Greenville History

Greenville is located 50 miles northeast of Dallas on the rolling Blackland Prairies, one of the most fertile strips of land in the state. Early settlers were rugged frontiersmen and their families from the Upper South who were attracted to the Red River Valley by the 1820s. Gradually, they drifted southward into the region now known as Hunt County.

The county was created by an act of the first Texas state legislature on April 11, 1846 and organized that summer. Lots were surveyed and sold at auction on February 15, 1847. Proceeds from the sale of the town lots funded a log courthouse erected on the west side of the public square, the first of seven such seats of county government in downtown Greenville. The burgeoning county seat was probably named in honor of Thomas Jefferson Green, a Republic of Texas patriot.

At first, the region was primarily agricultural with only a few stores, hotels, saloons and the courthouse located in Greenville. Most residents of the county were stock raisers or grain producers known as pork and corn farmers. By the mid-1870s, cotton became an important cash crop when transportation was available to deliver the 500 pound bales to market. Merchants in Greenville quickly raised funds to buy land for rights-of-way and livestock pens for the railroads. The first train chugged into Greenville on October 2, 1880. Within a matter of a few years, the town was the railroad hub of Northeast Texas. The Blackland Prairies were not dotted with white bolls of cotton each fall as Greenville cotton became the favorite of mills in Liverpool and Manchester, England. The Greenville Cotton Compress in 1911 and 1912 set world records for number of bales compressed for rail shipment to Galveston and on to the finest mills in Europe.

In the meantime, the women of Greenville were bringing refinement to the City in the form of a Carnegie Library (1904), theater and music at the King Opera House (1891-1928), Chautauqua Institutes (1907-1922), Flower Shows (1904), three colleges (1896-1939) and Women’s Clubs (1891-present). Fine church buildings and lovely homes were soon built, many of which are standing today. As early as 1857, Greenville was the center of classical music performance. Today, Greenville is a venue for musical genres ranging from classical to Americana.

Greenville was served first by mule-drawn and later by electric powered street cars. As the automobile became prevalent, the street car tracks were removed and used for scrap metal at the beginning of World War II. In the late 19th century, the City purchased its own water plant and electric system. Greenville Electric Utility System (GEUS) remains the oldest municipally owned power system in Texas.

The early 1910s brought a push for trans-continental roadways. When the vote for paved roads in the county failed, the Greenville merchants again stepped up to the plate. Concrete roads leading into town from six different directions highlighted the campaign for Good Roads in 1913.

In the late 1930s, a group of Greenville citizens contacted Speaker of the United States House of Representatives, Sam Rayburn, about the possibility of an airfield near town to be used in case of war. When the war began, Majors Field, named Truett Majors, the first Greenville man killed in World War II, began a training site for the U. S. Army Air Corp and the 201st Squadron of the Mexican Air Force. After the war, the site was leased first to Ling Aircraft for national defense projects. The airport, owned by the City of Greenville, is still home to leaders in the aerospace industry.

Today, Greenville is home to over 26,000 citizens, several Fortune 500 companies and various industry.