The Town With An Alias
By Bob Bowman
Omen, a small community of about 150 souls, may be the only town in East Texas that once went by an alias.
Located on State Highway 346 in southeastern Smith County about two miles west of Arp, the Omen area was settled by Arnold O'Brien and his family in 1848.
The following year, the Smith County Commissioners Court decided to build the Laarissa-Shreveport Road through the northern part of O'Brien's land, making the area accessible to other pioneers.
When O'Brien established a post office in his home in 1849 the area was named Round Hill.
But when Thomas N. Gregory replaced O'Brien in 1851, the post office got a new name, Canton. But the following year, the citizens named the town Clopton because there was already a Canton in Van Zandt County.
The post office was discontinued briefly in 1854, but reopened with the name of Troup. Residents, however continued to call the town Canton, even in legal documents.
In 1960, a deed called the town "Canton alias Troup" but a Masonic lodge was officially known as Canton Lodge.
Canton-alias-Troup prospered during the Civil War, especially with the arrival of the International-Great Northern from Gregg County to about four miles south of Canton alias Troup.
Many of the town's businesses moved south to Zavalla, a new railroad town, and the post office moved, too, but kept the name Troup.
Professor A.W. Orr did a lot to revive the community with a successful private school, Summer Hill Select School, which attracted students from Smith and surrounding counties. Many boarded with local families and others moved into the vicinity to attend the school.
In April of 1879, Dixon Bonner petitioned the U.S. Post Office Department to renew the local branch and the town got a new name, Old Canton.
But a year later, Old Canton was renamed Omen at the suggestion of Dr. Orr.
In four years, Omen had a population of 250, three doctors, a blacksmith, two carpenters and two grocers. By 1892, the town had 550 residents, including a justice of peace, a mayor, a constable and a sawmill.
Summer Hill School had 335 students, a courthouse was built on the town square, and the post office at Lock was transferred to Omen.
After merging its school with Arp in the early l940s, the town began to decline.
Andrews' Store, the last business in the community, closed in the l960s and in the l970s Omen had two churches, about 40 dwellings, and two cemeteries. Its population in 2000 was only 150.
(Bob Bowman of Lufkin is the author of 51 books about East Texas. He can be reached at bob-bowman.com)
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