Barnum is on U.S. Highway 287 seventy-five miles northwest of Beaumont in northeast Polk County. The community was founded in 1881, when W. T. Carter built a sawmill at the site on the Trinity and Sabine Railway. The Carter and Brother operation at Barnum eventually included a sawmill, a planer, storage bins, seven miles of tram roads, and two locomotives. By 1889 Barnum had a hotel, a post office, a general store, a school, a public hall, and about 350 residents. A fire in 1887 consumed the sawmill and planer, causing an estimated $10,000 worth of damage. Another fire in 1897 again destroyed the Carter facilities at Barnum. After the latter blaze, Carter decided to reestablish his Polk County mill at Camden. Although many residents subsequently left Barnum, the settlement continued to be a stop on the railroad, which became part of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas system in 1882. The Barnum post office also remained open. The small rural community still had two businesses in 1984 and twenty-nine residents in 1990. In 2000 the population was fifty.
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Barnum by the Numbers
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