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LARISSA, TEXAS. Larissa is a rural community off Farm Road 855 twenty miles northwest of Rusk in northeastern Cherokee County. The area was first settled by Isaac Killough, his wife, and the families of his four sons and two daughters, who moved there from Talladega County, Alabama, in 1837. The following year, fearing attack because of unrest among the Cherokees living in the vicinity, Killough and his relatives fled to Nacogdoches. The Indians assured them that they would be safe harvesting their crops in the fall, but when they returned home a war party attacked the settlement, and most of the inhabitants were killed or carried off (see KILLOUGH MASSACRE). One member of the family later returned to the area, but resettlement did not occur until 1846, when a group of settlers from Tennessee led by Thomas H. McKee moved to the area. For a time the settlement was known as McKee Colony, but the following year McKee's son, T. N. McKee, laid out a townsite that he named Larissa, for an ancient city of learning in Greece. McKee, a Presbyterian minister, wanted a separate town from nearby Talladega, reportedly because that community had a saloon.
In 1848 the elder McKee built a one-room schoolhouse, which, according to local tradition, he paid for with money he received from the sale of a slave in Shreveport. In 1855 the Brazos Synod of the Cumberland Presbyterian Church assumed financial responsibility for the school, which became Larissa College. A Larissa post office began operating in 1847, and a Masonic lodge was founded in 1849. During the early 1850s Talladega failed, and most of the businesses moved to Larissa. At its height during the mid-1850s Larissa had four stores, a salt works, a church, a three-story college building, and two large dormitories. In 1866 the Presbyterians withdrew their support from the college, and in 1870 it was forced to close. The town, which had been largely dependent on the college for its existence, was gradually abandoned. A meningitis epidemic in 1872, which killed a number of the inhabitants, hastened the decline. When the Kansas and Gulf Short Line Railroad was built three miles east of the town in 1882, most of the remaining residents moved to the newly established community of Mount Selman, on the railroad. During the 1880s black tenants moved into many of the abandoned houses and businesses and farmed the surrounding land. The post office continued to operate until 1905, when service was suspended and the mail sent to Mount Selman. During the mid-1930s the predominantly black community had a church, a school, one store, and a number of houses. Afterward, most of the residents moved away, and in the early 1990s only a few scattered houses and a lodge hall remained at the site; no recent population estimates were available.
BIBLIOGRAPHY:T. Lindsay Baker, Ghost Towns of Texas (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986). Cherokee County History (Jacksonville, Texas: Cherokee County Historical Commission, 1986). Fred Hugo Ford and J. L. Browne, Larissa (1930?; rev. ed., Jacksonville, Texas: McFarland, 1951). Hattie Joplin Roach, A History of Cherokee County (Dallas: Southwest, 1934).
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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, Christopher Long, "LARISSA, TX," accessed July 19, 2019, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hvl29.
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