Gary is on Farm Road 10 ten miles south of Carthage in southwest Panola County. About 1844 or 1845 the first families began to move into the area. J. H. Thomas arrived first and built a home that was a longtime landmark. A farming community developed and produced mainly cotton. The business area, originally known as Zuber, had a post office, a cotton gin, and stores. Gary was settled when the Marshall, Timpson and Sabine Pass Railroad was built between Timpson and Carthage. In 1898 the railroad reached the Thomas J. Hull farm midway between the two towns, and Hull and S. Smith Garrison collaborated in establishing a twenty-acre townsite. A depot opened, and the settlement was named in honor of Garrison's grandson, Gary Sanford. The community soon grew to a population of 300. The post office was moved from Mount Bethel and renamed Gary in 1899. By the early 1900s Gary had developed into a bustling sawmill town, as East Texas virgin forests were being cleared. The town was the center of business for both farming and sawmill interests. It had a cotton gin, sawmills, a hotel, stores, and saloons. The Red Front Saloon was the center of social activities of the rougher sort until the county became dry in 1905. Until the 1940s cotton remained a staple crop, and the community was also a major grower of tomatoes, introduced by an agricultural pioneer and civic leader, Dr. Zack L. Daniel. Gary shared in the East Texas prosperity from the development of the oil and gas industry from the 1940s into the 1980s. The population in the 1940s was between 400 and 500. It began to decline in that decade, when the cotton industry faded in East Texas. In 1988 Gary had a population of 351. The business community around the square had a general store, the post office, a pulpwood yard, and the Gary Gas Company. The school enrolled 240 students in grades kindergarten through twelve. Local economic activity was mainly pulpwood hauling and cattle ranching. Most residents were employed outside the community. Walter Prescott Webb and Woodward Maurice (Tex) Ritter were born in Gary. In 1990 the population was 271, and in 2000 it was 303.
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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