Stephen F. Austin State University

Newton County

Newton County is located in southeastern Texas near the Louisiana border. Caddoan and Atakapan Indian tribes lived in the territory until the emergence of the Alabama-Coushatta Indians in the early 1800s. The Mexican government portioned territory to Lorenzo de Zavala in 1829, and in 1846 the Texas Legislature incorporated portions of Jasper County to form Newton County, whose namesake is John Newton (an American Revolutionary War veteran). The county seat is also Newton. During the first fifteen years of existence, farmers utilized their large slave population to produce corn and cotton.

The county voted in favor of secession and contributed a small force to the Confederate cause, but did not experience the political mess of Reconstruction. After Reconstruction and through the Great Depression, Newton County resumed agricultural production of corn, cotton, and livestock while the population increased. Also during this period, steamships, railroads, and the lumber industry provided additional employment and stabilized the economy's infrastructure.

Like other counties in East Texas, Newton County's economy experienced massive downturns, as farm prices increased and land values decreased. The steamships and lumber mills suffered also, which meant skyrocketing unemployment and resulted in a decrease in the county's population. However, after the discovery of iron ore deposits and the addition of electricity, Newton County stabilized and built an infrastructure based on manufacturing, although this did not last long. After World War II and through the 1990s, the county remained rural and agriculture remained the number one industry.

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Museum/Historic Site


Text: Handbook of Texas Online, Texas State Historical Association

To learn more about Newton County's history check out our Local Voices' writer Jonnie Miller's column "Newton County: A Glimpse From the Past" on our Local Voices page.