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History of Overton
The City of Overton, Texas located both in Rusk and Smith counties. Overton lies approximately 10 miles south of Kilgore (25 miles south of Longview), 15 miles west of Henderson and 20 miles southeast of Tyler.
The town was named after Major Frank Overton, an early settler and landowner who donated some of his land for the town site. It was platted in 1873 and a post office was granted that year.
Overton was originally intended to be a crossroads for two railroads. In 1875 the Henderson and Overton Branch Railroad, 16 miles long, was completed and was later joined by the International-Great Northern. When the nearby communities of Belleveu, Jamestown, Rocky Mount, and Salem were all bypassed by the railroad, Overton gained the businesses and people who wanted to benefit from the railroad lines. The town offered lots for businesses to relocate and many took the offer.
The Masons and Odd Fellows built the first school and a church was constructed in 1875. By 1888 the population had increased to 500 and had all essential businesses, including a newspaper. Overton prospered as an agricultural community and in 1904 the population had reached 568.
Oklahoman wildcatter C. M. (Dad) Joiner was drilling his third well in 1930 and the town of Overton helped raise the funds he needed to drill. When the well came in Overton, shared in Joiner’s success, as churches, schools, and a refinery were built. Hubbard College was founded during this time as well. The town’s once agrarian-based economy suddenly revolved entirely around the production of oil.
Overton’s population exploded from 426 in 1931 to 3,000 in 1933. By 1936 it was up to 4,500 and the town went through the Great Depression relatively unscathed. But by the end of World War II the population had declined by half – reaching just 2,000 in the 1950s and remaining at that level through the 1970s. In the 1980s Overton was Rusk County’s “second city” with a population of 2,430 in 1983. By the 1990s Overton extended into neighboring Smith County.