Rusk, Texas

Rusk, Texas

Cherokee County Courthouse in the City of Rusk, Texas. Photograph by Larry D. Moore.

Rusk, the county seat and second largest city of Cherokee County, is near the geographic center of the county at the junction of U.S. highways 69 and 84, State Highway 110, and Farm roads 241, 343, 752, 768, 1248, 1857, and 2972, 120 miles southeast of Dallas. The town was established by an act of the Texas legislature on April 11, 1846, which defined the boundaries of Cherokee County and called for the county seat to be named for Gen. Thomas Jefferson Rusk, one of the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence. The law stipulated that the new county seat be located within three miles of the county's geographical center and named a five-member commission to determine the town's exact site. The commission originally wanted to locate Rusk at Cook's Fort, the largest settlement in the area near the junction of the Neches-Saline and Fort Houston roads. But after James Cook, the owner of the property, refused to sell the land, the commission opted for a 100-acre tract in the James Hundley survey, owned since 1839 by James F. Timmons. Timmons agreed to sell the property, situated three miles east of the Saline Road, for $600, and on April 13, 1847, the land was deeded for a townsite. At the time only John Kilgore and his family lived on the site; but within two years most of the families in and around Cook's Fort had moved the new town, and by 1850 Rusk reportedly had 355 residents. A post office was authorized on March 8, 1847, and the town's first church, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, was organized by Rev. J. B. Harris in May 2, 1847. The first Masonic Lodge in the county, Euclid Lodge 45, was chartered on July 15, 1848. Like many early Texas towns, Rusk was laid out on a grid pattern based on the Shelbyville plan with a courthouse square in the center. The county court originally met in a crude log dogtrot cabin, but in August 1847 a contract was let for a two-room frame building with brick chimneys. The town's first jail was built the same year, and a larger frame courthouse was erected in 1849. A larger jail was built in 1855, and a brick building to house the county and district clerk's offices was constructed on the northeast corner of the square in 1859; the latter structure stood until it was razed in 1941. Most of the town's early businesses were clustered around the courthouse square. During the late 1840s and early 1850s Granville J. Carter and Theron L. Philleo opened general merchandise stores on the north side of the square; and E. T. Givens and F. T. Hayden operated a grocery and saloon respectively, on the west end. A city charter was approved in 1850, and a second charter was adopted in 1856 when the town's first mayor, E. W. Bush, was elected. The town's first school was taught by the Presbyterian minister J. B. Harris; in 1848 Cherokee Academy, a private subscription school, was chartered; and in 1851 another private school, the Stephens and Carter Academy was established. The latter institution, housed in an impressive two-story structure on Henderson Street, eventually developed into the Rusk Male and Female Academy, which survived into the latter portion of the nineteenth century.

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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Dedication Message:
in memory of my grandmother, Hallie Wiggins, my window into history

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Rusk is classified as a Town


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Rusk by the Numbers

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Population Counts

Pop. Year Source
5,285 2020 United States Census Bureau
5,745 2019 Texas Demographic Center
5,551 2010 United States Census Bureau
5,085 2000 United States Census Bureau
4,366 1990 United States Census Bureau
4,681 1980 United States Census Bureau
4,914 1970 United States Census Bureau
4,900 1960 United States Census Bureau
6,598 1950 United States Census Bureau
5,699 1940 United States Census Bureau
3,859 1930 United States Census Bureau
2,348 1920 United States Census Bureau
1,558 1910 United States Census Bureau
846 1900 United States Census Bureau
1,383 1890 United States Census Bureau
1,000 1870 United States Census Bureau
395 1858 Texas Demographic Center
355 1850 United States Census Bureau