The Ghost Towns of Cherokee County
People come and go and so to the towns and communities of East Texas.
In the early days of East Texas numerous small towns dotted the landscape, however, over time those small towns' populations dwindled down to nothing and the town faded away or it became absorbed by neighboring larger towns and cities. That's what has happened to several, now non-existent, towns in Cherokee County here in East Texas. Taking a look through the Texas Escapes site online, these towns popped up along rail lines that once sustained a bustling community and town lifestyle but are now a distant memory. Many of these towns are still remembered through street names in neighboring cities.
Larissa has quite the history. Believed to be the site of the worst Indian attack in Texas history, Larissa was first settled by the Killough family in 1837. The family fled to Nacogdoches after being threatened by the Indians. The family returned to harvest corn from their fields and were ambushed and killed by the Indians. This massacre became known as the Killough Massacre.
The town was resettled after Texas was named a state and in 1846 the town was reestablished and was granted a post office in 1847. By the mid 1850's Larissa had a three story college building, dormitories, stores and numerous residents. A meningitis outbreak decimated the population in 1872, then, in 1882 the Kansas and Gulf Short Line Railroad was established in nearby Mt. Selman pulling residents away from Larissa. The post office closed in 1905. Today, a lodge hall and a scattering of residential homes remain.
In an effort to rival the Birmingham's in England and Alabama, this town had a great run bolstering more than 2000 residents in its prime. Established in the 1880's, this was purely a mining town, mining iron ore. The town featured a bank, newspaper, five story hotel, saloons, industry, stores, churches and a post office. The downfall of the town came in 1893 when a fire destroyed the furnace at the iron ore mining facility. People began moving away in droves and within three years only 200 people remained and the post office ceased operation in 1906. What remained of New Birmingham stood until 1926, when a fire claimed the last standing building, the hotel. All that remains today is a historical marker.
This small town located east of Rusk had roots dating back to the Civil War and received a post office for a short while in 1870 and 1871. By the 1930's Atoy had enough residents to sustain public schools, churches and stores. After WWII, the Atoy school system was absorbed by Rusk. The town slowly disappeared and all that's left of the community today are a cemetery, a couple of churches and residential homes.
Located along FM 23 eight miles southwest of Rusk sat Bulah. This community boasted a population of 25 during the 1940 census! Once WWII concluded, most of the residents left leaving behind the community school and a church, both of which are in use today, mainly for reunions.
This small town has quite the history! Settled in the late 1840's by people from Alabama and Tennessee, this town got it's name from a lost garment made out of old coffee sacks. Java grew in the 1890's when prison crews from the Texas State Penitentiary were brought in to mine for coal. The post office was opened in 1895 but closed in 1906 after the construction of the Texas State Railroad. Residents began moving away to nearby Maydelle.
The Kansas and Gulf Short Line Railroad was the main reason that Dialville became to exist in Cherokee County in 1883. Founded by store owner John Dial, the town was originally known as Dial but they had to change the name of the town to Dialville when they applied for a post office because Dial was already on the Texas maps in Fannin County. The Texas State Historical Association posts the towns population grew with the establishment of the East Texas tomato farming and peach orchards in 1900. By 1915 there were around 400 residents reading the news from two different local papers, but the towns population began to decline by the 1920's and by 1930 there were around 200 people left in the population and many of the businesses were forced to close due to the Great Depression. Today only a couple of churches remain in the Dialville area, which is about five miles south of Jacksonville.
Nestled along Hwy. 110 about fourteen miles north of Rusk sat Earl's Chapel from the 1850's until the 1930's. The town didn't have rail service so it was kind of isolated. Earle's Chapel was granted a post office in 1874 but closed after being open for only a few months. The central figure in the town was the man who settled the area, M. L. Earle. The town had a church and school which had an enrollment of 40 students in the 1930's. The town survived until the end of WWII when the majority of the population moved away. The church and a cemetery are all that remain today.
Appearing on the maps until the 1930's, Manila had been named after the defeat of the Spanish fleet at Manila Bay. Manila received a post office in 1899 and remained open until 1906.
Also known as Ghent, this town bolstered 500 residents along with a couple of stores, saw mills, churches and a school around 1890 and was located approximately nine miles northwest of Rusk. The post office opened in 1879 but closed in 1906. Gent became a ghost town by 1913 because other towns were popping up along the Texas State Railroad and its residents were moving away.
Starting out as a mill in the mid 1840's, Holcomb was home to a store, church, school along with residences that survived the Great Depression. Only a church and some homes remains of Holcomb, which is still remembered today on some county maps and was situated around FM 23 and FM 1857.
In the neighborhood of FM 2064 and FM 2750 north of Rusk sat Gould. A town that began in 1870 as a stop along the International-Great Northern railroad in the 1870's survived with a population of only 80 in 1914. The towns demise was lead by the Great Depression and then end of WWII.