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County
Cherokee
Region
Pineywoods
Population
2010 Census - 5,551
2000 Census - 4,805
Nearby
Towns
Rusk, Texas
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Rusk Texas History:
In 1846, the Texas legislature established Rusk as the county seat of the newly formed Cherokee County. The town was named for Gen. Thomas Jefferson Rusk, one of the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence. A five member commission was charged with choosing a location within three miles of the county's geographical center. Their first choice for the new townsite was Cook’s Fork, the largest settlement in the area, but James Cook, the property owner, refused to sell the land. In 1847, they purchased 100 acres from James F. Timmons, and established the Rusk post office. The town was platted in a grid pattern with the courthouse square at the center. At the time of purchase, only the John Kilgore family was living at the site. Within two years, many businesses and residents from the Cook’s Fork area moved to Rusk. By 1850, Rusk had 355 residents. County officials originally met in a crude dogtrot cabin. In 1847 a county jail and a two room frame building courthouse were built. A larger courthouse was built in 1849, and a larger jail was built in 1855. Rusk’s first mayor was elected in 1856. The population grew rapidly during the 1850s; growth slowed during the Civil War, but rebounded in the 1870s when the International-Great Northern Railroad announced that it would construct a line across Cherokee County. In 1874, when the railroad decided to bypass Rusk, prominent Rusk citizens formed the Rusk Transportation Company and raised money to build a narrow gauge wooden tram railroad to join the I&GN at Jacksonville. The line was opened in 1875, but its wooden rails soon proved inadequate. The railroad was auctioned in 1879. In 1881, the property rights and franchises were purchased by the Kansas and Gulf Short Line Railroad, which completed a line from Tyler to Lufkin in 1885. The 1877 and 1883 construction of the Rusk Penitentiary gave the local economy a boost. In an attempt to make the penitentiary pay for itself, state officials constructed an iron foundry at the site. It was never very profitable and operations were suspended in 1910. The facility later became the Rusk State Hospital. When the timber and iron ore reserves near the penitentiary foundry were depleted, the state purchased land in the western portion of the county. In 1893, the state constructed a rail line linking the prison with in Rice and Woodlawn. By 1903 the fourteen-mile long line was running from Rusk to Camp Wright near the site of present Maydelle. Between 1882 and 1890 the population in Rusk grew from 626 to 2,000. When the iron-mining venture in New Birmingham collapsed, many of those residents moved to Rusk. In 1903, the Texas and New Orleans Railroad built a line through Cherokee County, bypassing Rusk. Rusk officials and businessmen wanted a second rail. They successfully petitioned the state to pass a bill authorizing the extension of the line from Rusk to Palestine where it would connect to the I&GN line. The bill further stipulated that the T&NO would be required to build a branch line from Gallatin. The line between Rusk and Palestine is now the Texas State Railroad. Rusk reached a population of 2,750 in 1929, and 3,859 in 1936. Today Rusk remains a commercial center for the surrounding agricultural, lumber, and iron ore industries. The nearby Texas State Railroad, now operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Rusk State Park, attracts numerous tourists to the area. Rusk is located east of the Neches River and west of the Angelina River at the intersections of U.S. 69, U.S. 84, SH 110, and FMs 23, 241, 343, and 768, 9.5 miles east of Maydelle, 30.4 miles slightly northeast of Palestine, 53.4 miles southeast of Athens, 30 miles southeast of Frankston, 26 miles southeast of Lake Palestine (the lake), 27 miles southeast of Bullard, 14 miles southeast of Jacksonville, 41,5 miles southeast of Tyler, 35 miles slightly southeast of Whitehouse, 26 miles south of Troup, 14.6 miles south of New Summerfield, 51 miles southwest of Kilgore, 39.5 miles southwest of New London, 42.6 miles southwest of Joinerville, 36.7 miles southwest of Henderson, 57 miles southwest of Tatum, 57 miles southwest of Carthage, 30 miles southwest of Mount Enterprise, 16.5 miles southwest of Sacul, 21 miles west of Cushing, 38 miles northwest of Nacogdoches, 44 miles northwest of Lufkin, 25.6 miles northwest of Wells, 12 miles northwest of Alto, 45.5 miles northeast of Crockett, 32 miles northeast of Grapeland, and 14.6 miles northeast of New Summerfield, Texas. 
 
Historic Rusk Footbridge, Texas Historical Marker Text, 1889:
This 546 foot long bridge was first built in 1861 as a means for residents living two miles east of Rusk to get to New Birmingham during rainy seasons. It was rebuilt in 1889 by T.H. Barnes. In the 1960s, it was moved to Rusk and restored using Barnes’ original plans. It is billed as the longest foot bridge in the U.S., and is open to pedestrian traffic. The bridge is maintained by the City of Rusk. It is located in Footbridge Garden Park at the end of 5th Street and Lone Oak, 2 blocks east of the courthouse square.
 
Historic Confederate Commissary Sugar House Story:
This private event took place at the Confederate Commissary then located in the Sugar House on Main Street, off the courthouse square. This building is now a private residence. The Confederate government established the commodities program to provide food to widows and indigent families whose men were fighting in the Civil War. The commissary had a stash of sugar which was reserved for troops; citizens received corn and meat. This situation was maddening for Rusk residents. When it became apparent that the South was going to lose the war, the residents vowed that the Union soldiers would not get the sugar. When the Confederate soldiers learned that the commissary was going to be raided by both the residents and the Union Army, they formed a ring around the commissary and warned residents that the Union soldiers were on the way. The Rusk area war widows came to the commissary to get the sugar. The soldiers could not bring themselves to shoot the women so they relaxed their guard. Some of the widows rushed the commissary and took the sugar. This caused a wild melee between those that had the sugar and those that did not. Some got away with a stash of sugar, but much of the sugar was left on the ground. When the Union soldiers arrived they ordered their troops to confiscate what sugar they could, including the sugar on the ground.
 
Cherokee County Courthouse, 1941:
The stone courthouse was designed in modern style by architects Gill and Bennett. The courthouse was paid for from WPA funds. The courthouse annex was built in 1955. A Cherokee County inmate created the mural on the courthouse’s upper floor depicting the history of Cherokee County. The stunning mural extends from the east to the west side of the building. The walls on the ground floor are lined with vintage county photos, and portraits of famous Texans, famous Cherokee County residents, and local heroes. The 2010 Cherokee County Census was 50,845. (903) 683-2324. 135 South Main Street, Rusk, Texas 75785. Email    
 
WPA Post Office Murals History:
During the Great Depression FDR created the New Deal Program to provide jobs for out of work American men by funding construction projects to build post offices and other buildings, and state and local parks. The Works Progress Administration (WPA) was created in May, 1935, under the New Deal Program. The U.S. Treasury Department’s Section of Painting and Sculpture, later known as The Section of Fine Arts, put artists to work by funding Post Office Murals to be placed in the new post offices. Though the majority of the post office art consists of oil paintings on canvas, other art mediums were also used. The murals are located in every state. Post Office Murals Photos
 
Rusk WPA Post Office Mural, 1940:
The "Agriculture and Industry" mural was painted by Polish immigrant Bernard Zacheim in 1940. He also painted the Mineola Texas WPA post office mural. (903) 683-4741. The mural is located at the Rusk post office at 112 W. 5th Street, Rusk.
 
Heritage Center of Cherokee County:
The museum is housed in the old Barr Grocery Store which was donated to Rusk by the Norman Foundation of Jacksonville. The museum features exhibits and artifacts depicting the history of Cherokee County and Rusk. Exhibits include Governor Jim Hogg’s old poster bed, a 1928 Model A Ford, photos and artifacts from the New Birmingham iron making community once located 2 miles southeast of Rusk, timber industry artifacts, Texas State Railroad items, and many vintages photos. Open Sat, 10am-5pm; Sun, 1pm-5pm. A small admission fee applies. (903) 683-5665. 208 S. Henderson Street. Email    
 
Cherokee Civic Theater:
They produce four shows during their October through April season, host adult and children’s educational programs, and offer a youth summer camp. The 2010 season began with Roald Dahl/s Willy Wonka. Season and individual tickets are available by phone, at the door, or at the box office. The box office is open every week day (2pm-5pm) for the two weeks prior to the opening night of each show. (903) 683-2131; leave a message if calling after hours. The theater is located at 157 W. 5th Street, just off the courthouse square, and adjacent to the post office. Email 
 
Sacul Opry House Music, 4th Saturday of each Month, Sacul:
These events are sponsored by the Sacul Bluegrass Opry which is owned by Novis White and Kenneth Garner. The opry is housed in a historic 102 year old building, about the only building in town. Four to six Bluegrass, Gospel, or Country Music bands perform each month. Shows start at 6:30pm, and are free to the public. Donations are requested for the building upkeep. The show has been featured in various publications including Texas Highways and Reader's Digest. The Opry House is open Fridays from noon to 5pm for those who want to drop by and do some pickin'. Cowboy and Sara Barrett help run the Sacul Opry each month, and also host two annual Bluegrass Reunions at their Sandyland Farm. (936) 569-1179. Sacul is located 26 miles northeast of Alton, 16.5 miles northeast of Rusk, 5 miles west of Cushing, and 26 miles northwest of Nacogdoches, Texas. Sacul Texas Map; Click to Enlarge   Sacul Texas Area Map
 
Tyler Junior College at Rusk:
(903) 510-2114. The college is located on U.S. 69 (North Dickinson Drive) in the Rusk State Hospital Complex. The hospital is located at 805 North Dickinson Drive. Hospital Location Map 
 
Singletary Memorial Library:
The library provides traditional library programs, children, youth and adult programs, summer programs, public access computers with internet connections, computer and GED classes, and free Wi-Fi. Beginning computer classes are held every Monday and Wednesday at 9am. GED classes are held on Tue, 1pm-3pm at the Rusk Civic Center (555 Euclid Street). The library is open Mon-Fri, 10am-5:30pm; closed Saturday and Sunday. (903) 683-5916. 207 E. 6th Street.