New Willard is on State Highway Loop 116 eight miles north of Livingston and eighty miles north of Houston in central Polk County. Settlement of the region was facilitated by the construction of the Houston, East and West Texas Railway through central Polk County in 1880. James R. Freeman built a sawmill near the future site of New Willard in 1886, and the Jefferson Lumber Company operated a mill there between 1887 and 1889. The settlement proper was founded in 1909, when the Thompson-Tucker Lumber Company transferred its operations from Willard in Trinity County to the Polk County site, which was promptly named New Willard. The new plant had a sawmill with a daily capacity of 50,000 board feet and a double band saw with a capacity of 125,000 board feet. A tram road was pushed west across Long King Creek. The post office at New Willard was also established in 1909. In 1918 the Texas Long Leaf Lumber Company took over the sawmill plant at New Willard. The King Creek Lumber Company also built a hardwood sawmill there in 1918. Twelve years later this operation was taken over by the Texas Long Leaf Company. By the early 1940s the original mill, which had burned down, had been rebuilt. New Willard had a peak population of at least 700. As the lumber industry declined, however, the central Polk County community also fell upon harder times. By the mid-1940s its population had fallen to 600; by 1950, to 180; and by the mid-1980s, to 160, where it remained through 2000. In the 1980s the Wonder Chemical Company offered some employment; other New Willard residents worked at nearby Livingston or on small farms and ranches.
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New Willard by the Numbers
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