor of Confederate war hero John B. Gregg. Longview was selected as the county seat. By an act of the Fourteenth Legislature, on April 30, 1874, Gregg County was extended southward to add a portion of northern Rusk County.”
“The county grew steadily from a population of 8,530 in 1880 to 16,767 in 1920, but declined to 15,778 before the census of 1930. During the 1930s the number of county residents increased dramatically, largely because of the East Texas oilfield discoveries in 1931 and the growth of related industries. The county population was 58,027 by 1940 and 61,258 by 1950, a 5.6 percent growth in ten years.”
“In censuses between 1880 and 1930, with the exception of 1920, black residents in Gregg County were more numerous than white. In 1910 blacks comprised 55 percent of the county population, and in 1930, 52 percent. After 1931, with the influx of oil entrepreneurs and their employees, the white population increased considerably relative to the number of blacks.”
“From 1880 to 1930 Gregg County was predominantly agricultural, with cotton and corn as the most important crops. The number of farms increased steadily to a high of 2,000 in 1930 and then began to decline. By 1982 the county had only 378 farms, which produced primarily beef cattle and hay. Agricultural land values were high, however; farm property was valued at $60,453,918. Manufacturing, related primarily to the lumber industry, was relatively limited from 1880 through the 1920s.”
“The discovery of oil in Gregg County in 1931 brought a boom just as the rest of the country and much of Texas was facing the Great Depression. County population increased in a matter of weeks from around 16,000 to more than 100,000. In 1935, the post office receipts of Longview rose to $100,000, and bank deposits rose from $500,000 to more than $10 million. Freight shipments increased 1,000 percent. In 1932 a $350,000 jail and courthouse were erected in Longview. More than $2 million was spent on road building between 1932 and 1937. A new county hospital built in 1934 cost $65,000 and a nurses’ home $15,000. The schools spent more than a million dollars for new buildings and equipment in Gregg County between 1932 and 1936. In order to keep pace with the astonishing growth, the state constructed a highway from Longview to Kilgore, a distance of twelve miles, at a cost of over $600,000; repair to other roads was estimated to exceed $200,000.”
“The recession in the East Texas oil industry, beginning around 1982, seriously affected employment in Gregg County. In 1981 only 6 percent of the workers (2,988) were unemployed. But by 1982, 10.1 percent of all workers were unemployed; the unemployment rate peaked in 1983 at 12.2 percent, with 6,561 workers unemployed. By August 1985, 10.5 percent of the workforce continued to be unemployed, a total of 5,518 workers.”
“In the early twenty-first century oil, manufacturing, tourism, agribusiness, and lignite mining were central elements of the area’s economy.”
Handbook of Texas Online, Suzanne Perry, “Gregg County“
I was the guest of Longview and Gregg County on July 14 & 15, 2014.
Gregg County Courthouse – 1879
(Photo Courtesy: THC)
Designed by F.E. Ruffini in the Second Empire style, this was built in the year 1879 by contractor John McDonald for a total of $13,447.00. For reasons unclear, it no longer exists.
Gregg County Courthouse – 1897
(Photo Courtesy: THC)
Designed by Marshall R. Sanguinet and constructed by G.W. Donaghey on the exact same site as the 1879 courthouse, the building’s distinctive red bricks soon gave rise to the apparent local nickname: “The Old Red Courthouse”. That’s curious, as that nickname is still in use for the Dallas County Courthouse four counties to the west.
This building too met its end. Historical trend would point to it having been demolished during the Great Depression years, but I can’t be completely certain.
Gregg County Courthouse – 1932
(Photo Courtesy: THC)
This massive Moderne building was designed by renowned architectural team Voelcker & Dixon. The original structure was constructed by C.S. Lambie. In the words of the Texas Historical Commission, it is a:
“Six [story] brick, terra cotta and marble courthouse that reflects the character of municipal buildings of the period with its adherence to the design motifs of the Art Moderne style. The courthouse is conceived as a series of rather blocky forms, with ornamentation confined to the main entrance bay and to the spandrel panels between floors. As was often the case with 1930′s courthouses in Texas, the county jail was incorporated into the design, being located above the offices and courtrooms in the tallest section of the building.”
A massive annex was added in 1958, constructed by the McClendon Construction Co.
At first glance, this courthouse is large, but still relatively small when you compare it to the size of a city like Longview and a county as populated as Gregg County.
Previous Courthouse: Rusk County
Next Courthouse: Upshur County