On November 10, 1837 the Battle of the Knobs was fought in what is now Wise County between about 150 Indian warriors and just 18 Republic of Texas soldiers under Lieutenant A. B. Benthuysen. Despite being heavily outnumbered, the Texas soldiers held their ground, with an estimated 50 Indians killed or wounded and 10 of the Texans dead. Settlers began coming into the area not long afterwards. Wise County itself was founded in 1856. It was named after Virginia Congressman Henry A. Wise, who had supported Texas annexation by the United States.
In recent years, Wise County allowed an increase in hydraulic fracturing. In 2011, the Parr family and others filed a lawsuit against several energy companies, including Republic Energy, Inc. and Ryder Scott Petroleum, claiming the extracting processes have created health complications for their family and neighbors. In April 2014, the Parrs won a $2.9 million award from a Dallas jury.
U.S. Decennial Census
As of the census of 2000, there were 48,793 people, 17,178 households, and 13,467 families residing in the county. The population density was 54 people per square mile (21/km²). There were 19,242 housing units at an average density of 21 per square mile (8/km²). The racial makeup of the county was 91.01% White, 1.23% Black, 0.75% Native American, 0.22% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 5.03% from other races, and 1.71% from two or more races. 10.76% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 17,178 households out of which 38.20% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 66.10% were married couples living together, 8.20% had a female householder with no husband present, and 21.60% were non-families. 18.30% of all households were made up of individuals and 7.10% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.77 and the average family size was 3.14.
In the county, the population was spread out with 28.30% under the age of 18, 7.80% from 18 to 24, 30.20% from 25 to 44, 23.00% from 45 to 64, and 10.60% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 101.50 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 99.40 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $41,933, and the median income for a family was $47,909. Males had a median income of $35,913 versus $23,434 for females. The per capita income for the county was $17,729. About 7.50% of families and 9.90% of the population were below the poverty line, including 11.30% of those under age 18 and 10.60% of those age 65 or over.