Vista K. McCroskey

STARRVILLE, TEXAS. Starrville is three miles east of Winona and one mile northeast of Starrville Mountain at the intersection of Farm roads 757 and 16 in northern Smith County. Originally part of the I. W. Hall Survey, by 1849 it had become a stop on the Dallas-Shreveport Road, an early stage and trade route. That year the post office, called Gum Springs after the local baptismal and swimming hole, began operations; Rice Wells was postmaster. In 1852 the Reverend Joshua Starr, a Methodist minister from Alabama, bought the Hall Survey, all 640 acres, and began selling town lots where the sale of liquor was illegal. The Bethel Baptist Church was founded that year under the direction of John Rasbury, the first minister, though they had no meeting house. Around this time, one of the earliest fairs, if not the first, in the county was held in the thriving settlement. The Starrville Methodist Church was built in 1853, and Starr Masonic Lodge Number 118 began meeting above it. The name of the post office was changed to Starrville in 1857. Two years later the Baptist congregation completed its first structure. During the 1850s the Reverend M. H. Porter was principle of the Methodist Female Academy. The Starrville Female High School was chartered in 1856. Other educational institutions were a male college, a female college, and a male high school. Businesses included hotels, gristmills, sawmills, foundries, and a wagon makers shop. The town was also served by dentists and doctors, and a stage line ran from Starrville to Tyler. The Starrville Union Academy was chartered in 1860, consolidating the male and female high schools, and Bethel Baptist Church founded the Anna Judson Female Institute. Census records for that year listed six businesses, most located on the town square, and 183 families. In August 1860 residents organized a local patrol in fear of slave insurrections, but no incidents occurred. During the summer of 1862 Starrville became the site of one of the largest army encampments in the county when Gen. Henry McCulloch and his troops bivouacked there in preparation for a march to Little Rock. Business, however, continued much the same as before.

Late in the 1870s local leaders refused to allow the Tyler Tap Railroad to run a line through their town. As a result many Starrville residents and businesses soon moved to nearby Winona, a prosperous new rail stop. In 1892 Starrville had 200 inhabitants, a gristmill, a flour mill, two cotton gins, a blacksmith shop, a sawmill, and one general store. The mail still arrived daily, and the municipal government employed a justice of the peace and two constables. The local academies had closed, but residents still attended Methodist and Baptist churches. There were also three physicians and a dentist. Records for 1903 listed three Starrville schools. One facility employed two teachers and had sixty-six white pupils. The other two had one teacher each and a combined enrollment of 100 black students. The following year the town population had decreased to 122. In 1907 the Masonic Lodge and the post office moved to Winona. Early in the 1920s thirty white students attended a large single-story frame schoolhouse, but in 1924 the system enlarged when Baker Springs was consolidated into the district. A new school building opened in September 1927. During the Great Depression Starrville farmers participated in the Duck Creek Project, experimenting with soil erosion prevention. Maps for 1936 identified a church, a cemetery, one business, two schools, and a large cluster of dwellings. One school employed two instructors and provided elementary courses for black students. The other had five teachers and 115 white pupils in grades one through nine. In 1940 a Methodist church, a school, three businesses, and 150 residents were reported. In 1950 Starrville had a population of 100 and four businesses. By 1952 the school had been absorbed into the Gladewater system but was later transferred to the Winona Independent School District. Maps for 1966 showed a church and ten dwellings. In 1973 the population was seventy-five, and the community had two businesses, a church, and a cemetery. Starrville reported a population of seventy-five in 1990. The population remained the same in 2000.

Vicki Betts, Smith County, Texas, in the Civil War (Tyler, Texas: Smith County Historical Society, 1978). Edward Clayton Curry, An Administrative Survey of the Schools of Smith County, Texas (M.Ed. thesis, University of Texas, 1938). "Lindale CCC Camp Work on the Duck Creek Project Area Farms," Chronicles of Smith County, Summer 1978. "Post Offices and Postmasters of Smith County, Texas: 1847–1929," Chronicles of Smith County, Spring 1966. "School Sights," Chronicles of Smith County, Fall 1969. Smith County Historical Society, Historical Atlas of Smith County (Tyler, Texas: Tyler Print Shop, 1965). Donald W. Whisenhunt, comp., Chronological History of Smith County (Tyler, Texas: Smith County Historical Society, 1983). Albert Woldert, A History of Tyler and Smith County (San Antonio: Naylor, 1948).

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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, Vista K. McCroskey, "STARRVILLE, TX," accessed May 21, 2019,

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