Palestine, Texas

Palestine, Texas

Aereal view of downtown Palestine, the seat of Anderson County, Texas. Photograph by Rolypolyman.

Palestine, the county seat of Anderson County, is at the intersection of U.S. highways 79 and 287, at the center of the county, some 108 miles southeast of Dallas and 150 miles north of Houston. It was the early home of Daniel Parker and was named after the Parkers' former home of Palestine, Illinois. It was also the home of John H. Reagan and Governor Thomas M. Campbell. When the Texas legislature established Anderson County in 1846, no community existed at the stipulated center of the county, so Palestine was established. A post office opened at the site the next year, and a contract was drawn up for the construction of the first courthouse, which was built on the crest of a low hill. According to a census taken in 1848 by Susan Scott Mallard, wife of Judge John B. Mallard, Palestine at that time had 179 White residents and thirty-one Black. The Mallard home was the oldest still standing in Palestine in 1990. In 1856 a brick courthouse was built, and a few years later four acres was donated for the establishment of the Palestine Female Institute. Soon, small business concerns were clustered around the square; in 1866 twelve dry-goods businesses were in operation. Commerce was served by paddle-wheel steamers that during periods of high water plied the Trinity River to Magnolia, the port for Palestine. Arrival of the International-Great Northern Railroad in 1872 led to the demise of local river shipping, as the railroad opened year-round travel to the east, to Houston, and to Laredo. The road also changed the face of the town, since the line bypassed the courthouse hill and built its shops, switching yards, and offices on level ground nearly a mile to the west. A horse-drawn streetcar line was built to connect the courthouse and railroad station, but that proved to be uneconomical, and the single car was sold to the budding city of Dallas. By 1896 a new depot had been constructed. Large quantities of cotton, lumber, cottonseed oil, and fruit were shipped from Palestine. During the 1880s and 1890s stores, saloons, and lodging houses rapidly formed a new business district by the tracks. This resulted in two business districts, Old Town and New Town, a designation still used in 1990, though the two sections had long before grown together. By the 1890s Palestine had a population estimated at 6,000, several schools, a number of mills and gins, an opera house, a waterworks, a fire department, two private banks, and several churches, including two reserved for African Americans. In 1914 the county's fifth courthouse (still standing in 1990) was completed. Palestine then had a population estimated at 11,000, three daily and five weekly newspapers, saw and grist mills, railroad shops, cotton gins, a cotton compress, a foundry and machine shop, a brick factory, a saltworks, and a creamery.

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.

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Palestine by the Numbers

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Population Counts

Pop. Year Source
18,882 2019 Texas Demographic Center
18,712 2010 Texas Demographic Center
17,598 2000 Texas Demographic Center
18,042 1990 Texas Demographic Center
15,948 1980 Texas Demographic Center
14,525 1970 Texas Demographic Center
13,974 1960 Texas Demographic Center
12,503 1950 Texas Demographic Center
12,144 1940 Texas Demographic Center
11,445 1930 Texas Demographic Center
11,039 1920 Texas Demographic Center
10,482 1910 Texas Demographic Center
8,297 1900 Texas Demographic Center
5,838 1890 Texas Demographic Center
2,997 1880 Texas Demographic Center