Piney Woods

There are four national forests in Texas. All are in the east, south of I-20 and east of I-45. Two of the largest lakes in Texas are also in this area. There are some really beautiful stretches of road in this part of the state.

My first stop on February 27th was in Madisonville (Madison County). As I was snapping this photo, a man passed by and yelled out of the passenger side window: “You takin’ a picture of the ugliest courthouse in Texas?” He cackled and drove on. I didn’t know if he was an honest local or an agitator from a neighboring county. Either way, I could not have argued with him.

Madison, seat of Madisonville County

It was a cold day, but I was just happy not to be in the office, in meetings, or on phone calls. The lonely road led me to Huntsville (Walker County), Conroe (Montgomery County), Coldspring (San Jacinto County), Livingston (Polk County), Woodville (Tyler County), Kountze (Hardin County), and Beaumont (Jefferson County).

Huntsville, seat of Walker County
Conroe, seat of Montgomery County
Coldspring, seat of San Jacinto County

That’s a big white cross on the front of the San Jacinto County Courthouse in Coldspring. There’s one on the other side too. At first I thought I had the wrong address and was circling a grand looking church. On the one hand, I’m not sure how it’s legal. On the other, I’m surprised it’s the only example I can recall seeing in 177 Texas County courthouses, so far.

Livingston, seat of Polk County
Woodville, seat of Tyler County
Kountze, seat of Hardin County
Beaumont, seat of Jefferson County

On February 28th, I set out for Orange (Orange County), Newton (Newton County), Jasper (Jasper County), Hemphill (Sabine County), and stopped for lunch in San Augustine (San Augustine County), where I got a bite at Heart of Texas Grill. I knew I had made the right choice because there was a local police officer and his wife dining there, and as I was finishing up a couple Sheriff’s deputies came in.

Orange, seat of Orange County
Newton, seat of Newton County
Jasper, seat of Jasper County
Hemphill, seat of Sabine County
San Augustine, seat of San Augustine County

After lunch, I rode to Center (Shelby County), Nacogdoches (Nacogdoches County), Henderson (Rusk County), Carthage (Panola County), and ended up in Longview (Gregg County).

Center, seat of Shelby County
Nacogdoches, seat of Nacogdoches County
Henderson, sat of Rusk County
Carthage, seat of Panola County
Longview, seat of Gregg County

On Leap Day, my first stop was Marshall (Harrison County). The photo below is not the current courthouse, nor is it the original. But it is one of the most impressive county courthouses in all of Texas. It was opened in 1900 and retired from service in 1964.

Marshall, seat of Harrison County

Next stop was Jefferson (Marion County). I was disappointed in the Marion County Courthouse, but when I was researching it later I found that this one is just temporary. The actual courthouse is undergoing renovations. I would have got a photo of it, but didn’t realize it when I was there.

Jefferson, seat of Marion County

I continued on to Linden (Cass County), Daingerfield (Morris County), Pittsburgh (Camp County), and Gilmer (Upshur County), where I stopped for lunch at La Carreta Mexican Restaurant. Again, I encountered a sheriff’s deputy entering the restaurant as I was leaving. Apparently I am selecting some prime lunch spots.

I also have to say that State Highway 11 from Linden through Hughes Springs, Daingerfield, and on to Pittsburgh, is a very nice scenic ride.

Linden, seat of Cass County
Daingerfield, seat of Morris County
Pittsburgh, seat of Camp County
Gilmer, seat of Upshur County

After lunch in Gilmer, I rode on to Quitman (Wood County), which you can see from a half-mile away at the end of Goode Street.

Quitman, seat of Wood County

Next, I had to make a big detour. Back in July 2019, when I rode through northeast Texas on my way to Memphis, I completely missed a county. It’s a small one, and was off the beaten path. So I rode north to Cooper (Delta County). I then headed southwest to Kaufman (Kaufman County). That one was a known outlier. On my return trip from Memphis, I covered as many counties as I could, but Kaufman was just so situated that it was extremely difficult for me to reach it on that trip. But I got it now. After that, it was on to Tyler (Smith County), where I spent the night.

Cooper, seat of Delta County
Kaufman, seat of Kaufman County
Tyler, seat of Smith County

On the first of March, I hit some unexpected rain. Not for long and not too heavy. First stop was Palestine (Anderson County), followed by Rusk (Cherokee County), Lufkin (Angelina County), Groveton (Trinity County), Crockett (Houston County), and Centerville (Leon County).

Palestine, seat of Anderson County
Rusk, seat of Cherokee County
Lufkin, seat of Angelina County
Groveton, seat of Trinity County
Crockett, seat of Houston County
Centerville, seat of Leon County

Leon County was the last of the 10 counties that comprise Texas Senate District 5, which was the incentive for my initial tour of local Texas counties, three years earlier. Now, I was just eager to get home to my family, a home cooked meal, and my own bed. After four days, 1455 miles, and 34 new Texas County Courthouses, I was ready for a rest.

At some point on the home stretch of these long trips the thought crosses my mind, “Well, that’s enough of that for a while.” But I know, from experience, it won’t be long before I start planning my next ride. 177 down, 77 to go.

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