Palestine, Texas

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Palestine City Hall
Palestine City Hall
Location of Palestine, Texas
Location of Palestine, Texas
Coordinates: 31°45′29″N 95°38′19″W / 31.75806°N 95.63861°W / 31.75806; -95.63861Coordinates: 31°45′29″N 95°38′19″W / 31.75806°N 95.63861°W / 31.75806; -95.63861
Country  United States
State  Texas
County Anderson
 • Type Council-Manager
 • City Council Mayor Steve Presley
Will Brule
Mitchell Jordan
Vickie Chivers
Joe Baxter
Doug Smith
Ann Conner
 • City Manager Mike Alexander
 • Total 19.6 sq mi (50.7 km2)
 • Land 19.4 sq mi (50.2 km2)
 • Water 0.2 sq mi (0.5 km2)
Elevation 482 ft (147 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 18,712
 • Density 965/sq mi (372.7/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP codes 75800-75899
Area code(s) 903
FIPS code 48-54708[1]
GNIS feature ID 1364714[2]

Palestine (/ˈpælstn/ PAL-e-steen) is a city in Anderson County, Texas, in the United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 18,712.[3] It is the county seat.[4] Palestine was named for Palestine, Illinois, by Daniel Parker.[5]

Palestine is a relatively small town located in the Piney Woods equidistant from the major airport cities of Dallas, Houston and Shreveport and is notable for its natural environment, including the dogwood floral blooming season, for 23 historical sites on the National Register of Historic Places and is the western terminus of the Texas State Railroad, a steam and diesel railroad museum operating between Palestine and Rusk.

The largest employer is the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, which employs more than 3,900. Another 1,600 work at two Wal-Mart distribution centers. Other significant employers include a thriving medical and healthcare sector that tends to the large population of retirees.

Palestine was one of the East Texas towns that received much of the debris from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, where seven astronauts were killed.[6] Palestine's NASA Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (renamed after the shuttle crash), has flown 1,700 high-altitude balloons for universities and research agencies.



In 1846, the Texas Legislature created Palestine to serve as a seat for the newly established Anderson County. James R. Fulton, Johnston Shelton and William Bigelow were hired by the first Anderson County commissioners to survey the surrounding land and lay out a town site, consisting of a central courthouse square and the surrounding 24 blocks.[7] Antedating the town was a temporary trading post in operation since at least 1843.[8] It grew significantly following the arrival of the railroad in the 1870s.[9] It had a population of over 10,000 by 1898.[10]

Palestine, Texas was named so by Micham Main, who named the new town in honor of his hometown of Palestine, Illinois.[11]


Historical map showing layout of Palestine, Texas in 1885

The Texas State Railroad is a state park that allows visitors to ride trains pulled by diesel and steam locomotives between the park's Victorian-style depots and through the forests of East Texas. It dates back to 1883, with the completion of the Rusk Penitentiary near the city of Rusk. Built with inmate labor, the original purpose of the railroad was to transport raw materials for the iron smelter located at the Rusk Penitentiary. In 1906, the line reached Maydelle, and by 1909, the line was completed when it reached Palestine. Regularly-scheduled train service ceased in 1921, the line was leased to various railroad companies until 1969, and the Texas Legislature turned the railroad into a state park in 1972.

The International Railroad and the Houston and Great Northern Railroad met in Palestine in 1872 and merged in 1873 to become the International and Great Northern Railroad (IGN). The IGN later became part of the Missouri Pacific Railroad, then ultimately Union Pacific Railroad. In 1875, IGN President H.M. Hoxie moved to Palestine and built the first Victorian Mansion. Merchant owners and railroad executives built other elaborate homes along South Sycamore Street. The IGN built a major depot in 1892 and a modern passenger coach shop, in 1902, making Palestine an important locomotive and coach location. These shops remained in operation until 1954, when the present facility was built exclusively for freight car repair. Today, the Palestine Car Shop is one of only two car shops on the Union Pacific Railroad that perform heavy modifications and repairs to freight cars. The Palestine workforce has more than 100 employees.[12]


In 1914 the county's fifth courthouse was completed, which is still standing and in use. Oil was discovered at Boggy Creek, east of Palestine, in 1928 which added to and diversified the town's economy. Palestine became a center for oil-well servicing and supplies in support of other producing fields found later elsewhere in Anderson County. [13]

Construction of the earth-filled Blackburn Crossing Dam, creating Lake Palestine as a reliable source of water, was begun in 1960, completed in 1962. It was enlarged from 1969 to 1972 to 75 feet high, and 5,720 feet long. [14]


Palestine is located near the center of Anderson County at 31°45′29″N 95°38′19″W / 31.75806°N 95.63861°W / 31.75806; -95.63861 (31.757925, -95.638473).[15] Several numbered highways converge on the city, including U.S. Highways 79, 84, and 287, plus Texas State Highways 19 and 155. Dallas is 110 miles (180 km) to the northwest, and Houston is 150 miles (240 km) to the south. Tyler is 47 miles (76 km) to the northeast.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 19.6 square miles (50.7 km2), of which 19.4 square miles (50.2 km2) is land and 0.19 square miles (0.5 km2), or 1.06%, is covered by water.[3]

Palestine, Texas
Climate chart (explanation)
Average max. and min. temperatures in °F
Precipitation totals in inches
Source: / NWS

Lake Palestine[edit]

Lake Palestine is a freshwater lake created by the construction of the Blackburn Crossing dam on the Neches River in 1962. A 25,600 acre lake with a total length of 18 miles, 135 miles of shoreline and an average depth of 16.25 ft, it offers an array of freshwater fish species including bass, crappie and catfish. The Upper Neches River Municipal Water Authority owns and operates Lake Palestine. The City of Palestine has a water contract for 25 million gallons of water per day, served by a channel dam, 13 miles of pipeline and a water treatment plant which the City operates for water coming into the city.[16]

Roads and highways[edit]

Palestine is at a crossroads of several arterial highways converging in Palestine:


  • The average warmest month is July.
  • The highest recorded temperature was 114 °F in 1954.
  • On average, the coolest month is January.
  • The lowest recorded temperature was -4 °F in 1930.
  • The maximum average precipitation occurs in October.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 2,000
1860 1,938 −3.1%
1870 2,311 19.2%
1880 2,997 29.7%
1890 5,838 94.8%
1900 8,297 42.1%
1910 10,482 26.3%
1920 11,039 5.3%
1930 11,445 3.7%
1940 12,144 6.1%
1950 12,503 3.0%
1960 13,974 11.8%
1970 14,525 3.9%
1980 15,948 9.8%
1990 18,042 13.1%
2000 17,598 −2.5%
2010 18,712 6.3%
Est. 2016 18,383 [17] −1.8%
U.S. Decennial Census[18]

As of the census[1] of 2000, there were 17,598 people, 6,641 households, and 4,582 families residing in the city. The population density was 994.3 people per square mile (383.9/km²). There were 7,668 housing units at an average density of 433.2 per square mile (167.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 64.60% White, 24.77% African American, 0.49% Native American, 0.79% Asian, 0.07% Pacific Islander, 7.90% from other races, and 1.37% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 14.88% of the population.

There were 6,641 households out of which 34.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.2% were married couples living together, 18.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.0% were non-families. 28.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.57 and the average family size was 3.13.

In the city, the population was spread out with 29.1% under the age of 18, 9.2% from 18 to 24, 25.6% from 25 to 44, 20.0% from 45 to 64, and 16.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females there were 84.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 78.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $30,497, and the median income for a family was $36,806. Males had a median income of $28,331 versus $20,662 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,514. About 16.6% of families and 20.7% of the population were below the poverty line, including 27.7% of those under age 18 and 14.6% of those age 65 or over.


The Anderson County Courthouse is located in Palestine. It was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1988 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places on September 28, 1992.

Local government[edit]

According to the city's most recent audited Annual Financial Report, the city's general fund had $12.8 million in revenues, $12.7 million in expenditures, $3.6 million in total assets, $0.4 million in total liabilities, and $1.3 million in cash in investments.[19]

The structure of the management and coordination of city services is:[20]

City Department Director
City Manager Mike Alexander
Asst City Manager Michael Hornes
City Secretary Teresa Herrera
Development Services Director Jeffrey Lyons
Economic Development Director Tom Manskey
Emergency Management Director Scott Parkhurst
Finance Director Steve Groom
Fire Chief Alan Wilcher
Library Director Theresa Holden
Police Chief Mike Alexander
Public Works Director Tim Perry


Palestine is served by the general aviation Palestine Municipal Airport, located on the northwest edge of the city. Activated in 1942, the FAA identifier is PSN. Runway 18/36 has a length of 5005 ft. and crosswind runway 9/27 has a length of 4002 ft. It is home to 31 airplanes, mostly single-engine and is owned and operated by the city. [21]

Palestine was served by Trans-Texas Airlines (later known as Texas International Airlines) during the 1940s and 1950s using Douglas DC-3 aircraft. One afternoon flight arrived from Dallas and Tyler continuing on to Lufkin, Beaumont, and Houston, while another aircraft stopped through going the other way. The service was discontinued between 1952 and 1954.

Water and wastewater[edit]

The Water Treatment Plant operates 24 hours per day, 7 days per week, treating and pumping an average of 3 million gallons of water per day between Lake Palestine and city residents. The Wastewater Treatment Plant treats an average of 2.5 millions of gallons of wastewater per day. The water distribution system employs 26 lift stations and approximately 275 miles of water lines; wastewater involves approximately 250 miles of sanitary sewer lines.[22]

State government[edit]

Palestine is represented in the Texas Senate by Republican Robert Nichols, District 3, and in the Texas House of Representatives by Republican Byron Cook, District 8.

National government[edit]

At the national level, the two U.S. senators from Texas are Republicans John Cornyn and Ted Cruz; Palestine is part of Texas' US Congressional 5th District, currently represented by Republican Jeb Hensarling.


Public school districts[edit]

With almost 3,500 students the Palestine Independent School District is the largest school district in Palestine.[23] The district comprises:

  • Palestine High School, grades 9-12
  • Palestine Junior High, grades 7-8
  • A. M. Story Elementary, grades 4-6
  • Southside Primary, grades 2-3
  • Northside Early Childhood Center, pre-k -1

Located on the western edge of the city is the Westwood Independent School District. It is home to approximately 1,700 students.[24] It consists of a primary, elementary, junior high and high school campus.

Westwood Independent School District

  • Westwood High School, grades 9-12
  • Westwood Junior High, grades 7-8
  • Westwood Elementary, grades 3-6
  • Westwood Primary, grades K-2

Charter schools[edit]

Innovation Academy, charter school of The University of Texas at Tyler, began in 2012 with grades 3-6. Grades 7-12 will be added at the rate of one per year. Location: NW Loop 256 @ Highway 287N.

A small portion of remote area of the City is also within the Elkhart ISD.

Colleges and universities[edit]

Trinity Valley Community College operates TVCC-Palestine just north of the city limits at the intersection of US 287 and State Highway 19. In addition to offering academic transfer courses the Palestine campus offers vocational-technical programs in vocational nursing, cosmetology, mid-management, computer science, criminal justice, business and office technology, fire science, legal assistant, emergency medical technician and paramedic programs and also trains correctional officers for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice. Continuing education and adult education courses are also offered.[25]

The University of Texas at Tyler also operates a campus in the city. A new $9.6 million 50-acre (200,000 m2) campus opened in 2010, fall semester.[26] The UT Tyler Palestine Campus currently offers courses in Nursing, Business, Education, Health and Kinesiology and History.[27]


Palestine is served by the daily Palestine Herald-Press, founded in 1849 as the Palestine Advocate, now owned by Community Newspaper Holdings Inc. (CNHI).

Arts and culture[edit]

Music and arts[edit]

The Texas Theatre hosts community events.
  • The 25,000-square foot Civic Center is owned and operated by the City of Palestine.
  • The Texas Theatre is a historic structure designed originally designed as a movie palace that opened in 1930, is a prime example of Spanish Colonial architecture and provides a home for live community theater today.[28]
  • The Redlands Historic Inn maintains an art gallery in the lobby, featuring regional artists.


  • The Museum for East Texas Culture, located in Reagan Park, is housed in a 1915 schoolhouse. Exhibits include local Palestine historical noteworthy people, events and locations, an authentic vintage classroom, a log cabin and railroad memorabilia.
  • The Curious Museum on Oak Street, in the spirit of San Francisco's Exploratorium, engages creative and innovative thinking skills to educate visitors of all ages.
  • The Texas State Railroad Society Museum, located in the downtown Carnegie Library, displays model trains, local history and artifacts and train memorabilia.



Lakes and forested parks are natural features of the Piney Woods of East Texas,. Palestine is home to several, most prominently

  • 22-acre Steven Bennett Park
  • 20-acre Greens Park
  • 16-acre Reagan Park
  • 10-acre Calhoun Park
  • 29-acre athletic complex with 10 lighted baseball fields


  • There are four lakes within the city limits of Palestine,all of which have boat ramps, provide fishing, and collectively provide a variety of picnic areas and hiking trails:
  • Wolf Creek lake
  • Upper Lake
  • Lower Lake
  • Blue Lake


  • The Gus Engeling Wildlife Management Area, located 20 miles northwest of Palestine is a 10,000-acre a wildlife research and demonstration area for the Post Oak Savanna Ecoregion, a natural resource observe birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles, fishes and vegetation.[29]


  • Two local golf courses provide a range of recreational opportunity. Wildcat Golf Course, a 9-hole originally constructed in 1921. is located in the city.[30] Located on the north of the city, the Pine Dunes is a highly rated Jay Morrish-designed course which opened in the late 1990s. An indicator of the level of this course are awards such as 4-1/2 stars from Golf Digest and Golfweek's 2015 #1 "Best Courses You Can Play.".[31]


Recurring calendared activities include:

  • Dulcimer Festival - Featuring concerts, workshops, informal jam sessions the three-day dulcimer festival event features and attracts notable practitioners of dulcimer, guitar, violin, banjo and concertina, it has held at The Museum for East Texas Culture at Reagan Park every Spring since 2001.[32]
  • Dogwood Trails Festival - The Dogwood Trails Festival occurs each spring over the last two weekends of March and the first weekend in April.
  • Dogwood Jamboree - The Dogwood Jamboree is held every two months at the Palestine Civic Center. The country and western concert is hosted by Pastor Dan Manuel and a variety of country and western artists. The newest addition to the Dogwood Jamboree features a talent competition developing young artists under the age of 18.[citation needed]
  • Hot Pepper Festival - A popular culinary celebration that takes place every October in the city’s historic downtown area, the festival has concert entertainment and spotlights peppers with salsa-making contest, 4-H petting zoo, antique tractor show, and a parade.[33]
  • Frost Fest - An annual event that provides snow sliding/tubing, ice skating, historical tour of homes, a 5k Run, and family activities every December.[34]
Palestine welcome sign off U.S. Route 79

Notable people[edit]



  1. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Archived from the original on 2013-09-11. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  2. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  3. ^ a b "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Palestine city, Texas". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved August 8, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on 2011-05-31. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  5. ^ Kelsey, Mavis P. and Dyal, Donald H. The Courthouses of Texas (2nd ed.). Texas A&M University Press, College Station, 2000, p31.
  6. ^ Astronaut Diary Survives Columbia Accident
  7. ^ Original Platmap of the City of Palestine, TX Portal to Texas History
  8. ^ A Memorial and Biographical History of Navarro, Henderson, Anderson, Limestone, Freestone and Leon Counties, Texas. Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company. 1893. p. 262. Retrieved 28 September 2014. 
  9. ^ "Palestine, Texas", found in the Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities
  10. ^ Palestine City Directory, 1898-1899. Hensley-Arnold Co. 1898. p. 18. 
  11. ^ Anderson Co., TX - "A HISTORY OF PALESTINE"
  12. ^ "About The Union Pacific Railroad". Retrieved 2 September 2016. 
  13. ^ "Texas State Historical Association". Retrieved 16 September 2016. 
  14. ^ "Upper Neches River Municipal Water Authority". Retrieved 16 September 2016. 
  15. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  16. ^ "Upper Neches River Municipal Water Authority - About Us: Lake Palestine". Retrieved 2 September 2016. 
  17. ^ "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved June 9, 2017. 
  18. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Archived from the original on May 12, 2015. Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  19. ^ City of Palestine 2015 Audit Retrieved 2016-09-01
  20. ^ City of Palestine FY2016-17 Budget Retrieved 2016-09-01
  21. ^ "City of Palestine - Palestine Airport". Retrieved 2 September 2016. 
  22. ^ "City of Palestine - Palestine Utilities". Retrieved 2 September 2016. 
  23. ^ School District Locator : Accessible Version
  24. ^ School District Locator : Accessible Version
  25. ^ Palestine
  26. ^ The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas - Paving the Way
  27. ^ "University of Texas at Tyler Palestine Campus" (digital). UT Tyler. Retrieved 2009-03-27. [dead link]
  28. ^ "Palestine Chamber of Commerce- Texas Theatre". Retrieved 6 September 2016. 
  29. ^ "Gus Engeling Wildlife Management Area". Retrieved 6 September 2016. 
  30. ^ "Wildcat Golf Course". Retrieved 6 September 2016. 
  31. ^ "Pine Dunes Golf Course". Retrieved 6 September 2016. 
  32. ^ "Palestine Dulcimer Festival". Retrieved 6 September 2016. 
  33. ^ "Hot Pepper Festival". Retrieved 6 September 2016. 
  34. ^ "Frost Fest". Retrieved 6 September 2016. 
  35. ^ "Jackson, John Ellett". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved July 28, 2015. 

External links[edit]