Stephen F. Austin State University

Henderson County

Henderson County lies in the heart of East Texas. The landscape is comprised of rich forests, along with natural resources such as oil and gas. The Texas Legislature approved the formation of Henderson County in 1846 in memorial of the state's first governor, James Pinckney Henderson. The county's seat is Athens.

The Hasinais Indian tribe, branch of the Caddos, occupied the land until French and Spanish in the sixteenth century. The European explorers took interest in the Hasinais people, noting their hospitality and good will. The Hasinais word for "friendly" was Tejas, which was the original name for Texas.

Farming was the predominant industry in the 1840s and 1850s. The county farmed corn, sweet potatoes, and other items. Cotton proved to be a valuable cash crop. Cotton became an important cash crop that settlers brought to the region. On the eve of the Civil War, Henderson County had transformed into a manufacturing society. Along with cotton, corn, and sweet potatoes, the county produced cattle, tobacco, peas and oats.

Henderson County joined the Confederacy, and Reconstruction hit the county hard. Yet, the county raised funds to bring the St. Louis Southwestern Railway into the county in the 1870s and 1880s. The county experienced a surge in agricultural production between 1890 and 1930, before the economy dropped off because of the Great Depression. Once the economy recovered, from the 1940s onward Henderson County expanded its production into manufacturing.

City/State/Federal Agency


Text: Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association.