Texas County, largest of Missouri’s 114 counties, comprises 1179 square miles of Ozark Highland. With the same name as the second largest of the fifty states, it exceeds the smallest, Rhode Island.
When formed in 1843, it was named for the first lieutenant governor of Missouri, William H. Ashley, but when formally organized on February 14, 1845, it was renamed for the Republic of Texas.
A seat of justice for the county was laid out in 1846 near the center of the county on Brushy Creek and named Houston for the first president of the Texas Republic. The present courthouse, built in 1932, is the county’s sixth. It was remodeled in 1977 and again in 2007. The Texas County Justice Center built in 2007-08 is greatly appreciated.
Rugged hills, springs, creeks, rivers and caves abound in Texas County. The Indians were here in 1826. There have been many mounds found in the County as proof of Indian inhabitants. Indian paintings remain upon various bluffs over ancient campsites. The area was part of the 1808 Osage Indian land cession.
Pioneers came to Texas County in the 1820’s from Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and the Carolinas and set up sawmills along the Big Piney River. With plenty of water and among the pine timber, pioneers made a nice income rafting the timber down the Piney River toward St. Louis, Missouri. Some 48,000 acres in the north and northwest part of the county is now part of the Mark Twain National Forest, along with several acres in the southeast part of the county being part of the Ozark National Scenic River ways Park. They homesteaded the fertile valleys and soon log cabins dotted various parts of the country. Small family farms are still a major part of the landscape of the county. The population of the first Federal Census of Texas County in 1850 was 2,312 citizens. Life of the pioneer was happy and carefree, he knew nothing of food shortage, for he raised his own provisions, and with his trusty gun he could shoot various wild game. He hunted, trapped and sold furs to traveling buyers. Livestock was limited to razorback hogs and a few chickens. Horses were few and nearly everyone possessed a yoke of oxen. Farming has changed over the years. In the early 1900’s farmers grew crops such as corn, wheat, oats, hay, a few cattle, hogs, etc. The 1990’s found us to be a beef and dairy county along with the production of feeder pigs.
The Civil War period was a time of turmoil in Texas County. The populace was predominantly southern. The courthouse was occupied during the war by the Union Army as headquarters. Houston was an important place on the route from federal headquarters in Springfield to headquarters in Rolla. Some skirmishes were fought here. Confederate soldiers, stormed the town, burning every building. Before the courthouse burnt, the Confederate loaded up all the county records, hauled them to a cave on Arthurs Creek, and kept them there; returning all the books safely, after the conflict was over.
Early social activities were confined to church going when a preacher came to the community. Among the younger set, the amusements were old time hoedowns, candy pulling, corn husking, barn warming, quilting bees, and log rolling. Arts and crafts have and continue to enter into the lives of many. People still gather for church activities, auctions, musicals, square dancing and sports of all kind. Like the early pioneers today fishing and floating our rivers are very much a part of living in Texas County. Hunting is still enjoyed by many and county is one of the leading counties statewide for deer and turkey.
Education has always been very important to Texas County residents. No longer do we have the hundred plus rural one room school houses. Students are transported to one of the ten school districts serving the county for their education. College courses are offered in our towns and communities.
Incorporated communities include the Cities of Cabool, Houston, and Licking, part of the Cities of Summersville, part of Mountain Grove, the Village of Raymondville and the Village of Plato. The 2000 Federal Census of Texas County was 23,003 citizens. The present 23,556 people are enjoying the Ozarks.
Texas County with its generally mild climate has become a place many people come to retire. With its rural environment, fine education systems, good churches, great hunting and fishing, community spirit, businesses that employ our citizens in Texas County are a different breed, the friendliest and caring people in God’s universe.