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Van Zandt County, Texas facts for kids

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Van Zandt County
The Van Zandt County Courthouse in Canton
The Van Zandt County Courthouse in Canton
Map of Texas highlighting Van Zandt County
Location within the U.S. state of Texas
Map of the United States highlighting Texas
Texas's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  Texas
Founded 1848
Named for Isaac Van Zandt
Seat Canton
Largest city Canton
 • Total 860 sq mi (2,200 km2)
 • Land 843 sq mi (2,180 km2)
 • Water 17 sq mi (40 km2)  2.0%
 • Total 4,798,652,579
 • Density 5,580,000/sq mi (2,154,000/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (Central)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
Congressional district 5th
Van Zandt County Library in Canton, TX IMG 5617
The Van Zandt County Library is located next to the Blackwell House Museum in Canton, Texas.

Van Zandt County is a county located in the U.S. state of Texas, in the northeastern part of the state. As of the 2020 census, its population was 47,986. Its county seat is Canton. The county is named for Isaac Van Zandt (1813-1847), a member of the Congress of the Republic of Texas.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 860 square miles (2,200 km2), of which 843 square miles (2,180 km2) is land and 17 square miles (44 km2) (2.0%) is covered by water. Van Zandt County is unique in topography. The western and northwestern parts of the county are in the eastern edge of the Texas Blackland Prairies, the central part of the county is located in the post oak belt of Northeast Texas, and the eastern part of the county stretches into the East Texas Piney Woods. Two major rivers, the Neches and the Sabine both flow through Van Zandt County. Van Zandt is referred to as the "Gateway to East Texas" due to its diverse topography.


Van Zandt County is commonly known as the Free State of Van Zandt. The title was particularly prevalent through the Reconstruction Era, but is still in use today. Many versions of the county's history may account for this moniker, and historians, even within the county and throughout its existence, do not agree how exactly it became known as the Free State.

One story of how the Free State of Van Zandt came to be originates with the county's formation. In 1848, Henderson County was split into three counties: Kaufman, Van Zandt, and what remained as Henderson County. Henderson County had been deeply in debt, yet the new Van Zandt County was founded without any obligations. Many believed that this was a mistake on the state's part, and bitter citizens and politicians from Henderson County referred to the new county as the Free State.

Van Zandt County tried on two distinct occasions to separate itself from Texas. The first was in 1861 when Texas seceded from the United States. About 350 citizens of Van Zandt County met to protest the secession. The practice of slavery was infrequent in the county. Slave-owners, worried about losing their slaves in the Civil War, refused to bring their slaves to Van Zandt, because slavery was so uncommon there. The majority of Van Zandt wanted to stay with the Union, and reasoned that if Texas could secede from the United States, they could secede from Texas, and began organizing a government until they were threatened with military intervention. Although the secession was unsuccessful, the title of "Free State" stuck.

After Texas reentered the Union after the Civil War, Van Zandt County again tried to secede from Texas, the Confederate States of America, and the United States. A convention was held in 1867 in which the citizens elected delegates, and the delegates voted for secession, and penned a Declaration of Independence modeled after the United States Declaration of Independence. The event was seen as a rebellion by the nation, and when word reached General Sheridan, he dispatched a cavalry unit to quell it. The citizens of Van Zandt called an emergency meeting which ended with the delegates declaring war on the United States. The wooded landscape at the time made it difficult for horses to move through, so the citizens of Van Zandt, familiar with the area, were able to ambush the unit, until they retreated. The citizens, elated with their victory, celebrated with an excess of alcohol. During their celebration, they were surrounded by Sheridan's troops, and were put in anklets and in a rough prison of wooden posts. Two ex-Confederate soldiers, W.A. Allen and Hardy Allen were in the group, and W.A. Allen used a hidden knife to wear down the anklets. A combination of the beginning of the rainy season and a decreasing of the guard to one man allowed the prisoners to easily escape. After that, not much action on the part of Van Zandt or the United States was taken in the issue. Arrest warrants were sent, but none was carried out, and none of the prisoners went to trial.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1850 1,348
1860 3,777 180.2%
1870 6,494 71.9%
1880 12,619 94.3%
1890 16,225 28.6%
1900 25,481 57.0%
1910 25,651 0.7%
1920 30,784 20.0%
1930 32,315 5.0%
1940 31,155 −3.6%
1950 22,593 −27.5%
1960 19,091 −15.5%
1970 22,155 16.0%
1980 31,426 41.8%
1990 37,944 20.7%
2000 48,140 26.9%
2010 52,579 9.2%
2020 59,541 13.2%
U.S. Decennial Census
1850–2010 2010 2020

2020 census

Van Zandt County, Texas - Demographic Profile
(NH = Non-Hispanic)
Race / Ethnicity Pop 2010 Pop 2020 % 2010 % 2020
White alone (NH) 45,087 47,986 85.75% 80.59%
Black or African American alone (NH) 1,403 1,517 2.67% 2.55%
Native American or Alaska Native alone (NH) 371 328 0.71% 0.55%
Asian alone (NH) 168 272 0.32% 0.46%
Pacific Islander alone (NH) 32 30 0.06% 0.05%
Some Other Race alone (NH) 15 133 0.03% 0.22%
Mixed Race/Multi-Racial (NH) 656 2,204 1.25% 3.70%
Hispanic or Latino (any race) 4,847 7,071 9.22% 11.88%
Total 52,579 59,541 100.00% 100.00%

Note: the US Census treats Hispanic/Latino as an ethnic category. This table excludes Latinos from the racial categories and assigns them to a separate category. Hispanics/Latinos can be of any race.



  • Van Zandt County Regional Airport (Wills Point)
  • Canton-Hackney Airport (Canton)

Major highways

  • I-20 (TX).svg Interstate 20
  • US 80.svg U.S. Highway 80
  • Texas 19.svg State Highway 19
  • Texas 64.svg State Highway 64
  • Texas 110.svg State Highway 110
  • Texas 198.svg State Highway 198

Adjacent counties




Census-designated places

Other unincorporated communities

Ghost towns

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