What's in a Name?
Paris Texas is in good company, as it is among many other Texas cities with names that hail from overseas - like Odessa, Bogota, Detroit,
Athens, etc. And, Paris is the second largest city so named in the world... with a cowboy hat on top of its very own Eiffel Tower!
Paris sits on an expanse of beautiful Triden's prairie between the Red and Sulphur Rivers. The city's original name was Pinhook and was
located in huge expanse of Red River county, but by 184, Lamar county was formed. The town was renamed Paris in honor of Mirabeau
Lamar, the governor of Texas at the time.
Paris quickly became the commercial hub for the surrounding cotton farms, and an important trade center for Northeast Texas and
Southeast Oklahoma. So as not to disturb its trade with Indian Territory, the city voted against secession. White citizens, however, fought
for the Confederacy all the same.
Paris also became the center of action of the Woman's Temperance Movement, whose notorious leader Carrie Nation not only condemned
alcohol - which is probably why Paris is still a dry town - but promoted women's suffrage as well.
Possibly the city's darkest hour occurred in February 1893, when Henry Smith, an African American migrant worker, was lynched in front of a
10,000 strong mob. Many had actually taken excursion trains from Dallas to witness this alleged child murderer's gruesome killing (he was
never given a trial). He was not only burned at the stake, but his eyes were seared out with red hot pokers. Several witnesses to the event
then gathered his bones as souvenirs. This first of several "spectacle lynchings" that white Texans seemed to condone received a special
dispatch from the New York Times. Within two decades, so many horrific public executions of black men took place in Texas that
investigative reporters tried to make sense of the violence, but explanations evaded them. In the 1920s, another lynching of two black men
occurred at the fairgrounds just north of downtown.
Fire of 1916
Most cities in the west experienced devastating fires that swept through their downtowns, and Paris was no different. Paris' inferno of 1916
is believed to have been started by a spark from a train at the switching yards. Howling winds added to the dry conditions that day, and the
resulting fire burned for three days. It destroyed all of downtown Paris, including the pink granite courthouse. Fire fighters from Dallas,
Bonham, Clarksville, Sherman, and Denison aided the Paris firemen, and when it was all over, the completely demolished city had over $11
million in property damage.
Paris quickly rebuilt, locating the courthouse behind downtown to preserve the remaining documents and records from another disaster.
James Culbertson donated a fountain in 1922 to commemorate the fire and beautify the square. Three hospitals began serving the Red
River Valley - a charity hospital run by nuns, a public sanitarium, and a doctor's hospital. In 1924, Paris' educational needs were met when
the doors to Paris Junior College first opened. Then, by World War II Paris became a major military training ground at Camp Maxey (where
tons of ammunition and other Army equipment are supposed to have been buried and lost) and later, a P.O.W. camp. Today, Camp Maxey,
which was named after the Civil War General who made Paris his home, hosts the Texas National Guard.
Tornado of 1982
Another disaster struck Paris, which lies on the eastern edge of Tornado Alley. The twister that landed just a few yards from downtown must
have been at least an F3, which left 14 people dead. Paris quickly rebuilt itself again.
Today, Paris is still a regional hub for health care and business, and hosts plenty of immigrants and emigrant Mennonites, too.
|The old Gibraltar Hotel is now an event center.
|No way could a trip to Paris -whether the one in France or here - be complete without a salute to the Eiffel Tower, avec hat.
|The train depot is now the Chamber of Commerce, a transportation museum, and a genealogical library.
|The 1922 Culbertson Fountain sits in the middle of downtown (the former site of the courthouse before the fire).
A beautiful art-deco faountain erected to commemorate the fire on top of the site of the old courthouse in the middle of downtown
Sam Bell Maxey House State Historic Site
812 S. Church Street, 903-785-5716. Website
Church Street Historic District
Many homes that survived the 1916 fire, and some that were built afterwards, are showcased in this National Register neighborhood
Santa Fe Station Depot
SW 11th and Kaufmann 903-784-2501 (Chamber). Houses Chamber of Commerce, Museum, Genealogical Library
Eiffel Tower with Cowboy Hat
Jefferson St. and Collegiate Drive
Jefferson Street west and S. Church. Make sure to see the statue of Jesus wearing cowboy boots!
Paris Junior College Library, 2400 Clarksville Street. Houses lots of Aikin (former state senator) papers, some genealogy
|Paris sits at the intersection of US 82 and US 271, just 20
miles south of the Red River and two hours northeast of
Dallas. Click on the map to find it for yourself.
|Paris, Texas: The City of Plight
|The historic Wise house has been renovated. Its former carriage houses are still intact, too.
|Paris after the devastating fire of 1916, Caroline R. Scrivner RIchards collection, Portal to Texas History (UNT)
|Paris in the 1920s shows how the town rebuilt itself after the fire. Caroline R. Scrivner Richards Collection, Portal to Texas History (UNT).