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Palestine, Texas
City of Palestine
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
County Anderson
 • Type Council–manager
 • Total 19.63 sq mi (50.83 km2)
 • Land 19.42 sq mi (50.30 km2)
 • Water 0.20 sq mi (0.53 km2)
482 ft (147 m)
 • Total 57,496
 • Estimate 
 • Density 912.88/sq mi (352.46/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP codes
Area code(s) 903
FIPS code 48-54708
GNIS feature ID 1364714

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

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.



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. Antedating the town was a temporary trading post in operation since at least 1843. It grew significantly following the arrival of the railroad in the 1870s. It had a population of over 10,000 by 1898.

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


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.


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.

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.


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). 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.

Surrounding municipalities

Weather chart for Palestine, Texas
temperatures in °F
precipitation totals in inches
source: / NWS

Lake Palestine

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.

Roads and highways

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%
2019 (est.) 17,730 −5.2%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census 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.

Arts and culture

Music and Performing Arts

Texas Theatre, Palestine, TX IMG 2320
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.


  • 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.


  • 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. 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.".


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.
  • 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. Each performance always features new talent, young, older, and in-between. The newest addition to the Dogwood Jamboree features a talent competition developing young artists under the age of 18. People come from all over the nation and from foreign countries to see the performances.
  • Hot Pepper Festival - A popular culinary celebration that takes place every October in the city’s historic downtown area, the festival provides concert entertainment and spotlights peppers with salsa-making contest, 4-H petting zoo, antique tractor show, and a parade.
  • Frost Fest - An annual event that provides snow sliding/tubing, ice skating, historical tour of homes, a 5k Run, and family activities every December.
Palestine, TX sign IMG 2305
Palestine welcome sign off U.S. Route 79



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.

Notable people

  • Aaron Aryanpur, stand-up comedian
  • Smith Ballew, actor and singer
  • Steven L. Bennett, Vietnam War hero, Medal of Honor recipient
  • Elton Bomer, politician - served as state representative and Texas Secretary of State
  • Bill Bradley, football player and coach
  • Guy Brown, former NFL player, Dallas Cowboys
  • Thomas M. Campbell, 24th governor of Texas
  • Keith Crawford, former NFL player
  • Oscar Dugey, early 20th-Century baseball player and coach
  • Dick H. Guinn, Vice admiral in the U.S. Navy; World War II veteran and Navy Cross recipient.
  • Ben Howard, aeronautical designer and race pilot
  • John E. Jackson, state chairman, Louisiana Republican Party, 1929–1934; born in Palestine in 1892
  • Jack Pepper, entertainer, first husband of Ginger Rogers
  • Adrian Peterson, Tennessee Titans running back and former Oklahoma Sooners player
  • John H. Reagan, US Congressman before and after the Civil War, Confederate Postmaster general, and US Senator after the war, chairman of the Texas Railroad Commission
  • Todd Staples, 11th Texas Commissioner of Agriculture and former member of both houses of the Texas State Legislature
  • Gene Watson, singer
  • Alliene Brandon Webb, composer
  • Whiskey Myers, rock band

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