Wilkinson is at the junction of Farm roads 71 and 1402, between White Oak Creek and Sulphur River thirteen miles north of Mount Pleasant in northern Titus County. Until well into the twentieth century the area between White Oak Creek and Sulphur River, known locally as "between the creeks," was an isolated, heavily wooded area considered inferior for farming. The roads were poor, and inhabitants generally had few contacts with other parts of the county. Wilkinson, which was probably first called New Bethlehem and later Pad's Chapel (most likely named after early settler Pad Harris), grew up in the 1870s around the road from Mount Pleasant to Clarksville, one of the few roads in the area. In 1888, when the post office was established, the town was called Wilkinson after a local family. It probably reached its fullest development in 1896, when it had a Baptist church, three stores, a gin, a mill, a wagon maker, and a newspaper, the Free Press, edited by the populist district clerk, J. Ab Ward. Since the census of 1900 did not include Wilkinson in its list of towns with a population of 100 or more, and the area was never very heavily populated, the population estimate of 600 given in 1896 was probably highly exaggerated. The town declined steadily during the early years of the twentieth century, and the post office was closed in 1914. During the years between World War I and World War II the town came to be known unofficially as Sugar Hill. Sources differ as to the origin of the name. Some claim that Sugar Hill was named for Sug Harris, the wife of pioneer Pad Harris, while others say that the girls in the region were "sweet as sugar." Many residents believe that the large volume of sugar that was transported into the region to make moonshine inspired the nickname. The production of bootleg whiskey became one of the chief occupations of area residents. During this period the town began to grow again, particularly after oil was discovered in what was dubbed the Sugar Hill oil field in the late 1930s. The Wilkinson School District had an African-American school and an Anglo school in the 1930s. In 1950 the town's inhabitants voted a bond issue to build a modern brick school. Oil production in the area declined, however, and by 1976 the school had closed. In 1986 and 1990 Wilkinson had two churches and a reported population of thirty-nine. That figure climbed to 150 in 2000. Many residents still referred to the community as Sugar Hill, and that name appeared on county highway maps.
Adapted from the official Handbook of Texas, a state encyclopedia developed by the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA). It is an authoritative source of trusted historical records.
Cecil Harper, Jr. | © Texas State Historical Association
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