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According to the Handbook of Texas, the East Texas area "may be separated from the rest of Texas roughly by a line extending from the Red River in north central Lamar County southwestward to east central Limestone County and then southeastward towards eastern Galveston Bay", though some separate the Gulf Coast area into a separate region.
Another popular, somewhat simpler, definition defines East Texas as the region between the Trinity River (or sometimes Interstate 45, when defining generously) as the western border, the Louisiana border as the eastern border, the Oklahoma border as the northern border, and Galveston Bay shores as the southern border.
Most of the region consists of the Piney Woods ecoregion, and East Texas can sometimes be reduced to include only the Piney Woods. Houston is rarely regarded as a part of East Texas and is more closely associated with the Coastal Bend along the Gulf of Mexico, as has been the case for most of the city's recent history. At the fringes, towards Central Texas, the forests expand outward toward sparser trees and eventually into open plains.
Population, demographics and government
East Texas comprises 41 counties, 38 of which collaborate in sub-regional Ark-Tex Council of Governments, the East Texas Council of Governments, the Deep East Texas Council of Governments and the South East Texas Regional Planning Commission. The three additional East Texas counties that join with other regional government councils are Chambers County (Anahuac), Liberty County (Liberty) and Walker County (Huntsville), all three in geographic proximity to the Houston metropolitan areas.
Outside of the Greater Houston area the average population density is around 18–45 per mi² (7–12 per km²), with the population density near the Big Thicket dropping below 18 people per mi². East Texas's population is very large and is centered around the Golden Triangle (Texas) which is Beaumont/Port Arthur/Orange in Southeast Texas. Moving north from the coast, Lufkin and Nacogdoches anchor the population center of Deep East Texas. Continuing north from Deep East Texas, Tyler, Longview and Marshall, in Northeast Texas, along with Texarkana, on the far northeastern border with Arkansas, represent the major population centers in the northern section of East Texas. Only eight miles from the Texas border, Shreveport, Louisiana, is considered the economic and cultural center for the Ark-La-Tex, the area where Arkansas, Louisiana, and East Texas meet. . The 2010 U.S. Census shows these 41 East Texas counties with a population of 2,057,518 residents, which represents 8% of the total state population of Texas.
Per the 2010 US Census records, the five most populous counties are:
- Jefferson County, Texas (252,273)
- Smith County, Texas (209,714)
- Gregg County, Texas (121,730)
- Bowie County, Texas (92,565)
- Angelina County, Texas (86,771)
Per the 2010 US census records, the ten most populous East Texas cities are:
- Beaumont, Texas (188,548)
- Tyler, Texas (98,564)
- Longview, Texas (81,336)
- Port Arthur, Texas (53,937)
- Huntsville, Texas (38,548)
- Texarkana, Texas (36,411)
- Lufkin, Texas (35,067)
- Nacogdoches, Texas (32,996)
- Paris, Texas (25,151)
- Marshall, Texas (23,523)
According to US Census records from 2010, the population of East Texas counties is 65.93% White Non-Hispanic, 17.44% African-American, 14.29% Hispanic or Latino Origin and 2.34% Other (including native and Asian). East Texas' most ethnically and racially diverse county is Jefferson County, East Texas' largest county which includes the city of Beaumont, with 44.1% White Non-Hispanic, 34.1% African-American, 17.7% Hispanic or Latino Origin and 4.1% Other (including native and Asian). Unlike Texas' total state racial demographics, only two counties in East Texas have a majority minority, Jefferson County in the Golden Triangle and Titus County having a 40.6% Hispanic or Latino origin population. East Texas and Southeast Texas has a very large African American population.
Geography and climate
Climate is the unifying factor in the region's geography—all of east Texas has the humid subtropical climate typical of the Southeast, occasionally interrupted by intrusions of cold air from the north. East Texas receives more rainfall, 35 to 60 inches (890 to 1,520 mm), than the rest of Texas. In Houston the average January temperature is 50.4 °F (10.2 °C) and the average July temperature is 82.6 °F (28.1 °C), however Houston has slightly warmer winters than most of East Texas due to its proximity to the coast.
All of East Texas also lies within the Gulf Coastal Plain, but with less uniformity than the climate with rolling hills in the north and flat coastal plains in the south. Local vegetation also varies from north to south with the lower third consisting of the temperate grassland extending from South Texas to South Louisiana. The upper two-thirds of the region dominated by temperate forest known as the Piney Woods, which extends over 23,500 square miles (61,000 km2). The Piney Woods are part of a much larger region of pine-hardwood forest that extends into Louisiana, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. The Piney Woods thins out as it nears the Gulf of Mexico. West of the Piney Woods are the ranchlands and remnant oak forests of the East Central Texas forests ecoregion.
The Sabine River, Trinity River, Neches River, Angelina River and Sulphur River are the major rivers in East Texas, but the Brazos River and Red River also flow through the region. The Brazos cuts through the southwest portion of the region while the Red River forms its northern border with Oklahoma and a portion of Arkansas. In East Texas and the rest of the South, small rivers and creeks collect into swamps called "Bayous" and merge with the surrounding forest. Bald cypress and Spanish moss are the dominant plants in bayous. The most famous of these bayous are Cypress Bayou and Buffalo Bayou. Cypress Bayou surrounds the Big, Little, and Black Cypress rivers around Jefferson. They flow east into Caddo Lake and the adjoining wetlands cover the rim and islands of the lake.
East Texas is often considered the westernmost extension of the Deep South, and the predominant cultural influence comes from customs and traditions passed down from Anglo and African Southerners who settled the region during the mid and late 19th Century. Among many others, these influences are noticeable in the sub-dialect of Texan English that is spoken throughout the region. According to the most recent linguistic studies, East Texans tend to pronounce Southern English with the drawl typical of the Lower South, whereas other parts of Texas are more prone to the "twang" of the Upper South, or—depending upon demographic influences of the particular area—with some Hispanic and midwestern traits.
Unlike other regions of Texas, the majority of German, Czech and Jewish immigrants did not settle in East Texas. International immigrants into Texas in recent decades, primarily from India, other Asian nations and from Latin America, and their influences have been less prevalent in East Texas.
East Texans are predominantly non-Catholic Christians, expressing faith in many varying denominations; Baptist (particularly Southern Baptist), Methodist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Pentecostal and others. There remains some influence of Catholicism, which has increased with influx of Hispanic population in recent decades. Other religions of much lesser numbers, but with adherents in East Texas, include Mormonism and Judaism.
There are also significant numbers of people of Cajun and Creole descent from across the border in Louisiana, although most are assimilated partially or completely into East Texas culture (adopting the local culture and losing, to varying degrees, their original culture). This assimilation pattern often historically included conversion to Protestant faiths. Some discrimination against Cajun and Creole migrant settlers did also occur in the area, lingering at lesser levels until quite recently. Despite the tendency towards assimilation, Cajun and Creole cuisine (for example, Jambalaya and Catfish Gumbo), are popular in the region and many East Texans, even those without Louisiana roots, are known to be expert at preparing at least some well-known Louisiana dishes.
While some East Texans would associate themselves with cowboy culture, most East Texans identify more with farming traditions of the South than to the expansive cattle ranching of the plains regions of Texas. However, it is common for East Texans to own and trade cattle and there are several "sale barns" across East Texas with weekly and monthly trade, as is not uncommon in other parts of the lower South.
Especially in the northern section of East Texas, awareness of the native and historical Caddo Mississippian population remains significant. Cherokee County is home to the Caddo Mounds State Historic Site. Patrons can also view the "Caddo Indian Collection" at the Gregg County Historical Museum in Longview.
There are also many East Texans who have a mixture of European and Native American heritage, notably country and folk singer Miranda Lambert.
East Texas is home to the Texas Country Music Hall of Fame, located in Carthage. However, musical preference is not limited to country music in East Texas, though it is the predominant choice. East Texans enjoy a range of music that draws influence from gospel, bluegrass, blues, rock, country, soul, R&B, cajun, etc.
East Texans enjoy live music at many of the region's fairs and festivals, including the Texas Rose Festival in Tyler, the East Texas Yamboree in Gilmer and Longview's Great Texas Balloon Race. East Texas also has many venues included in what is commonly referred to as the Texas Country Music circuit, though the majority of these venues are located in Central/South/West Texas and other metropolitan areas of the state.
Many notable music artists have East Texas roots including: George Jones (Saratoga), Miranda Lambert (Lindale), Kacey Musgraves (Mineola), Neal McCoy (Longview and Jacksonville), Lee Ann Womack (Jacksonville), Janis Joplin (Port Arthur), Don Henley (Linden), Ray Price (Perryville), Johnny Horton (Rusk), Johnny Mathis (Gilmer), Tex Ritter (Panola County), Jim Reeves (Panola County), Mark Chesnutt (Beaumont), Tracy Byrd (Vidor), Clay Walker (Beaumont), Chris Tomlin (Grand Saline), Michelle Shocked (Gilmer) among many others.
Many high school bands in East Texas continue the tradition of military style marching unlike other parts of the state. These bands compete in the National Association of Military Marching Bands (NAMMB). Membership in this association is almost entirely limited to East Texas, with some participation from Houston schools. NAMMB has held contests at Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches and at Texas A&M University in College Station.
Sports and outdoors
As with other parts of Texas, high school football is king in East Texas. Residents of East Texas towns and rural communities fill high school stadiums in support of their local team, cheerleaders, bands, etc. Many East Texas high school teams have won Texas state championships and have produced collegiate and professional football players. Earl Campbell, the "Tyler Rose", played football for John Tyler High in Tyler before playing for the Texas Longhorns and the Houston Oilers. Don Meredith, who famously played for the Dallas Cowboys, played at Mt. Vernon. Dez Bryant, a football product from Lufkin, is a current wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys. Adrian Peterson, a star running back for the Minnesota Vikings, played high school football in Palestine. Billy Sims, the famous running back for the Oklahoma Sooners, played high school football in Hooks. Other high school sports are popular in East Texas including basketball, baseball, volleyball, softball and track.
A significant number of East Texas youth participate in little league baseball, soccer and softball. Church leagues are quite common in providing opportunities for basketball and softball for youth and adults alike. In recent years, Cowboy churches have grown in number and offer rodeo events for their youth.
East Texans also enjoy collegiate athletic competition. Most East Texans support collegiate teams located in other regions of the state; the Texas Longhorns, Texas A&M Aggies, Baylor Bears, Texas Tech Red Raiders, TCU Horned Frogs, etc. Due to proximity to neighboring states, East Texas has a substantial number of fans of the LSU Tigers, Arkansas Razorbacks and Oklahoma Sooners. The Battle of the Piney Woods is a fiercely contested sports rivlary between the Lumberjacks of Stephen F. Austin State University "SFA" in Nacogdoches and the Bearkats of Sam Houston State University "SHSU" in Huntsville. Both of these universities compete in the FCS level of NCAA athletic competition as members of the Southland Conference. The Cardinals of Lamar University in Beaumont also compete with SFA and Sam Houston State in the Southland Conference.
Other universities and colleges that field athletic teams in East Texas include, East Texas Baptist University "ETBU" Tigers in Marshall; University of Texas at Tyler Patriots in Tyler; LeTourneau University Yellowjackets in Longview; Texas A&M University-Commerce Lions; and several junior colleges throughout the region which participate in the Southwest Junior College Conference in Region XIV of the NJCAA. East Texas is also home to the Kilgore College Rangerettes, a world-famous dance team which debuted in 1939.
There are a few professional sports teams in East Texas. The Beaumont Drillers compete in the National Indoor Football League. The East Texas Pump Jacks, located in Kilgore, play baseball in the Texas Collegiate League. Typically, northern parts of East Texas tend to support the professional teams from the Dallas/Fort Worth area (Dallas Cowboys, Dallas Mavericks, Texas Rangers), while southern parts of East Texas tend to support professional teams from the Houston area (Houston Texans, Houston Rockets, Houston Astros).
As with other parts of Texas and/or the South, other popular sporting activities in East Texas include rodeo (including PRCA), hunting and fishing. Prominent rodeos in East Texas are held in Beaumont, Nacogdoches, Paris, Longview, Gladewater, Huntsville, Lufkin, Athens, Palestine, Lindale, etc. East Texas contains several award-winning lakes for sport fishing including Toledo Bend Reservoir, Lake Sam Rayburn, Lake Livingston, Lake Fork, Lake Tawakoni, etc. East Texans have a long tradition in outdoors sporting and observe the opening day of deer season as a near religious holiday.
East Texas also contains numerous golf courses and avid golfers, as well as NASCAR fans. However, the region does not host professional events in either of those sports.
East Texans enjoy many Texas State Parks including: Caddo Lake, Atlanta, Daingerfield, Lake Bob Sandlin, Tyler, Mission Tejas in Grapeland, Cooper Lake, Lake Tawakoni, Martin Creek, Huntsville, Lake Sam Rayburn, Lake Livingston and Sea Rim among others. East Texas is also home to the Angelina National Forest, Sam Houston National Forest, Sabine National Forest, Big Thicket National Preserve, Trinity River National Wildlife Refuge, Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge and Mcfaddin National Wildlife Refuge.
Other famous and notable East Texans
Adrian Peterson, Palestine Anderson county
- Matthew McConaughey, Longview, Gregg County
- Jamie Foxx, Terrell
- Sandy Duncan, Henderson, Rusk County and Tyler, Smith County
- Forest Whitaker, Longview, Gregg County
- Sissy Spacek, Quitman, Wood County
- George Foreman, Marshall, Harrison County
- Ross Perot, former U.S. presidential candidate born in Texarkana, Bowie County
- Lady Bird Johnson, former First Lady of the United States, born in Karnack, Harrison County
- Sam Houston, former President of the Republic of Texas, former Governor of Texas, retired in Huntsville, Walker County
- Former United States Senators: Ralph Yarborough born in Chandler, Smith County; Morris Sheppard born in Morris County; Horace Chilton born near Tyler, Smith County; Charles Allen Culberson settled in Gilmer, Upshur County and Jefferson, Marion County; John Henninger Reagan practiced law in Palestine and Henderson County; Samuel B. Maxey settled in and practiced law in Paris, Lamar County; James W. Flanagan settled in Henderson, Rusk County; Louis Wigfall lived in Nacogdoches, Nacogdoches County and Marshall, Harrison County; Matthias Ward settled in Clarksville, Red River County and Jefferson, Marion County; Thomas Jefferson Rusk settled in Nacogdoches, Nacogdoches County, and was also a Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Republic of Texas
- Former Governors of Texas: Mark White, born in Henderson, Rusk County; Price Daniel, born in Dayton, Liberty County; Allan Shivers, born in Lufkin, Angelina County; Ross S. Sterling, born in Anahuac, Chambers County; William P. Hobby, born in Moscow, Polk County; Oscar Branch Colquitt, newspaper owner in Pittsburg, Camp County and in Morris County; Thomas Mitchell Campbell, born in Rusk, Cherokee County; Jim Hogg, born in Rusk, Cherokee County; Richard B. Hubbard, lived in Tyler, Smith County and Lindale, Smith County; second Governor of Texas George Tyler Wood, settled near Point Blank in Liberty County and San Jacinto County; first Governor of Texas James Pinckney Henderson, practiced law in San Augustine, San Augustine County
- William B. Travis, famous commander at the Alamo, settled in Anahuac, Chambers County
Deep East Texas
Deep East Texas is a subregion of East Texas. According to the Deep East Texas Council of Governments the region consists of the following twelve counties: Angelina, Houston, Jasper, Nacogdoches, Newton, Polk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Shelby, Trinity, and Tyler.
The "Deep" designation comes from the similarity to East Texas (it is similar in culture and geography, being highly forested), but with a location "deeper" (i.e., further east and away from the Gulf coast) than the rest of East Texas.
"Deep" also refers to the cultural and social characteristics of the area and is considered synonymous to "The Big Thicket", an allusion to the dense growth of underbrush in the "piney woods." It was the earliest area of Texas to be settled by Anglo-Americans (and one of the last to submit to law enforcement—by the governments of Spain, Mexico, the Republic of Texas, state of Texas or the United States). Renegade clans controlled local governments, especially in Shelby County, well into the first quarter of the 20th century.
The area contains two of the oldest towns in Texas; Nacogdoches, the oldest town in Texas, dating from 18th century, and San Augustine, the oldest "Anglo" settlement in Texas, dating from the 1820s. People of English, Scottish, Scots-Irish and to a lesser extent Welsh ancestry predominate in the region, which is in contrast to South Central Texas and West Texas in which people of German and Hispanic heritage predominate respectively. Prior to the Texas War of Independence, settlement was generally prohibited by the Spanish and later Mexican governments, but neither government was able to exert control or law enforcement in the area. As a consequence, the "Big Thicket" became a refuge for criminals fleeing the United States and hiding out in a "no man's land" in the pine thickets.
The Pine Curtain
The initial isolation of the region and its links to the deep south have resulted in its well-known pine woods being described as a 'curtain' which demarcates a certain cultural enclave or bubble that distinguishes East Texas from the rest of the state. Former residents describe leaving behind the 'Pine Curtain' as a form of escape.
Historically, the East Texas economy has been led by lumber, cotton, cattle and oil. Prior to the discovery of the East Texas Oil Field, cotton, lumber and cattle were the predominant source of economic gains and stability. Needs of local farmers contributed greatly to the establishment of local towns and trading posts. As with many parts of the nation, the chosen paths of railroads often determined the continuation of many towns. At the beginning of the 20th Century, the oil fields were discovered and oil became accessible, which changed the future trajectory of the region.
In the decades leading to the new millennium, crude oil production in the East Texas Oil Field, the largest oil field in the United States, somewhat decreased. In turn, the number of high-paying jobs for uneducated workers also decreased. During the 20th century, local groceries, general stores and cafes were replaced with franchise department stores, retail chains and fast food restaurants. Due to the decline of oil production, many small towns closed cafés and gas stations, some of which were replaced with cash loan shops and pawn shops.
Tourism has not been a highly significant source of economic activity in East Texas, although several high-traffic corridors pass through East Texas which have aided economic development along those routes. These include: Interstate 30 (running between Texarkana and Dallas), Interstate 20 (running between Shreveport and Dallas), Interstate 10 (running between Houston and Louisiana), Interstate 45 (running between Dallas and Houston) and US Highway 59 (running between Houston and Texarkana; in process of being upgraded along most of the route to Interstate 69).
The region also contains Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, which helps contribute millions of dollars into the Deep East Texas economy.
- List of geographical regions in Texas
- List of Texas regions
- List of museums in East Texas
- East Texas Oil Field
- Texas Country Music Hall of Fame
- Texas State Railroad
- Battle of the Piney Woods
- Southwest Junior College Conference
- First Monday Trade Days of Canton, Texas
- Golden Triangle (Texas)
- "Weather." Handbook of Texas. Retrieved on September 28, 2009
- "Museum of East Texas". Handbook of Texas Online. Retrieved 2007-02-07.
- Dougan, Michael (1988). East Texas : tales from behind the pine curtain (1st ed.). Seattle: Real Comet Press. ISBN 0941104257.
- Connor, Gary. "'Life Behind the Pine Curtain: Thoughts from an Ol’ East Texas Philosopher'". Palestine Herald-Press.
- Knight, Paul (September 22, 2009). "Superthief". p. 1. Retrieved September 28, 2009.
- Knight, Paul (September 22, 2009). "Superthief". p. 2. Retrieved September 28, 2009.
- CHINQUA WHERE? The Spirit of Rural America, 1947-1955, ISBN 978-0-9729655-0-7 by Fred B. McKinley.
- Black Gold to Bluegrass: From the Oil Fields of Texas to Spindletop Farm of Kentucky, ISBN 1-57168-946-X by Fred B. McKinley and Greg Riley.
- Gone to Texas: Genealogical Abstracts from The Telegraph and Texas Register 1835-1841, compiled by Kevin Ladd.
- The EAST TEXAS SUNDAY DRIVE Book, by Bob Bowman ISBN 1-878096-00-1.
- Wild Flowers of the Big Thicket, East Texas, and Western Louisiana, by Geyata Ajilvsgi ISBN 0-89096-065-8.
- Two centuries in East Texas: A history of San Augustine County and surrounding territory from 1685 (Hardcover)by George Louis Crocket (Author) ASIN B00089CVW8
- East Texas from the Handbook of Texas Online
- East Texas Historical Association
- Sights of Interest in East Texas
- 1840 Map of East Texas From East Texas Digital Archives and Collections
- Texas Heritage Society