Gilmer, the county seat of Upshur County, is on U.S. Highway 271 and State highways 155 and 154 thirty-five miles northeast of Tyler and twenty-two northwest of Longview in the central part of the county. When the county was established in 1846, provision required that the county seat be located within five miles of the geographic center and that it be called Gilmer, for Thomas W. Gilmer, who died during the test firing of a new cannon on the USS Princeton on February 28, 1844. The same explosion also killed United States secretary of state Abel P. Upshur. On December 15, 1846, when the fifth district court first met in Upshur County, Judge Oran M. Roberts held court in a grove of six oak trees at the residence of William H. Hart and declared that site the location of Gilmer until a more permanent location could be selected. The Gilmer post office opened in 1847. In 1848 county voters selected the permanent site. The original site came to be called Old Gilmer and was gradually abandoned; a historic marker on the Cherokee Trace three miles north of Gilmer marks the original site. Bethesda Masonic Lodge No. 142 received a charter in 1853 and sponsored the Gilmer Masonic Male Academy (1854). In 1861 the lodge rented the school building to Morgan H. Looney, who established Looney School; from 1868 to 1871 O. M. Roberts taught there. In 1860 Gilmer had twenty-five businesses, seven physicians, six law offices, two churches (Methodist and Baptist), two academies, and the post office. During the Civil War Gilmer businesses provided hats and leather goods to the Confederate States of America. Shortly after the war ended, members of the Ku Klux Klan beat up Meshack Roberts, a former slave of O. B. Roberts, who had helped him to become a landowner.
Gilmer at a Glance
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Gilmer by the Numbers
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|5,032||2019||Texas Demographic Center|
|4,905||2010||Texas Demographic Center|
|4,799||2000||Texas Demographic Center|
|4,824||1990||Texas Demographic Center|
|5,167||1980||Texas Demographic Center|
|4,196||1970||Texas Demographic Center|
|4,312||1960||Texas Demographic Center|
|4,096||1950||Texas Demographic Center|
|3,138||1940||Texas Demographic Center|
|1,963||1930||Texas Demographic Center|
|2,268||1920||Texas Demographic Center|
|1,484||1910||Texas Demographic Center|