Livingston, the county seat of Polk County, is at the junction of U.S. highways 190 and 59, State Highway 146, and Farm Road 1316, seventy-five miles north of Houston in the southern part of the county. The area was acquired in 1835 by Moses L. Choate, who surveyed a townsite called Springfield in 1839. In 1846, when Polk County was delineated from northern Liberty County, the seat of government was established near the geographic center of the new county near Springfield. Choate donated more than 100 acres to the project on the condition that it be named the county seat. The post office, secured in 1847, was named Livingston in honor of Choate's hometown in Tennessee. In the early years the community served a largely agricultural area which produced primarily cotton and corn. The Rising Sun was published there from 1858 to 1861 and again from 1865 to 1867. Yet growth remained slow, with the population estimated at 135 in 1880. The construction of the Houston East and West Texas Railway through Livingston that year brought rapid change, however, and lumbermen built numerous sawmills in and around the county seat. Several newspapers, including the Polk County Banner, the East Texas Pinery, the Local Progress, the National Alliance, and the Livingston Local, were published during the latter nineteenth century at Livingston. The town also served as a trading center for area farmers, who set up a Farmers' Alliance store during the late 1880s. By 1900 the population had reached 1,024. Although fire destroyed much of the town in 1902 during a dry-wet controversy, development in Livingston continued. On October 2, 1902, the city of Livingston was incorporated. A brick factory was built shortly after the fire. The telephone company was organized in 1903, and the power plant was constructed in 1905. The Livingston and Southeastern Railway provided a common carrier link between Livingston and the community and sawmill at Knox (later known as Soda) in 1905. Three years later the Beaumont and Great Northern Railroad tracks reached Livingston from Trinity County, thus tying the Polk county seat to the lucrative forests to the northwest. In 1917 construction of State Highway 35 (now U.S. 59) gave the town another major transportation artery. Although its population fell to 928 by 1925, as the local timber was giving out and mills began to move away, the 1932 discovery of oil at the Livingston field ten miles south sparked new growth. By 1936 there were ninety-three producing wells in the field, and the town had extended its city limits.
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