Colmesneil is at the intersection of U.S. Highway 69 and Farm Road 256, nine miles north of Woodville in north central Tyler County. The town, sometimes referred to as Colmesneil Junction, was named for one of the first conductors on the Texas and New Orleans Railroad through the area. The T&NO line was crossed at Colmesneil by the Trinity and Sabine. In 1881 Jay Gould, of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad, secured a charter for the Trinity and Sabine and built sixty-six miles of track from Trinity to Colmesneil, which became a railroad center for Tyler County. It had the only turntable in the county at the end of the Waco, Beaumont, Trinity and Sabine line. The actual terminus of the railroad was not located in what today is thought of as downtown Colmesneil, but rather in what flourished for a time as a neighboring town called Ogden. The two towns had a long-standing feud, largely between the Manns and Sturrocks of Colmesneil and the Ogdens and Campbells of Ogden. The two towns were consolidated under the single name of Colmesneil in early 1888.
In 1889 Colmesneil shipped cotton and other products from Jasper, Newton, Sabine, San Augustine, and Angelina counties. Since the land around the town is too hilly for cultivation, local products were confined to timber and some cattle. The Yellow Pine Lumber Company operated a sawmill in Colmesneil in the 1880s. At one time Colmesneil was larger than Beaumont. The S. H. Meadows general store, owned and operated by the same family since 1892, is the oldest business establishment in Tyler County. The East Texas Hotel was built by Levi Fortenberry in 1888, bought by C. W. Matthews in 1916, and owned by Mrs. Easter Mann in 1986. The first post office in Colmesneil opened in 1882.
The population was at its height around 1890 at 1,016. By 1900 it was down to 632, and in 1931 it was 370, but by 1939 it was back to 1,000. In the late 1980s it was 600. Nearby Lake Tejas, fed by cool springs, provided water sports for a large East Texas area. At that time the town had a bank, a car dealership, several small grocery stores, and a good high school with an excellent sports record. In 1990 the population was 569, and in 2000 it was 638.