Walker County, Texas, (population 61,578) is situated in the eastern Piney Woods region of the state. Founded in 1846, Walker County is the home of Sam Houston, the first and third president of the Republic of Texas and later governor of the state. His presence is still strong in the county, which features two of his surviving homes, the Sam Houston Memorial Museum, and Sam Houston State University.
Educational institutions have played an important role in the history of Walker County. Sherman College began operating in 1850 and educated numerous Texas residents for more than a quarter of a century. The Civil War, the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1867, and Reconstruction significantly affected enrollment. The school was moved to Sherman, Texas, following Reconstruction. Sam Houston Normal Institute, now Sam Houston State University, opened in 1879 — the first tax-subsidized training institute in the state.
The Texas prison system has been housed in Walker County since its inception in the late 1840s. It has been a key economic engine in the area, offering employment as well as the production of numerous goods over more than 160 years. It is the largest state prison system in the country, one that has spearheaded many correctional reforms nationwide including occupational training and the provision of education.
The city of Cincinnati in Walker County was an important port in the mid-1800s, and the arrival of the railroad in 1871 further spurred agriculture and the lumber industry. The construction of Interstate 45 in 1956 created an important transportation route through Walker County, and the completion in 1994 of a 66 foot statue of Sam Houston on the interstate established Walker County as a major tourist stopping point.
Walker County features numerous historic and tourist destinations. Visitors enjoy shopping at the historic downtown square, touring one of the area’s many historic homes, visiting the Sam Houston Memorial Museum—which hosts more than 25,000 visitors a year, the HEARTS Veterans Museum, and the Texas Prison Museum.
Designated a Preserve America Community in February 2010.
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