Stephen F. Austin State University

Shelby County

Shelby County is located on the easternmost boundary separating Texas and Louisiana. The county seat is Center. Much like other counties in East Texas, Caddo Indians lived in the area before Anglo explorers in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The Texas Legislature formed Shelby County in honor of former Kentucky governor and American Revolutionary War soldier Isaac Shelby. The original county seat was Shelbyville until a vote in 1866 established the seat in Center.

Residents outside of Texas migrated into the county and established the plantation-style of agricultural productivity, which incorporated the use of slavery. Corn and livestock were the two important items produced by farmers. Like other counties in East Texas, Shelby County joined the Confederacy and suffered the consequences afterward with loss of their main workforce. During the next half-century, Shelby County relied on agriculture to sustain itself economically was still rural. The number of farmers increased and began growing cotton as the top cash crop.

Most of the farmers utilized the same methods of production until the emergence of railroads in 1885 and 1904. Heading into World War II, Shelby County adopted a mix of agricultural and manufacturing industries. Yet, as other counties outside Shelby diversified manufacturing plants, Shelby suffered a population loss. From the 1980s onward, Shelby County retained an agricultural economy, along with the logging industry.

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