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OMEN, TX

OMEN, TEXAS. Omen, also known at various times as Round Hill, Canton, Clopton, Troup, and Old Canton, is a rural community on State Highway 345 in southeastern Smith County about two miles west of Arp and just south of Omen Road Bay. The area was first settled when Arnold O'Brien and his family arrived in 1848. The following year the county commissioners' court decided to build the Larissa-Shreveport Road through the northern part of O'Brien's land, and the road made the settlement accessible to other pioneers. In December 1849 O'Brien established in his home a post office that he named Round Hill. Thomas M. Bell also opened an inn as a stage stop on the Tyler-Henderson Road. In 1850 Thomas H. Weatherby, Mitus White, and James W. Powell bought a thirty-acre tract from Rebecca Mar Hill. Powell later sold his share to Alexander Douglas. The partners divided their property into lots and appointed themselves commissioners for the new town. In 1851 Thomas N. Gregory replaced O'Brien as postmaster and changed the name of the settlement to Canton. David H. Lindsey and Isaac Wayman Engledow opened the first store in Canton in 1852. That year citizens changed the name of the town to Clopton because the seat of Van Zandt County was also called Canton. A two-story shop, built by Lively and Walker, became the meeting place for the Cumberland Presbyterian Church and the Masons. Other stores were established, and David Lindsey sold 2½ acres to the Methodist Episcopal Church, South.

The post office was discontinued briefly in 1854, then reopened under the name of Troup by Daniel P. Fowler. Residents, however, continued to call the town Canton, even in legal documents. In 1860 a deed called it "Canton-alias Troup," and Masonic Lodge No. 98 was officially recognized as Canton Lodge. By then the town had a blacksmith, a doctor, a cabinet and wagon maker, a dentist, a carpenter, and two teachers. A sawmill and a tannery were located nearby. Troup continued to prosper during the Civil War, but the advent of the railroad system in Smith County led to its decline. Early in the 1870s the International-Great Northern built a line northward through the eastern part of the county to Longview from a point approximately four miles south of Canton. Within a few years, traffic on the Tyler-Henderson road decreased significantly, and Bell's Inn was closed. Many local businesses moved south to Zavalla, a new railroad town. In 1877 the post office was moved there, although it kept the name Troup.

Professor A. W. Orr revived the community in 1876 by making Summer Hill Select School, a struggling private institution, successful. Students came from Smith and surrounding counties to take classes including music and business. Many boarded with local families, and others moved into the vicinity to attend the school. In 1878 town leaders made Orr and his assistant, J. A. Fitzgerald, the owners of the school because of the prestige and prosperity they had brought to the area. With many new arrivals, the community began to grow again. In April 1879 Dixon H. L. Bonner petitioned the United States Post Office Department to renew the local branch. Upon approval, Bonner became the postmaster and called the post office Old Canton. He reported that the community had a store, a Masonic lodge with 130 members, a Knights of Honor lodge with twenty-five male and twenty-six female members, a high school with 110 white students, a "colored school" with seventy-five students, and Methodist, Baptist, and Presbyterian churches. In 1880 the post office name was changed to Omen at the suggestion of Professor Orr. The population was 250 in 1884, including a blacksmith, three doctors, two carpenters, and two grocers. Cotton and wool were shipped to Troup. In 1892 the community had 550 residents, including a justice of the peace, mayor, and constable. The town also had a cobbler's shop, a new grocery, another doctor's office, and a public school. A sawmill was located nearby. Summer Hill Select School had 335 students, ten teachers, and two new buildings. A courthouse had been constructed on the town square in 1894, and the post office at Lock was transferred to Omen.

The Omen Common School District was established in February 1901 and incorporated in 1903 as an independent district. The availability of free education together with the lack of transportation led to a considerable decrease in enrollment at Summer Hill. Consequently, in 1906 the school and the post office closed permanently. By 1912 only two stores served the citizens. The Masonic lodge and the justice of the peace court moved to Arp between 1910 and 1920. Inhabitants numbered only 150 by 1933. Maps for 1936 showed a small cluster of farms on dirt and bituminous roads. Records for that year also showed 123 white students enrolled in a facility with four teachers and 201 black students in a four-teacher school. In 1939 the Work Projects Administration constructed a new school building at Omen, but four years later the town's schools were consolidated with the Arp Independent School District, where local children still attended school in 1969. Andrews's store, the last business in the community, closed in the 1960s. Maps for 1973 showed two churches, about thirty dwellings, Shiloh Cemetery, Elkins Cemetery, and Smith Cemetery. Omen still appeared on maps in 1985. In 2000 the population was 150.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Allyne Burton, "A. W. Orr's Summer Hill Select School," Chronicles of Smith County, Summer 1977. Linda Brown Cross, "Twentieth Century Omen," Chronicles of Smith County, Summer 1977. Andrew Leath, "The Prosperous Years, 1850–1890," Chronicles of Smith County, Summer 1977. "Notes on the Omen Post Office," Chronicles of Smith County, Summer 1977. "Omen Cemeteries," Chronicles of Smith County, Summer 1977.

Vista K. McCroskey

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Vista K. McCroskey, "OMEN, TX," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hlo17), accessed August 21, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.