For a free wildflower map and brochure,
Suzanne Cross/Tourism Coordinator
(903) 657-6551 Ext. 268
Beginning with Henderson as the center point of your Rusk County scenic tour, there are three itineraries which will provide a scenic and informative view of Rusk County and it's historic past.
Driving Trail No. 1: The East Texas Oilfield / Overton History Tour
Henderson, Texas, lies just outside the 43-mile-long Black Giant, the East Texas Oil Field. Join us and travel from Henderson to western Rusk County, home of the Discovery Well which signaled the discovery of oil in East Texas. You will see sites of historical significance and heartbreaking tragedy.
As we follow State Highway 323 west of Henderson, take special notice of the pine forests and abundance of native wildflowers, especially the profusion of coreopsis and Indian paintbrush growing alongside the roads.
About midway between Henderson and Overton (6.8 miles), on the left on a hill across from a modern brick country church, is the Pleasant Hill Cemetery, burial site of 171 students of the New London School, killed in one of the most deadly gas explosions in the oil industry’s history. It is one of only a few cemeteries in which most markers have the same death date. The cemetery also contains the graves of many war veterans and early area merchants, financiers, land impresarios and cotton buyers.
Continue on SH 323(1.2 miles) until you come to County Road 4136 on your left. Turn down the winding blacktop (oil service road) for 1.6 miles till you come to a white pipe fence on the right. This historical marker and the active oil well marks the site of the Daisy Bradford No. 3, the original Discovery Well which began the Great East Texas Oil Boom of the 1930’s. The Daisy Bradford was the third attempt by C.M. (Dad) Joiner to bring in a producing well in this area. The well blew in on October 3, 1930.
Continue down the oil road till you come to a "T" intersection. Turn left on CR 4105, go 0.3 miles then veer to the right continuing on 4105 all the way to State Highway 64. Turn right on 64, you are now in Joinerville. The Stroud Houses B&B will be on your immediate left.
You have an option here, a little side attraction, you may visit Gaston Museum by turning left, or continue the tour by turning right . If you visit the Gaston Museum, simply turn around and go back to the location where you are now, and continue the tour.
- If you turn left and go just down the highway a little bit still in Joinerville, you will come to the Gaston Musem on your left. This museum is Rusk County's newest museum.
Revisit "Life in the East Texas Oil Field," once the largest oil field in the world. The museum is open from 9:00 am to 4:30 pm, Friday and Saturday, by appointment. The season opens on the second Friday in March and closes on the second Saturday in November. Call (903) 657-5493 or (903) 847-2205, email, or visit their website.
After the Gaston Museum visit you can go back to the location that you started with by the Stroud Houses B&B and continue your tour.
- Turn right on Highway 64, you are now in Joinerville. The Stroud Houses B&B is on your left.
Continue on Hwy 64 just pass the B&B and on your right you will see "Pioneer Park", with it's monument to "Joe Roughneck". Erected in 1956 by Lone Star Steel this memorial is dedicated to the working men in the oilfield. It has an encasement to be opened in 2056. The park contains a replica of a wooden oil derrick used to drill the discovery well. Continue on Highway 64 until you come to State Highway 42 (a blinking traffic light). Turn right on Highway 42 and continue on until you reach New London.
From New London continue north on SH 42, to the intersection of SH 135 and FM 918. This intersection is the site of the Sexton City Market, which is open third weekend year around.
Following SH 135, turn left (south) at Rocky Mount Church sign. The Rocky Mount cemetery is located behind the church, and contains the grave of Captain Jacob Geurin (deGeurin), descendant of French Huguenot family, born in North Carolina in 1788. He came to Texas early, settled at Rocky Mount, and served in War of 1812. His wife was Abigail Henderson. Members of the Day and Mayfield families, among other early pioneer families of this area are buried here. Cemetery is well-kept and marked.
Continue on SH 135 (east) and follow it on into Overton. Overton is one of Rusk County’s older towns, and it is known for its city park, site of the annual Bluegrass Music Festival. The park is open year around and offers RV hook-up (electric, water and dump station) For reservations call (903) 834-3171. The park comprises a fishing lake, playground, picnic tables and fire rings, and a modern community building. A swimming pool is open during the summer. The Overton Community Golf Course is located off FM 850 west in the Overton Park. There is also a roadside park for picnics located in the 200 block of South Commerce. Shoppers may find a plethora of one of a kind gifts and antiques in Overton’s downtown shops, such as: Pat’s Place, Melba’s Antiques,Victorian Lady Flowers and Gifts, Gifts O'Decor by Sisters, and the Peanut Butter Emporium are all located on Henderson St.; On Commerce St, you will find Lo Raes Flower Corner, AJ’s Place, Grannys, Overton Donut Shop and the Dairy Queen on SH 135 south.
When you see the Welcome to Overton sign, turn left on Commerce (SH 135 south). As you continue on Commerce St. you will see the beautiful landscaped roadway. Continue to the intersection of SH 135 and SH 323, turn left on SH323 and follow it to the intersection of SH 323 and SH 42.
From this point, you have two options:
- Go to Kilgore
- Go to Jordan's Plant Farm. You may pick up the plant farm on driving tour No. 3
To Jordan's Plant Farm turn south on SH 42, approximately 5 miles past the community of Price you will come to Jordan’s Plant Farm on the left side of the road. The Jordan’s started their business with one greenhouse in 1976, and have expanded to become one of the finest tourist attractions and garden centers in the area with a complex of 82 greenhouses and a feeling of home, Step back into the past as you see the old-time hotel, old General Store, Post Office, Grandma’s Kitchen, Barber Shop, Church, School, Hotel lobby and Saloon. Browse through rooms filled with fascinating displays, scenes, baskets of the world, hand-made crafts, antiques and numerous relics. At Christmas, enjoy a free cup of coffee and tour Poinsettia Wonderland featuring more than 40,000 poinsettias each year. Jordan’s hours are 8:00 am to 5:00 pm, seven days a week.
From Jordan’s, you may follow SH 42 to the intersection of US 79, and turn north on US 79 back to Henderson, or cross US 79 and follow FM 1798 to Laneville, joining the southern arm of Driving Trails No. 3.
Driving Trail No. 2: Loop Within a Loop-Henderson to Tatum
From Henderson, take U.S. Highway 259 North to FM 782 (Chicken Feather Road). This passes by the 26,000 acre TXU Energy’ Oak Hill surface coal mining operations, with many area in the process of reclamation. A Delta 36 dragline can be seen on most days somewhere along this route. This mechanical giant has a boom length of 325 feet, an 82 cubic yard bucket, with a weight of 8 million pounds. The dragline takes steps 6 feet long using the shoes located on either side of the machine. Reclaimed area are put to one of four land uses-coastal Bermuda (hay land), reforestation (pines and mixed hardwoods), wildlife habitat (wetlands, grasses, and shrubs), and ponds. Watch for reclaimed areas of red-blooming clover.
At Oak Hill, you come to an optional turning point. For a short, approximately one-hour tour, turn (right) south on FM 1716, which circles the mining operations and returns to Henderson on SH 43.
For a longer tour, continue north (straight across intersection) from Oak Hill on FM 1716, take a right on FM 782 to C.E. Rogers & Son General Store in the Stewart community. The store will be about four miles to the right. Opened in 1889, the store is one of the oldest and last general stores in East Texas, and retains much of its old “general store” atmosphere, along with more modern merchandise. A 100-plus-year-old cash register holds the store’s current “charge accounts”. The store is open 7:00 am to 7:30 pm, Monday through Saturday and closed holidays.
Leaving Rogers store, follow FM 782 to the “Y”, take the right-hand road (FM 1797) to the intersection of FM 1716, turn south and continue across SH 43 on CR 2183 (south), and stop at Harmony Hill, site of one of Rusk County’s ghost towns, where only a pre-Civil War cemetery remains. Harmony Hill Cemetery was designated a National Historic site in 1976, and has a marker on its gates.
From Harmony Hill follow the signs on CR 2183 to Martin Creek Lake State Park. The park offers a wide range of choices for outdoor fun and recreation. Activities include picnicking, and tent camping, screened shelters, cottages and cabins. Also offered are more than seven miles of mountain bike trails. A portion of the old Trammel’s Trace roadbed, an Indian trail that became a major route for Anglo-American settlers in the 1800s, can be seen near the fishing pier Visitors enjoy year-round fishing for large-mouth bass, crappie, channel catfish, perch and sunfish. Watchable wildlife includes white-tailed deer, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons and armadillos among the mammals. Mallard ducks, great blue herons, green-backed herons, great egrets, red-headed woodpeckers and bobwhites are common birds. During the months of November through February, bald eagles are seen. A field bird check list is available at the park headquarters.
Tatum marks the north end of Trammel’s Trace. In Tatum, turn right (south) on SH 149. A marker on the left tells the history of Tatum. Founded in 1840, and the namesake of Paul “Fox” Tatum who laid out the town and owned most of the land upon which the town was built. He named a number of streets after famous generals of the Confederacy.
While in Tatum, you might like to have a snack or enjoy a meal and do a little shopping. The Tatum Depot Museum is located on Hwy 43 and Hood Street. It is open Tuesday and Thursday, 1:30 pm to 3:30 pm. Also on Thursday, the Heritage House is a great Place for home cooking and good fellowship. The Heritage House is located on Crystal Farms Rd. off of Hwy 149 The Dairy Queen, Subway, Texas Express is located on Hwy 149. Natalie's is located on SH 43 and the La Hacienda Mexican Restaurant is located on the corner of SH 43 and SH149.
Leaving the City of Tatum, take SH 43 south turn left onto FM 3231.Continue south following Trammel’s Trace. This road retraces the paths of early Indians and settlers. Martin Creek Lake and Martin Creek Lake State Park now covers the land that once belonged to the Caddo Indians. Daniel Martin, for whom the lake is named, settled the area in 1832. TXU operates a coal-fired electric generation plant at the lake. The Daniel Martin Cemetery is located on FM 3232 before it turns into FM 1798.
Follow FM 1798 to the juncture of FM 1251, where CR 3105 begins. At this junction, you may turn right (west) through Church Hill follow FM 1251 until it runs into SH 43, and follow into Henderson. Or you may continue on CR 3105 until it again becomes FM 1798 when it crosses U.S. 79 North, and follow that road south to the intersection of U.S. 259 South, where you can join the southern arm of Itinerary No. 3.
Driving Trail No. 3: Southern East Tour
From Henderson, follow 259/79 South to the intersection of East Main Street, turn along Chicken Express. Continue on East Main to the "Y" which is the intersection of FM 840, known as the Brachfield Highway. Ranching has replaced farming along this route, and you will see a number of newly developed gas wells that fuel the economy. Mission Springs Baptist Church is located on the left, about three miles southeast of Henderson. This church was established in 1894, and is named for springs at the site of the first brush arbor services.
From this point on to the intersection of FM 2867, there are rich deposits of the red clay used by famous early potters such as John Hunt, Joseph Rushton and John Leopard, who established thriving potteries in this area during the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Turn left on FM 2867 and follow about six miles to CR 364, turn right and follow to the site of Rusk County’s oldest standing church structure, Pine Grove Cumberland Presbyterian Church, established in 1840. The standing structure was built about 1968-70, and served as both a church and a school. Although no longer used by a congregation, the church, now fully restored, still serves as a community gathering place, and was awarded a Texas Historical Medallion in 1965.
Return to FM 2867, follow to end of road and turn left on FM 1798 to the community of Pine Hill, first settled in 1844. The once thriving town boasted a bank, stores, hotel, railroad, doctors and churches. It now includes two churches, a Masonic lodge hall charted in 1854, a modern convenience store, and a residence that once served as a hotel. The remains of burned out brick buildings that once defined the downtown area now stands in stark contrast to the one-room wood community center that serves as a voting box.
From Pine Hill, follow FM 1798 south toward Brachfield. This portion of FM 1798 closely follows the route of Trammel’s Trace. Trammel’s Trace followed an old Indian trail, and was the route that opened up East Texas for its first settlers.
About five miles southwest of Pine Hill, the Patrick brothers and their families settled the Patrick community in 1854. Robert Daniel Patrick owned a gristmill and cotton gin nearby, and donated land for a church and school in 1874. A Historical Marker marks the church, Pleasant Springs Presbyterian Church.
Robert died in 1887 when a large gin press fell on him, and his wife, Frances, died a few months later, leaving nine orphan children who were subsequently raised by neighbors and relatives in the community. A Historical Marker marks the Patrick-Bolding home, now occupied by Gertie Patrick. Also known as "The Orphans Home," part of the home was also used as a postal station, small grocery store and telephone office.
About one mile further on FM 1798 is the community of Brachfield. This community was settled along Murvaul Creek, and was first known as Murvaul. Following the Civil War, the name was changed to Need More, and finally, when the community gained a post office, the name was changed to Brachfield. It was named in honor of a prominent local judge, Charles L. Brachfield, who made his first political speech there.
At one time, Brachfield was a thriving community with several stores and a cotton gin. The old gin still stands, and can be seen from the highway.
Continue on FM 1798 to the community of Minden. Minden was settled in the spring of 1849, when a covered wagon containing the Lewis family from Georgia rolled into an Indian camp just west of the Trammel Trace. Several other families joined the Lewises by the spring of 1850 and a small town was established. The town was named Minden by request of W.H. Watson, an immigrant from Minden, Louisianan.
Minden prospered for the next 50 years, but never grew to be a large town. By 1990, Minden had settled back to a quiet, serene little village.
Follow FM 1798 to its intersection with U.S. 259, turn south (left) and follow U.S. 259 into Mt. Enterprise.
Mt. Enterprise came into existence sometime between 1832 and 1840. The name was probably derived from the new enterprise of two storekeepers, and the mere fact that it was situated near a slight elevation. This site is north of the present town.
The citizens voted to move the town to its present location when the Caro Northern Railway Company bypassed the old town. This railroad, which terminated in the vicinity of the town’s present location, was abandoned in 1934.
Places to eat and shop in Mt. Enterprise include the Hilltop Restaurant (breakfast and lunch hours only), First Food Bakery, Four Corners Mart, Pizza Pro and Rancho Grande. Check out the antiques at 84 West Antique Mall, the Library, Sisters Antiques on 259, and Milford’s Antiques.
From Mt. Enterprise, take U.S. 84 east to the edge of town, turn right and follow CR 3198, which is old Highway 84. The first house on the left past the second bridge is the Ross House, which is privately owned and not open to the public. The Ross family came to Texas in 1838 from Tennessee, and Dr. William McDonald Ross built the house in 1845. Dr. Ross was a pioneer doctor, surveyor, early sheriff of Rusk County, and member of the Texas Legislature. The house is an excellent example of early Texas architecture, with side rooms at each end of the porch. The `sickroom’ of the house served as a hospital. During Dr. Ross’ term as sheriff, prisoners were kept a building in the back yard.
Continue on CR 3198 to the community of Concord, a dairy and farming community, located in the southeastern part of the county. Situated in the oldest part of the county, the community had four businesses, a school, and a population of 125 in 1940.
At Concord, turn left (north) onto FM 95, cross U.S. Hwy. 84, and continue north on FM 95. A few miles north brings you to the Lawsonville community. Lawsonville was named for Frank Lawson, a lawyer who owned land in the area before 1880. In 1885 the community had three churches and a school.
Continue on FM 95 back to Minden. Turn left onto FM 1798 and follow to U.S. 259.
At this time you have three options: Option No. 1: You may turn right and go back to Henderson. Option No. 2 Connect with Driving Tour No. 2. To connect, circle back on FM 1798 through Brachfield, Pine Hill and cross US 79. This road becomes CR 3231 which ends in Tatum. Option No. 3: Visit the Monte Verde Plantation. This is the most scenic part of Rusk County. The plantation is now privately owned and is not open to the public. One of the largest and most successful of the East Texas cotton plantations. The home was built in 1855 by Julien Devereux, a Texas Legislator.
The plantation had 10,721 acres and 80 slaves. The plantation is located on a hill with a breath taking view in all directions. The home received a Medallion Marker on October 6, 1962. To view the plantation, stay on Highway 1798 and cross US 259 heading west. Continue on 1798 through Laneville to Highway 1662. Turn left on Highway 1662, proceed until you get to the intersection of Highway 1662 and Highway 2753. Take Highway 2753 to the Glen Fawn Cemetery. Turn right on CR 4233.
The plantation will be one mile on your right and you will see the gate with the Monte Verde name on it. After viewing, continue to the end of CR 422 which will end at the intersection of Highway 84. Turn right on Highway 84 and continue to Highway 204. Turn right and follow the Highway 839. This will take you through New Salem. Continue on Highway 839 to the intersection of Highway 1798, turn left. Highway 1798 will take you to US 79. At this time you may turn to go to Henderson or continue across the highway which Highway 1798 turns into Highway 42. Continue on Highway 42 for three miles to Jordan's Plant Farm which will be on your right.