Hillister, eight miles south of Woodville in south central Tyler County, began as a sawmill town. It was probably originally called Hollister, after a Texas and New Orleans Railroad Company official, although another source for the name may have been two sawmill operators named Hallister. Hillister was one of several towns that sprang up in Tyler County with the advent of the lumber industry and the railroads. The post office was opened there under the current name in 1882, and William R. McCarty, who ran a sawmill, became the town's first postmaster. In 1886 the Galveston Daily News reported that Hillister had produced in the previous year some 354 carloads of lumber products, a moderate amount. McCarty's mill was succeeded by a mill set up by the Express Lumber Company. By 1946 Hillister was still producing seventy-five cars per week of poles and piling.
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