TEXARKANA, TEXAS. Texarkana is at the junction of Interstate 30 and U.S. highways 59, 67, 71, and 82 in extreme northeastern Texas on the Texas-Arkansas border. It was named for its location on the state line between Bowie County, Texas, and Miller County, Arkansas, only a short distance above the Louisiana boundary. The three parts of its name honor the three states. There is some debate about the actual origins of the name, which was in use some time before the town's founding. According to one tradition, the name was derived from a steamboat known as the Texarkana, which plied the water of the Red River as early as 1860. Others claim that a man named Swindle, who ran a general store in Red Land, Bossier Parish, Louisiana, manufactured a drink called "Texarkana Bitters." Yet another story claims that when the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railroad was building its line through the area, Col. Gus Knobel, who made the survey, coined the name and erected a large sign at the site. The strategic position of Texarkana is the keynote to its history and development. The Great Southwest Trail, for hundreds of years the main line of travel from Indian villages of the Mississippi River country to those of the South and West, passed by a Caddo Indian village on the site that later became Texarkana. Seventy Indian mounds, reminders of Caddo occupation and culture, are within a radius of thirty miles of Texarkana. Texarkana has remained a gateway to the Southwest. When the builders of the Cairo and Fulton Railroad crossed Arkansas in the late 1850s and by 1874 pushed their rails beyond the Red River to the border line of Texas, they met there the rail head that had been extended to the state line by the builders of the Texas and Pacific. The road from the south bank of Red River was completed on January 15, 1874, to the state line, where the city of Texarkana had been established on December 8, 1873, at the site where the two roads would join. The Texas and Pacific Railway Company laid out the Texas side of the town. The plat included land from the railroad yards to Seventh Street, and west from the state line to Deutschmann's Canal. The first business, a combination drug and grocery store operated by George M. Clark, opened on December 8, 1873. In 1876 Texarkana, Texas, was granted a charter under an act of the state legislature.
State Line Avenue, the town's main street, was laid out exactly along the dividing line between the two states. Initially the town had only a single post office, on the Arkansas side of the town. Those living on the Texas side requested a post office of their own. Postal officials granted the request, and a post office, known as Texarkana, Texas, operated from 1886 to 1892, when it was closed. For some time after that the post office was known as Texarkana, Arkansas, until Congressman John Morris Sheppard secured a postal order changing the name officially to Texarkana, Arkansas-Texas. By 1896 Texarkana had a waterworks, an electric light plant, five miles of streetcar lines, gas works, four daily and weekly newspapers, an ice factory, a cotton compress, a cotton oil mill, a sewer system, brick schools, two foundries, a machine shop, a hotel, and a population of 14,000. In 1907 Texarkana, Texas, was accorded city status, and granted a new charter. By 1925 the Texas side of the town had a population of 11,480, many of whom worked for one of the railroads or in processing agricultural products. During the Great Depression of the early 1930s the number of businesses declined from 840 in 1931 to 696 in 1936, but the town's economic fortunes recovered by the early 1940s, buoyed in part by the construction of Red River Army Depot and the Lone Star Army Ammunition plant. In 1948 Texarkana, as the junction of four important railroad systems with eight outlets, was one of the major railroad centers of the Southwest. The city was also important as a commercial and industrial center. The industries have been built around three natural resource-a rich timbered area, fertile agricultural lands, and abundant and diversified mineral deposits.
While commercially one city, Texarkana consists of two separate municipalities, aldermanic in form, with two mayors and two sets of councilmen and city officials. There is a cooperative arrangement for the joint operation of fire department, food and dairy inspection, sewage disposal, environmental sanitation, and supervised recreational programs. The Federal Building has the distinction of being the only building of its kind situated in two states. The entire city in 1952 had a population of 40,490, the Texas portion reporting 24,657. The town continued to prosper during the post-World War II era. By 1960 the total population reached 50,006 (30,218 in Texas and 19,788 in Arkansas). The population for the entire metropolitan area in that year was 91,657 (59,971 in Bowie County, Texas, and 31,686 in Miller County, Arkansas). In 1970 the area population was 101,198, with 67,813 in Bowie County, Texas, and 33,385 in Miller County, Arkansas. The population of Texarkana that year was 52,179, with 30,497 persons living on the Texas side and 21,682 residents on the Arkansas side. The economy of this northeast Texas area has continued to grow at a steady pace, with more emphasis towards industry. The average annual agricultural income for the Texas section was between $12 million and $13 million by 1970. Crops raised included cotton, corn, rice, soybeans, pecans, and truck crops; livestock and poultry accounted for 75 percent of the farm income. Industries in the area included the manufacture and marketing of lumber products, sewer tile, rockwool, sand and gravel, mobile homes and accessories, municipal hardware supplies, tires, railroad tank cars, and paper products. Also of great importance to the economy of the entire area is a federal correctional unit there. Retail trade, like the industrial growth, continued to increase steadily. The city of Texarkana is the transportation, commercial, and industrial center for this Texas-Arkansas area, as well as the hub for portions of Oklahoma and Louisiana; it is also the educational, cultural, and medical center of the metropolitan area. Texarkana College, a fully accredited junior college, includes the William Buchanan Department of Nursing. The Civic Music Association, with patrons from the entire metropolitan area, brings in artists of national and international fame. Texarkana serves the area with three major hospitals and several modern clinics. Supplying water for industrial development are Wright Patman Lake and the Millwood Reservoir in Arkansas. Both are also important recreational sites. The Texarkana area holds an annual Four States Fair and Rodeo, plus other rodeos, band festivals, and a Miss Texarkana Pageant. In 1992 Texarkana had a total population of 120,132, 31,656 of whom lived on the Texas side.
Barbara Overton Chandler and J. E. Howe, History of Texarkana and Bowie and Miller Counties, Texas-Arkansas (Texarkana, Texas-Arkansas, 1939). Lucile Couch, A Tale of Two Cities (Not by Dickens): Texarkana, Arkansas, and Texarkana, Texas (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1934). Gus J. Ghio, Souvenir of Texarkana, Arkansas and Texas (Texarkana: F. L. McConnel, 1904). Lucille Holland, Texarkana Story, 1873–1948 (Texarkana: Altrusa Club, 1949). William D. Leet, Texarkana: A Pictorial History (Norfolk, Virginia: Donning, 1982). Marker Files, Texas Historical Commission, Austin. The Texarkana Gateway to Texas and the Southwest (St. Louis: Woodward and Tiernan Printing Company, 1896). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article."TEXARKANA, TX," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hdt02), accessed November 29, 2015. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Get Texas history everyday,
with day by day
Each day's email tells a little bit more of the story of Texas and links to our collection of more than 27,000 articles