Megan Biesele

OVERTON, TEXAS. Overton is on the Smith county line sixteen miles northwest of Henderson in northwestern Rusk County. It was laid out in 1873 at a site that was to be the junction of two railroad lines and was named for Frank Overton, an early settler who owned land in the area and donated some of it for a townsite. That same year the first post office was established with James B. Harper as postmaster. The Henderson and Overton Branch Railroad, completed by the mid-1870s, was about sixteen miles long. Overton was a principal shipping point for the International-Great Northern, the first post-Civil War rail system in Rusk County. The town's population grew when the railroad bypassed Rocky Mount, Belleview, and Jamestown, and the citizens of these towns moved to the rail line at Overton. The founder of Overton offered free lots to any Jamestown businessman who would relocate, and many did. The Masons and Odd Fellows erected a frame schoolhouse at the townsite; the teacher was C. C. Doyle. A Baptist church was founded at the community in 1875, and Hubbard College was founded in 1876. In 1888 an Overton newspaper described the town as having "15 or more good businesses, two large hotels, numerous buildings, a fine chartered school, excellent society, pure air, good water," and "a population of over 500." Overton was primarily a farming center until oil was discovered in the area around 1930. Residents helped raise funds to finance the drilling of C. M. (Dad) Joiner's third well. The success of the East Texas oilfield led to prosperity for Overton; businesses, churches, schools, and a bank were built. Refineries, oilfield-supply companies, and an iron works contributed to the town's economy. Overton had declined from a population of 568 in 1904 to 426 in 1931. The oil boom caused rapid growth: by 1933 the population had shot up to 3,000, and it reached 4,500 by 1936. It dropped to 2,313 by 1945 and remained at around 2,000 from the 1950s through the 1970s. The population began to rise again during the 1980s and was reported at 2,430 in 1983. The number of businesses reported at Overton peaked at 142 during the 1950s. In the 1980s Overton was the second largest town in the county. By 1991 the incorporated town had expanded into Smith County, and it reported a population of 2,048, with 104 rated businesses. In 2000 the population was 2,350.


Kilgore News Herald, July 16, 1972. The Overton Story (Overton, Texas, Centennial Corporation, 1973). Dorman H. Winfrey, A History of Rusk County (Waco: Texian, 1961).

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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, Megan Biesele, "OVERTON, TX," accessed January 18, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hjo07.

Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Modified on April 30, 2019. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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