Praries & Lakes
2010 Census - 12,710
2000 Census - 11,297
Athens, Texas
Athens Texas History:
The first area settlers were E.J. Thompson and Joab McManus who arrived in 1850. Buffalo was the Henderson County seat from 1846 to 1848 when Centerville became the newly elected county seat. When the Henderson County boundaries were altered in 1850, Buffalo and Centerville were no longer located in the county. Matthew Cartwright donated 160 acres for the new town of Athens, and Samuel Huffer platted the streets, the courthouse square, and 112 lots. A $65 log cabin courthouse was constructed in November 1850. Athens incorporated in 1856, but town improvements were not made until 1900. Prior to this time, the streets and sidewalks were unpaved, weeds covered the town square, and the houses were unpainted. Athens reincorporated in 1901. Athens grew from 177 residents in 1859 to 1,500 in 1890. In the 1880s, Fletcher Davis introduced the hamburger sandwich in his café on the courthouse square. It was so popular that in 1904, a group of Athens businessmen raised enough money to send Fletcher to the St. Louis World’s Fair where he introduced hamburgers to the world. Cotton was the major crop until the 1930s when cotton prices fell, and farmers switched to growing produce and raising livestock. Oil and gas exploration in the region began in 1928, and some production occurred in the 1940s. Walter and Clyde Barrow established the B & B Café in the 1930s. Clyde’s girlfriend, Bonnie, often went with him to eat a meal in the back of the restaurant while the sheriff ate in the main eating area. Apparently, Bonnie & Clyde needed more income than the restaurant produced, or maybe they just didn’t like the food. At one-time corn, tomatoes and black-eyed peas were major crops. The black-eyed pea production was so great that the town was named the “Black Eyed Pea Capitol of Texas.” In the 1980s the major industries were livestock, hay and plant nurseries. Athens is located at the intersections of U.S. 175, SH 31 (Corsicana Street), SH 19 (Palestine Street) and several FMs (Farm to Market), 75 miles southeast of Dallas, 56 miles southeast of Ennis and Bardwell Lake, 41 miles southeast of Kaufman, 48 miles southeast of Lake Tawakoni, 38.6 miles southeast of Wills Point, 23 miles southeast of Gun Barrel City, 19.8 miles southeast of Mabank and the Cedar Creek WMA, 24.6 miles south of Canton, 58 miles southwest of Alba and the Lake Fork Reservoir, 54 miles southwest of Mineola and Lake Hawkins, 38 miles southwest of Grand Saline, 36 miles southwest of Tyler and Tyler State Park, 25 miles southwest of Chandler and Lake Palestine, 53 miles northwest of Rusk, 39 miles northwest of Jacksonville and Lake Jacksonville, 23 miles northwest of Frankston, 58 miles northwest of Grapeland and Mission Tejas State Park, 35 miles northwest of Palestine and the Texas State Railroad, 82 miles north of Centerville (former Henderson County seat), 66.5 miles northeast of Buffalo (the former Henderson County seat), 45.5 miles northeast of Fairfield and Fairfield Lake State Park, 23 miles northeast of the Richland Chambers Reservoir and WMA, and 35 miles northeast of Corsicana, Texas.
Henderson County Courthouse, 1913:
The courthouse was designed in classical revival style by architect L. L. Thurman. The wonderful wings project from the building at an angle. The courthouse has a low center dome that is difficult to see from certain angles. The 2010 Henderson County census was 78,532. (903) 675-6120. 100 East Tyler Street, Athens, TX 75751.  
Henderson County Jail, 1925:
The building housed the jail until 1991. The jail now houses the Henderson County Historical Society. The society’s research materials include vintage photos, obituaries, CSA pension files, and family, community and club histories. Open Wed-Fri, 9am-5pm. (903) 677-7269. The jail is located at 201 East Larkin Street. Email