Onalaska is on Farm Road 356 by Lake Livingston, ninety miles north of Houston in western Polk County. It was settled during the Republic of Texas period and was developed by William Carlisle about 1905. Carlisle, a lumberman, named it after an older mill town he also operated, Onalaska, Arkansas. The Beaumont and Great Northern Railway had reached Onalaska from Trinity County by 1907 and was extended to Livingston the next year. By 1908 Onalaska had a depot, a bank, a hotel, an electric power plant, and a population of 2,000. The West Lumber Company had purchased the sawmill by 1909, but flooding from the Trinity River and the cutting out of local timber led to the mill's closure. By 1913 the sawmill had been dismantled. Although Onalaska remained a fairly prosperous agricultural community, its first boom days were over; the population had declined to 1,250 by 1925 and to eighty by the late 1940s. Upon the completion of Lake Livingston in 1968, however, the local economy recovered somewhat because of the added recreational opportunities it afforded. Onalaska had only two rated businesses in 1961 but twenty-eight by 1984. That year the population was 386, and in 1990 it was 728. By 2000 the population reached 1,174.
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Onalaska by the Numbers
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|2,536||2019||Texas Demographic Center|
|1,764||2010||Texas Demographic Center|
|1,174||2000||Texas Demographic Center|
|728||1990||Texas Demographic Center|