History of Athens

Athens, the County seat of Henderson County, was established by an act of the Texas Legislature in 1850 on a one square mile site of land donated by Matthew Cartwright.  The city was incorporated in 1856.  However, through a mischievous prank by several citizens the incorporation was abolished.

E. J. Thompson, County Clerk of Henderson County is credited with being the first citizen of Athens.  Mrs. Dull Averiette named Athens in honor of Athens Greece.  Mrs. Averiette felt the town would become the cultural center of the county.  An interesting sequence of Mrs. Averiette’s prophecy is that the new high school is now located in the exact spot on the tree shaded hill where the original Averiette home was built before the War between the states.  This large rustic home burned several years ago and the Athens Public School System purchase the site, which included some 30 acres, and have built several new school buildings and playing fields there.  The Averiette family lived there until the late twenties when the grandsons of Mrs. Averiette moved to California.

Henderson County was created in 1846 from Houston and Nacogdoches Counties.  Named for J. Pinckney Henderson, first Governor of Texas, who was in office when the county was created.

The topography of Henderson County consists of rolling hills, with 32% of the county forested.  There is drainage to the Neches and the Trinity Rivers.  Clay, loam and sandy soils make up the county.  Oil, gas, sand, gravel and clays are produced.

Beef, cattle, and poultry are chief farm enterprises.  Nursery stock, timber, fruits, and vegetables are sources of income with some commercial fish farming. Athens is known as the “Black-Eyed Pea Capital”, and lays claim to being the Home of the Original Hamburger.   

Athens Timeline

Texas Legislature established the town of Athens (formerly known as Alfred)

Athens established and became the county seat of HendersonCounty

Pottery industry began in Athens by Levi Cogburn

The Athens Bulletin became the first newspaper printed in HendersonCounty

Hawn Lumber Company opened.  Became the oldest continuous business in Athens

First issue of the Athens Review printed on a Washington hand press

First bond election passed to build a public school building ($5,000)

City of Athens successfully incorporated

Uncle Fletch Davis introduced his creation, “the hamburger”, to the world at the St. Louis World’s Fair

Current Henderson County Courthouse built; refurbished in 1965 and again in 1986

Cotton Palace served the HendersonCounty area as agricultural fairgrounds

Athens High School won the final two National High School Basketball Tournaments held annually for many years at the University of Chicago

Old Fiddlers gathered on the downtown square for the first Old Fiddler’s Reunion (officially begun in Bethel, the group moved to Athens in 1933)

Henderson County Junior College began educating Texas students (now TrinityValleyCommunity College)

Henderson County Memorial Hospital opened

Athens Municipal Airport opened

Athens boasts the first Dairy Queen in Texas to offer an inside dining room

Texas Legislature established the Henderson County Historical Commission

Lake Athens was constructed offering quality water and recreational opportunities

The Spanish Trace Inn opened for business on the same day the nation loses it President

First Black-Eyed Pea Jamboree held to celebrate the farming industry in Athens

Ground-breaking held for a new 4,000 seat coliseum at the Henderson County Fairgrounds

The Cain Center opened as a state-of-the-art civic and community center

First Annual Uncle Fletch Davis Hamburger Cook-off was held

Athens Central Business Association was formed

East Texas Medical Center opened new modern facility on South Highway 19

Texas Department of Transportation approved creation of a loop around Athens

Keep Athens Beautiful was formed

Athens Economic Development Corporation was formed to aid in bringing new business to Athens

100.38 acres were purchased to develop the East Texas Arboretum

Community leaders organized the Athens Visitor Initiative Program to further promote the Athens Community

Texas Governor George Bush cut the ribbon to officially open the TexasFreshwaterFisheriesCenter, a major cooperative effort for Athens and the TexasParks and Wildlife Department

Trinity Mother Francis Hospital opened the Emergency Care Clinic

The County moved administrative offices to a newly renovated annex building across from the courthouse

Expanding tourism outreach, the Athens Visitor Initiative Program officially opened the Athens Welcome Center on the downtown square

Athens Middle School is constructed on Hwy. 19 South in response to an expanding student base

Texas Department of Transportation completes the last section of Loop 7 around Athens

Athens became a Certified Retirement Community through the GO TEXAN program 

Disciples Clinic opens offering free indigent care

In an expansion move, Henderson County purchases Prosperity Bank

The historic Masonic Lodge is imploded to make way for a new location of Prosperity Bank in downtown Athens

Expansion of Hwy 175 finishes, providing a four-lane highway connecting Dallas to Athens

East Texas Medical Center announces a $32M expansion of their Athens facility to be completed in 2011

A major move combines Athens Economic Development Corporation, the Athens Chamber of Commerce, the City of Athens Department of Tourism, the TVCC Small Business Development Corporation and Keep Athens Beautiful, providing a one-stop shop at the Athens Partnership Center

Athens receives its recertification as a Certified Retirement Community through the GO TEXAN program 

Make plans to visit Athens this fall season.

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Read about the history of the Hamburger

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2nd Sat of the month: Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center

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Butterfly Gardens From th...

Oct 17 2017

How to go from a grassy front yard to a butterfly haven! Presentation by Henderson County Master Gardener, Jan...

Gardening The Easy Way

Oct 26 2017

FREE Fall Conference. See event description for details!