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
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
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.
|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 is a true gem
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
|How to Get There
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
|Paris, Texas: The City of Plight
|The historic Wise house has been renovated. The former carriage
houses are still intact, too.