Wortham, an incorporated city, is at the junction of State Highway 14 and Farm Road 27, sixteen miles west of Fairfield in extreme western Freestone County. The town is situated on a grant given in 1834 by Mexico to Robert B. Longbotham, an immigrant from England who settled there in 1839. In 1871, when the Houston and Texas Central Railway was planned through the area, Longbotham sold the right of way for five dollars. A townsite was purchased from Longbotham by a group of investors, who platted a town named Tehuacana. When a post office was established in November 1871, however, the name was changed to Long Bottom, a corruption of the original owner's name. In 1874 the settlement was renamed Wortham in honor of Col. Rice Wortham, a merchant who had been instrumental in convincing the railroad to build through the area. In 1885 Wortham was a small market center for area cotton farmers with several churches, steam grist and corn mills, cotton gins, a general store, and about thirty inhabitants. During the 1890s the town experienced rapid growth. It incorporated in 1910, and by 1914 it had a cottonseed-oil mill, three cotton gins, two banks, a weekly newspaper, the Wortham Journal, and a population of 950. Wortham remained a small market center until 1924, when oil was discovered in the Wortham field. As early as 1912 C. L. Witherspoon, hired by the city to drill a water well, struck a pocket of natural gas. Between 1919 and 1923 oil exploration began in the area, and on November 27, 1924, the Roy Simmons No. 1 well came in as a gusher. Within three weeks more than 300 drilling rigs were in the field. In January 1925 alone more than 3,500,000 barrels of oil were produced, and the total for the year of 1925 was 16,838,150 barrels. The town of Wortham was transformed overnight. The population rose from 1,000 to some 30,000 at the height of the boom in 1925. Housing and the town's infrastructure were completely inadequate, and law enforcement officials had great difficulty controlling the rowdy oilfield workers. Intensive drilling brought the boom to an end by late 1927, and by 1929 the population had dropped to around 2,000. The onset of the Great Depression, plummeting cotton prices, and the end of the oil boom combined to bring hard times for Wortham. The number of businesses dropped from seventy-two in 1931 to fifty in 1936. After World War II the decline continued, and by the early 1980s only sixteen rated businesses remained. The town also witnessed a slow population decline during the same period, falling to low of about 1,000 in 1975. Since the mid-1980s, however, the population has been steadily growing, and in 1990 Wortham had 1,020 residents and fifteen businesses. The population was 1,082 in 2000.
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