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Robert Wooster

NEWTON, TEXAS. Newton, the county seat of Newton County, is at the junction of State Highway 87 and U.S. Highway 190, fifty miles northeast of Beaumont in the north central section of the county. Official settlement of the heavily timbered region was authorized in 1829, when Mexican authorities granted Lorenzo Manuel de Zavala an empresario contract that included much of Southeast Texas. In 1846 the Texas legislature gave the eastern half of Jasper County independent jurisdiction, and the newly organized Newton County was named in honor of John Newton, an American Revolutionary War veteran. Quicksand Creek and Burkeville, respectively, served as the Newton county seats until 1853. Disputed land titles at Burkeville led a local committee to lay out a new town and courthouse at the geographic center of the county. They called it Newton. Postal services appear to have been available to area residents for a few months in 1847, but a permanent post office did not open until 1853. Although a majority of electors voted to make Burkeville the county seat in 1855, the refusal of officials to move from the courthouse built by John Moore at Newton led the state legislature to reaffirm Newton's position the following year. In 1889 the W. H. Ford Male and Female College was chartered with Joseph F. Syler as president. The school later became the town's public high school. The population hovered between 150 and 200 throughout the 1880s and 1890s, when Newton had four general stores; saw, grist, and flour mills; and two or three hotels.

In 1906 the newly completed Orange and Northwestern Railway linked the rural town to Orange, Texas. The new railroad encouraged local development, especially of lumber-related industries. By 1913 Newton had fifteen mercantile establishments, including a turpentine plant with 200 employees. The population rose to 1,000 around this time. Declining prices, reduced timber resources, and the Great Depression signaled an end to the area's economic boom, however, and by World War II large numbers of Newton workers had begun commuting to Beaumont or Orange. Continued agricultural strength in the form of cotton, cattle, and hog raising; the presence of the county government; and the discovery of oil in the region apparently reduced the impact of the subsequent gradual decline in the number of timber-related manufactures. Newton was incorporated in 1935 and had 886 inhabitants in 1940; by 1980 the figure stood at 1,620. Of these citizens some 8.3 percent were black. The weekly Newton Herald, established in 1924, served the town until the 1970s. The Newton area has some of the best specimens of pyramid magnolia and bluejack oak in the United States. In 1990 the population was 1,885. The population reached 2,459 in 2000.

Newton County Historical Commission, Glimpses of Newton County History (Burnet, Texas: Nortex, 1982). Josephine Cochrum Peavy, A History of Newton County (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1942).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Robert Wooster, "NEWTON, TX," accessed April 08, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hjn05.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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