Harleton is at the intersection of Farm roads 1968 and 450 and State Highway 154, fifteen miles northwest of Marshall in northwestern Harrison County. A community called Fontana was established on the site about 1890, and the Paris, Marshall and Sabine Railroad was built through the area the following year. By 1892 Fontana had, according to the Texas State Gazetteer, an estimated population of 175 inhabitants, Baptist and Methodist churches, a steam sawmill, a steam gin and gristmill, two general stores, and a newspaper named the Journal. In 1892 the community changed its name to Harleton, for J. W. Harle, a sawmill operator who built a tram railroad from Marshall to move timber from his mill. By 1900 Harleton had 238 inhabitants. In 1904 the Harleton school district included one school and one teacher serving forty-eight Black pupils and two schools and four teachers serving 199 White pupils. By 1914 the community had telephone service and a bank. Harleton had an estimated population of 360 in the 1920s and 1930s. The railroad was abandoned in 1937, but Harleton was still a growing community in 1941, when its population was estimated at 500 and it had fourteen businesses. The population fell to 275 by 1945, and the number of businesses dropped to seven by 1947. In 1946 a gas field was opened nearby and led to a partial revival of the town's economy. Harleton had 300 inhabitants and fourteen businesses in 1949. From 1972 to 2000 the population was estimated at 260; Harleton had five businesses, a school, and two churches in 1988.
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