While our physical offices are closed until at least April 13 due Austin's COVID-19 "shelter-in-place" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


DEFUNCT COUNTIES. At least thirty-two counties that were established by Texas law no longer exist. These defunct counties fall into five categories: (1) judicial counties; (2) counties established by declaration of the Constitutional Convention of 1868–69; (3) counties established by legislative act but never organized and later abolished by legislative act; (4) counties established outside the present boundaries of Texas; and (5) counties whose names have been changed. The so-called judicial counties had the same status as constitutional counties except that they were not represented in the Congress of the Republic of Texas. County seats were established; county courts were organized; county judges, surveyors, and land commissioners were appointed. At the spring 1842 term of the Texas Supreme Court, in the case of Stockton v. Montgomery, judicial counties were declared unconstitutional, principally because the Constitution of 1836 (see CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF TEXAS) specified that each county was entitled to at least one member in the House of Representatives. At its first session after the decision, the Republic of Texas Congress accepted the invalidity of the judicial counties but passed a law on July 18, 1842, that validated the acts of the surveyors and land commissioners of the defunct counties. The judicial counties were Burleson, Burnet, DeWitt, Guadalupe, Hamilton, La Baca, Madison, Menard, Neches, Panola, Paschal, Smith, Spring Creek, Trinity, Ward, and Waco. The Constitutional Convention of 1868–69, by declaration, attempted to organize Delta, Richland, Webster, and Latimer counties. Probably because of Texas prejudice against the radical Republican convention (see RECONSTRUCTION, and REPUBLICAN PARTY), the legislature never organized or legalized the counties, and three of them were never more than names. Delta County was reestablished by legislative act in 1870. The five counties authorized by the legislature but never organized were Buchel, Dawson, Encinal, Foley, and Wegefarth, though a separate Dawson County was later established on the Llano Estacado in 1876. Counties established outside the present boundaries of Texas were Greer, Worth, and Santa Fe, which were formed in areas that became parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico. Counties that were established under one name or functioned for a time under one name but have a different name at present include: Harrisburg County (changed to Harris County in 1839); Navasoto County (changed to Brazos County in 1842); Davis County (changed from Cass County in 1861 and back to Cass County in 1871); Buchanan County (changed to Stephens County in 1861); and Cibolo County (changed from Wilson to Cibolo and then back to Wilson County).


R. L. Batts, "Defunct Counties of Texas," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 1 (October 1897). James Wilmer Dallam, A Digest of the Laws of Texas (Baltimore: Toy, 1845). Hans Peter Nielsen Gammel, comp., Laws of Texas, 1822–1897 (10 vols., Austin: Gammel, 1898).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


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

Handbook of Texas Online, "DEFUNCT COUNTIES," accessed April 05, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hzd01.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on June 4, 2018. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Texas AlmanacFor more information about towns and counties including physical features, statistics, weather, maps and much more, visit the Town Database on TexasAlmanac.com!
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...