Wise County is located in North Texas. While most counties are named for people with a more direct connection to the history of Texas, Wise County is named for Virginia Governor Henry Wise. The county was carved out of nearby Cooke County in 1856.
Its namesake, Henry A. Wise was born and raised in Virginia. He served in the U. S. Congress from 1835 to 1843 and was a strong supporter of the annexation of Texas once he became governor of Virginia and this is thought to be the reason that the Texas Legislature named the county for him. He served as governor of Virginia from 1856 to 1860. Once the Civil War began, he served in the Army of Northern Virginia as a Brigadier General and later a Major-General. He practiced law at times before the war, and after the surrender at Appomattox, Wise resumed his law practice in Richmond, Virginia where he would live until his death in 1876. In addition to the Texas county, Wise County in Virginia is also named for him.
Wise County, Texas was the site of the Battle of the Knobs, a famous Indian battle shortly after the Texas Revolution. On November 10, 1837, a group of 18 Republic of Texas soldiers encountered a group of 150 Indians at a hilly area known as the Knobs, about 2 miles north of the present city of Decatur. The Texas soldiers lost 10 men against 50 Indian casualties. The Texans made a stand at the Knobs when the battle began. At one point, the attacking Indians set a ring of fire around the defenders. The battle continued until the Indians withdrew. The Texans were able to retreat and escape, continuing their journey to the Sabine River, The battleground is marked with a Texas Historical Marker which lists the names of the Texans who died there.
The first Anglo settlers arrived about 1853 and were attracted by the availability of ground water, woods, rich soil and stands of timber. The area supported early towns at the following locations, some of which remain today as towns in the county: Deep Creek, Boyd Valley, Oliver Creek, Holmes Valley, Walnut Creek Valley, Sand Hill, Lower Walnut Creek, Aurora, Huff Valley, Prairie Point (Rhome), Halsell Valley, Sweetwater, Upper Catlett, Decatur, Sandy Creek (where my ancestors settled a few years later), Denton Creek, Hog-eye Prairie, Paradise Prairie, Bridgeport, Cumby’s Prairie, Grafton, Garretts’s Creek Audubon and Black Creek. A colorful account of these early days was written by Cliff Donohue Cates in his “Pioneer History of Wise County,” published in 1907.
Pictured above is the beautiful Wise County Courthouse in Decatur, designed by architect J. Riely Gordon.
The county is now home to about 50,000 residents in these communities: Alvord, Aurora, Balsora, Boonsville, Boyd, Briar, Bridgeport, Chico, Cottondale, Decatur (county seat), Greenwood, Lake Bridgeport, New Fairview, Newark, Paradise, Pecan Acres, Rhome, Runaway Bay and Slidell. The balanced economy is derived from farming, ranching, oil and gas production, rock and timber sales.
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