Palestine, Texas

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Palestine, Texas
Downtown Palestine.
Downtown Palestine.
Location of Palestine, Texas
Location of Palestine, Texas
Anderson Palestine.svg
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
 • TypeCouncil–manager
 • City councilMayor Steve Presley
Larissa Loveless (District 1)
Mitchell Jordan (District 2)
Vickey Chivers (District 3)
Joe Baxter (District 4)
Dana Goolsby (District 5)
Ann Conner (District 6)
 • City managerTeresa Herrera (interim)
 • Total19.63 sq mi (50.83 km2)
 • Land19.42 sq mi (50.30 km2)
 • Water0.20 sq mi (0.53 km2)
482 ft (147 m)
 • Total57,496
 • Estimate 
 • Density912.88/sq mi (352.46/km2)
Time zoneUTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP codes
Area code(s)903
FIPS code48-54708[3]
GNIS feature ID1364714[4]

Palestine (/ˈpælɪstn/ PAL-i-steen) is a city in and the county seat of Anderson County in Texas, United States.[5] As of the 2010 census, the city population was 18,712.[6] Palestine was named for Palestine, Illinois, by preacher Daniel Parker.[7] Another source says that it was named by migrant Micham Main for the same hometown.[8]

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



A trading post was established here about 1843 and some settlers gathered around it.[9] 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.[10]

In 1858, Palestine had grown to a population of 2000. An 1861 state almanac showed that the city was connected to the rest of Texas via a tri-weekly stagecoach that serviced Huntsville, Crockett, and Nacogdoches.[11] In 1861 a joint resolution called for the construction of the "Metropolitan Railroad" from Texarkana to Austin, passing through Palestine, Henderson, and Fairfield,[12] but these plans were interrupted by the Civil War.

During the Reconstruction era, the town's growth was stimulated and timber trade was stimulated when the railroad was constructed through here in the 1870s.[13] It had a population of more than 10,000 by 1898.[14]


The International Railroad and the Houston and Great Northern Railroad first connected Palestine to the city of Hearne in 1872 ,[15] and later that year was connected northeast to Longview. The railroad 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 there. Successful 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. At that time, 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 major modifications and repairs to freight cars. The Palestine UP workforce has more than 100 employees.[16]

After the Rusk Penitentiary was completed near the city of Rusk, convict labor was used to build the railroad. It originally transported raw materials to 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, when they abandoned it during national restructuring. The Texas Legislature adapted the railroad as a state park in 1972, to be devoted to operating trains that showed some of the state's railroad history.

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. This short railroad line dates to 1883.

Modern era[edit]

In 1914, the county's fifth courthouse was completed, which is still standing and in use. One of the many historical sites is Sacred Heart Church, which was designed by Nicholas J. Clayton.

In 1928, oil was discovered at Boggy Creek, east of Palestine, 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.[17]

Construction of the earth-filled Blackburn Crossing Dam on the Upper Neches River, creating Lake Palestine as a reliable source of water, was begun in 1960, and completed in 1962. It was enlarged from 1969 to 1972 to 75 feet high, and 5,720 feet long.[18]

About 40% of the content from the 2003 Space Shuttle Columbia disaster, in which seven astronauts were killed, were recovered,[19] much of it in the form of debris found in and outside Palestine[20] and other East Texas towns.[21] Palestine's NASA Columbia Scientific Balloon Facility (renamed in honor of the shuttle crew), has flown 1,700 high-altitude balloons for universities and research agencies.

On November 15, 2015, a mass shooting took place at a campsite several miles northwest of Palestine, where six people were killed by 33-year-old William Mitchell Hudson, an intoxicated neighbor (who was armed with an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, a .380-caliber Remington RM380 semi-automatic pistol & a .40-caliber Smith & Wesson SD40VE semi-automatic pistol), upset about losing his family's land. The shooter was charged with capital murder.[22] He was convicted and sentenced to death by a Brazos County jury on November 15, 2017.


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).[23] 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) are land and 0.19 square miles (0.5 km2), or 1.06%, is covered by water.[6]

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.[24]

Roads and highways[edit]

Palestine is at a crossroads of several arterial highways:


  • 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 -6 °F in 2021
  • The maximum average precipitation occurs in October.


Historical population
Census Pop.
2019 (est.)17,730[2]−5.2%
U.S. Decennial Census[25]

As of the census[3] of 2000, 17,598 people, 6,641 households, and 4,582 families resided in the city. The population density was 994.3 people per square mile (383.9/km2). The 7,668 housing units averaged 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. Hispanics or Latinos of any race were 14.88% of the population.

Of the 6,641 households, 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 not families. About 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 distributed as 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 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 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.


The Anderson County Courthouse in Palestine 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 $13.1 million in revenues, $14.6 million in expenditures, $3.1 million in total assets, $0.4 million in total liabilities, and $6.7 million in cash in investments across all funds.[26]


Palestine is served by the general aviation Palestine Municipal Airport, located on the northwest edge of the city. Activated in 1942, its 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-engined, and is owned and operated by the city. [27]

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 water-distribution system employs 26 lift stations and about 275 miles of water lines; wastewater involves roughly 250 miles of sanitary sewer lines.[28]

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 Lance Gooden.


Public school districts[edit]

With almost 3,500 students, the Palestine Independent School District is the largest school district in Palestine.[29] 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, prekindergarten-1

Located on the western edge of the city, the Westwood Independent School District is home to around 1,700 students.[30] It consists of a primary, elementary, junior=high, and high-school campuses.

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, a charter school operated by the University of Texas at Tyler, began in 2012 with grades 3–6, expanding upward to grades 7–12 at the rate of one grade per year. In March 2018, the school had 188 students enrolled, and planned to grow to 600 students. On March 19, 2018, the university announced it would be upgrading the Innovation Academy school building at a cost of $650,000.

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.[31]

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.[32] The UT-Tyler Palestine Campus currently offers courses in nursing.[33]


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

The city is served by the Tyler television broadcast market. The nearest television transmitter to the city is KETK-TV (NBC) located 30 miles away at Mt. Selman. Likewise, most radio stations serving Palestine originate from Tyler, Jacksonville, or Henderson.

Wired internet for the city is primarily provided by Suddenlink and CenturyLink, with Windstream serving rural areas formerly operated by Valor Telecom. In the 2000s, Comcast and AT&T provided DSL service before withdrawing from the local market.

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, 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.[34]
  • 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 Royall 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:

  • 29-acre athletic complex with 10 lighted baseball fields
  • 10-acre Calhoun Park
  • 20-acre Greens Park
  • 1-acre Larry Street Park
  • 3-acre Mitchell Campbell Field
  • 16.1-acre Reagan Park
  • 22.5-acre Steven L. Bennett Park
  • 2.50-acre Willie Myers Park


  • Four lakes are 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:
  • Blue Lake
  • Lower Lake
  • Upper Lake
  • Wolf Creek 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 to observe birds, mammals, amphibians and reptiles, fishes, and vegetation.[35]


  • 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.[36] 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.".[37]


Recurring calendared activities include:

  • The Dulcimer Festival, Featuring concerts, workshops, and informal jam sessions, is a three-day dulcimer festival event that features and attracts notable practitioners of dulcimer, guitar, violin, banjo, and concertina; it has been held at the Museum for East Texas Culture at Reagan Park every spring since 2001.[38]
  • 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]
  • The Hot Pepper Festival, a popular culinary celebration, takes place every October in the city's historic downtown area; the festival has concert entertainment and spotlights peppers with a salsa-making contest, 4-H petting zoo, antique tractor show, and parade.[39]
  • Frost Fest is an annual event that provides snow sliding/tubing, ice skating, historical tour of homes, a 5k run, and family activities every December.[40]
Palestine welcome sign off U.S. Route 79

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 7, 2020.
  2. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  3. ^ a b "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  4. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  5. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on 2011-05-31. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  6. ^ a b "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Palestine city, Texas". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Archived from the original on February 12, 2020. Retrieved August 8, 2013.
  7. ^ Kelsey, Mavis P. and Dyal, Donald H. The Courthouses of Texas (2nd ed.). Texas A&M University Press, College Station, 2000, p31.
  8. ^ "Anderson Co., TX - "A HISTORY OF PALESTINE""., US GenWeb Archives
  9. ^ 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.
  10. ^ "Original Platmap of the City of Palestine, TX", Portal to Texas History
  11. ^ The Texas Almanac for 1861, book, 1860; Galveston, Texas. ( accessed December 12, 2020), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Texas State Historical Association, p. 292.
  12. ^ The Texas Almanac for 1861, book, 1860; Galveston, Texas. ( accessed December 12, 2020), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Texas State Historical Association, p. 118.
  13. ^ ""Palestine, Texas"], found in the [ Encyclopedia of Southern Jewish Communities". Archived from the original on 2012-06-16. External link in |title= (help)
  14. ^ Palestine City Directory, 1898-1899. Hensley-Arnold Co. 1898. p. 18.
  15. ^ The Texas Almanac for 1872, and Emigrant's Guide to Texas., book, 1872~; ( accessed December 12, 2020), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Texas State Historical Association.
  16. ^ "About The Union Pacific Railroad". Archived from the original on 27 March 2016. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  17. ^ "Texas State Historical Association". Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  18. ^ "Upper Neches River Municipal Water Authority". Archived from the original on 2016-10-09. Retrieved 16 September 2016.
  19. ^ Loretta Hidalgo Whitesides (October 2008). "Diary Survived Shuttle Accident, Goes On Display". Wired. cardboard-covered, three-ring bound .. found wet and crumpled .. field .. Palestine, Texas.
  20. ^ "Pride Turns to Grief and Disbelief in Israel". Los Angeles Times. February 2, 2003.
  21. ^ "Astronaut Diary Survives Columbia Accident". Universe Today. 6 October 2008.
  22. ^ KLTV Digital Media Staff. "Sheriff, six killed in campsite homicide, suspect charged". KLTV ABC.
  23. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  24. ^ "Upper Neches River Municipal Water Authority - About Us: Lake Palestine". Archived from the original on 2016-09-12. Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  25. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  26. ^ City of Palestine 2016 Audit Retrieved 2016-10-08
  27. ^ "City of Palestine - Palestine Airport". Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  28. ^ "City of Palestine - Palestine Utilities". Retrieved 2 September 2016.
  29. ^ "School District Locator : Accessible Version". Archived from the original on 2006-12-10. Retrieved 2006-12-10.
  30. ^ "School District Locator : Accessible Version". Archived from the original on 2006-12-10. Retrieved 2006-12-10.
  31. ^ "Trinity Valley Community College Homepage". Archived from the original on 2008-01-17.
  32. ^ "The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas - Paving the Way". Archived from the original on 2012-09-06.
  33. ^ "University of Texas at Tyler Palestine Campus" (digital). UT Tyler. Retrieved 2009-03-27.[dead link]
  34. ^ "Palestine Chamber of Commerce- Texas Theatre". Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  35. ^ "Gus Engeling Wildlife Management Area". Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  36. ^ "Wildcat Golf Course". Archived from the original on 14 September 2016. Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  37. ^ "Pine Dunes Golf Course". Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  38. ^ "Palestine Dulcimer Festival". Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  39. ^ "Hot Pepper Festival". Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  40. ^ "Frost Fest". Retrieved 6 September 2016.
  41. ^ "Jackson, John Ellett". The Political Graveyard. Retrieved July 28, 2015.

External links[edit]