Decatur, Texas

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Decatur, Texas
Downtown Decatur
Downtown Decatur
Little D
Location of Decatur, Texas
Location of Decatur, Texas
Wise County Decatur.svg
Coordinates: 33°13′40″N 97°35′24″W / 33.22778°N 97.59000°W / 33.22778; -97.59000Coordinates: 33°13′40″N 97°35′24″W / 33.22778°N 97.59000°W / 33.22778; -97.59000
CountryUnited States
 • Total8.5 sq mi (22 km2)
 • Land8.5 sq mi (22 km2)
 • Water0.0 sq mi (0 km2)
1,102 ft (336 m)
 • Total6,042
 • Density710/sq mi (270/km2)
Time zoneUTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s)940
FIPS code48-19528[2]
GNIS feature ID1373362[3]

Decatur is a city located in Wise County, Texas, United States. It is the county seat.[4]

Decatur is northwest of the Dallas–Fort Worth metroplex and is located 25 miles northwest of Fort Worth and 45 miles northwest of Dallas.

The population was 6,042 at the 2010 census.[5]


Wise County was established in 1856, and Taylorsville (in honor of Zachary Taylor) was made the county seat.

Absalom Bishop, an early settler and member of the Texas Legislature, opposed naming the town after a Whig Party member, and in 1858 arranged to have the name changed to Decatur, in honor of naval hero Stephen Decatur.

In 1857, a post office was opened, and the first school was established in 1857. In the early 1860s, a courthouse was erected.[6]

Civil War[edit]

Early settlers to northern Texas came from a variety of eastern states, and only about half came from the "Deep South". Most of the rest came from the Upper South and a number sympathized with the Unionist side at the outset of the Civil War. Cooke County and others voted against secession in this part of the state. Violence against Unionists by Confederate troops and militia was common, especially after the Confederate legislature passed an unpopular conscription law.

In October 1862, several Unionist sympathizers from Decatur were arrested by Confederate troops and taken to nearby Gainesville, the Cooke county seat, for trial on charges of treason and insurrection. A total of 150-200 suspects were arrested by Confederate troops. A "Citizens Court" was pulled together by local colonels, although it had no standing in state law. It quickly convicted seven men, who were executed by hanging. Mob pressure against the court arose, and it turned over 14 suspects, who were lynched - executed by hanging without any judicial process. Nineteen men who had been acquitted were returned to the court, and a new jury convicted them without any new evidence, sentencing them to death. They were also hanged. Another two men were shot trying to escape. In all, a total of 42 men were killed in Gainesville in these actions.[7][8]

North Texas was in chaos, with dissenting citizens at risk from military forces. A few weeks later, more suspected Unionist supporters were hanged without trial in several north Texas communities. Five were lynched in Decatur, under the supervision of Confederate Capt. John Hale.[9] The Great Hanging at Gainesville is believed to have been the largest single incident of vigilante violence in U.S. history.[7][8]

Post-Civil War[edit]

By the late 1860s, several stores and a hotel had been established. In 1882, the Fort Worth and Denver Railway reached the town,[6] and Decatur was added to the Butterfield Overland mail route.

In 1881, the Wise County Old Settlers Reunion held their first meeting. This has become an annual tradition in Decatur, and the reunion continues to take place during the last full week of July.

Decatur Baptist College (now Dallas Baptist University) was established in Decatur in 1898. It was the first two-year institution of higher education in Texas. In 1965, the college moved to Dallas in order to be in a larger population center. The former Administration Building now houses the Wise County Heritage Museum. It is one of five sites in Decatur listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

The Wise County courthouse was designed by James Riely Gordon, the master architect of Texas courthouses. Completed in 1896, the building is an example of Gordon's Signature Plan. He used corner entrances (making for short halls) in order to draw in the breeze, which was pulled up thru a central atrium like a chimney, providing excellent air circulation. The exterior is Texas red granite (like the state Capitol) with terra cotta ornamentation. The almost pyramidal mass refers to 1,000-year-old churches in the south of France. The building has been praised, with its "sister" courthouse in Waxahachie, as "the zenith of Gordon's Richardsonian Romanesque work".[10] It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In 1962, Eddie Wayne Hill, lead guitarist for Tommy & the Tom Toms, and drummer Joel Colbert, were killed when their convertible collided head-on with a gravel truck on state highway 114 south of Decatur. Country singer Charley Pride was more fortunate, surviving a mid-air crash with another plane over Decatur in 1980, though two people died in the crash.[11]


According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 8.5 square miles (22 km2), all land.[12] The highest point of elevation in the county is the courthouse site. As with ancient hill towns in Europe, the frontier settlement was developed on high ground for defensive purposes, so that European settlers could see and ward off attacks or raids, in this case by Native Americans.


The climate in this area is characterized by hot, humid summers and generally mild to cool winters. According to the Köppen climate classification system, Decatur has a humid subtropical climate, abbreviated "Cfa" on climate maps.[13]


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 20186,989[14]15.7%
U.S. Decennial Census[15]

As of July 1, 2008, U.S. Census Bureau, the city had estimated population of 6,432.[1]

As of the census[2] of 2000, there were 5,201 people living in the city. The population density was 747.6 people per square mile (288.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 81.64% White, 1.98% African American, 0.58% Native American, 0.73% Asian, 12.44% from other races, and 2.63% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 22.53% of the population.

There are 1,845 households out of which 37.6% have children under the age of 18 living with them, 56.1% are married couples living together, 11.7% have a female householder with no husband present, and 28.5% are non-families. 24.9% of all households are made up of individuals and 12.1% have someone living alone who is 65 years of age or older. The average household size is 2.67 and the average family size is 3.19.

In the city, the population is spread out with 17.2% under the age of 18, 20.5% from 18 to 24, 38.1% from 25 to 44, 8.7% from 45 to 64, and 15.5% who are 65 years of age or older. The median age is 34 years. For every 100 females, there are 97.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there are 86.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $34,449, and the median income for a family was $40,580. Males had a median income of $30,512 versus $21,213 for females.


In August 2008, Entegris acquired Poco Graphite, Inc. of Decatur, a supplier of specialized graphite and silicon carbide products for use in semiconductor, EDM, glass bottling, biomedical, aerospace, and alternative energy applications.

Parks and recreation[edit]


The City of Decatur is served by the Decatur Independent School District (DISD), the largest district in Wise County. Decatur ISD is centered in Decatur and has six campuses: Decatur High School, McCarroll Middle School, Carson Elementary School, Rann Elementary School and Young Elementary. During the 2010-2011 school year, Decatur ISD had 3,011 students enrolled.[16]

Weatherford College has a branch campus in Decatur.


Notable people[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

  • "Eighter from Decatur" is a slang phrase used by craps shooters who want to roll an eight, as well as the title of a song (minus the "e" in eighter) by Western Swing legend Bob Wills. In 1949, Decatur mayor Sly Hardwick added the phrase to two signs welcoming tourists to the town.[19]


  1. ^ a b "Table 4: Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places in Texas, Listed Alphabetically: April 1, 2000 to July 1, 2008". United States Census Bureau, Population Division. 2009-07-01. Archived from the original (CSV) on 2009-07-07. Retrieved 2010-05-04.
  2. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2013-09-11. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  3. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  4. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on 2011-05-31. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  5. ^ "Population and Housing Unit Counts, 2010 Census of Population and Housing" (PDF). Texas: 2010. Retrieved 7 January 2017.
  6. ^ a b Barton, Jim Tom. "DECATUR, TX". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association.
  7. ^ a b "Under the Rebel Flag: Life in Texas During the Civil War". Texas State Library and Archives Commission. 2011.
  8. ^ a b McCaslin, Richard B. Tainted Breeze: The Great Hanging at Gainesville, Texas 1862, Louisiana State University Press, 1994
  9. ^ McCaslin, Richard B. "Great Hanging of Texas". Handbook of Texas Online. Texas State Historical Association. Retrieved 11 August 2013.
  10. ^ Meister, Chris (2011). James Riely Gordon: His Courthouses and Other Public Architecture. Lubbock, TX: Texas Tech University Press. ISBN 978-0-89672-691-8.
  11. ^ "Charlie Pride Survives Midair Crash; 2 Die". Milwaulkee Sentinel. August 7, 1980.
  12. ^ "US Gazetteer Files 2016-Places-Texas". US Census. Retrieved 7 January 2017.
  13. ^ Climate Summary for Decatur, Texas
  14. ^ "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved May 30, 2019.
  15. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Archived from the original on April 26, 2015. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  16. ^ "Decatur Isd". U.S. Department of Education.
  17. ^ Service Broadcasting Tower retrieved May 19, 2007
  18. ^ Antenna Structure Registration #1040339 retrieved May 19, 2007
  19. ^ "Mayor Makes his Point: 'Eighter from Decatur' Signs to Greet Tourists". Miami News. July 19, 1949.

External links[edit]