Stephen F. Austin State University

Upshur County

Upshur County is located in upper northeast Texas, with its county seat at Gilmer. The county's namesake is in honor of Abel Parker Upshur, Secretary of State under President Tyler. Secretary of the Navy Thomas Walker Gilmer is the county seat's namesake. Caddo Indians lived on the land for centuries until European migration in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. After Texas' independence in 1846, the government formed Upshur County, and two years later the Legislature named Gilmer as the county seat.

Settlers from Alabama and Tennessee moved into Upshur County and began farming cotton and other plantation-style crops. Despite the growth in population, before the Civil War income from farming was very low. The county joined the Confederacy and experienced massive economic downturns afterward. Farmers lost a substantial portion of their work force after emancipation.

After Reconstruction, Upshur County recovered quickly with the railroads, which increased employment and the population as outsiders moved into the county. Improved transportation precipitated the improvement of timber mills and cotton production from the 1880s through the 1920s. Yet, the economy slowly eroded over the next decade despite the discovery of oil in 1931. Oil profits helped Upshur County through the Great Depression because rigs provided additional employment.

After World War II and through the 1980s, the timber industry returned to Upshur County as supplemental income to the low production of cotton income. Manufacturing, energy and livestock provide for the current economy of Upshur County.

Museum/Historic Site


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