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Kaufman County History 1940

Kaufman County History Written in 1940

Kaufman County lies on the borderline of the black prairie and hardwood forest belt of East Texas, and its soils are characteristic of those physiographic regions, with the transitional belt between. Roughly, the western third of the county belongs to the Houston soil series, the central to the Wilson, and the eastern to the Kirvin-Norfolk sandy-land types. Considerable areas of alluvium are found along the Trinity and East Fork, where many thousands of acres are cultivated under the protection of levees.

The county was created from Henderson County, February 26, 1848, and included what is now Rockwall County. Organization was perfected August. 7, in the same year, and the first court was held December 18, 1848, with Judge Bennett H. Martin presiding. The session was brief, for a week later—on Christmas day—we find His Honor opening court at Jordan's Saline in another new county—Van Zandt. Kaufman's first court house was a grove near what was thought to be the center of the county, about five miles north of the present county seat.

Dr. W. P. King, with about forty others, came from Holly Springs, Mississippi, in 1840 to locate land certificates they had purchased. Failing to find the mythical "Three Forks" of the Trinity coming together at one place, as they had been led to expect, they began surveying the 115 leagues for which they held certificates, covering an area from Van Zandt to Dallas and northward into Hunt and Collin Counties as they were afterward created. The King party built a fort near a spring of clear water on a branch of Cedar Creek, and Captain R. A. Terrell, one of the surveyors, states that they found a settlement on the East Fork called Warsaw. The party broke up on King's death, and permanent settlements were not established until about three years later. John H. Reagan located his headright where the town of Kemp now is and lived here prior to locating at Buffalo, the first county seat and hopeful river port of Henderson County.

In 1844 just prior to the expiration of the colonization law, President Houston entered into a contract with Charles Fenton Mercer for the colonization of a huge territory including the present Kaufman and a number of other future counties in this section of the Republic. Mercer was to receive a section of land for each family introduced, plus ten premium sections for each hundred families, which were required to number a hundred each year for five years. A generation later Mercer's assigns claimed 1,376 sections, based on 1,256 immigrant families allegedly introduced in conformity to the terms of the contract. The suit disturbed titles in about eighteen counties during its eight-year transit through the courts, and final judgment, rendered November 19, 1883, denied the Mercer claims and quieted title, incidentally saving some 880,640 acres of land to the state of Texas for its school funds.