Defunct Counties

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: May 29, 2018

At least thirty-two counties that were established by Texas law no longer exist. These defunct counties fall into five categories: (1) judicial counties; (2) counties established by declaration of the Constitutional Convention of 1868–69; (3) counties established by legislative act but never organized and later abolished by legislative act; (4) counties established outside the present boundaries of Texas; and (5) counties whose names have been changed. The so-called judicial counties had the same status as constitutional counties except that they were not represented in the Congress of the Republic of Texas. County seats were established; county courts were organized; county judges, surveyors, and land commissioners were appointed. At the spring 1842 term of the Texas Supreme Court, in the case of Stockton v. Montgomery, judicial counties were declared unconstitutional, principally because the Constitution of 1836 (see CONSTITUTION OF THE REPUBLIC OF TEXAS) specified that each county was entitled to at least one member in the House of Representatives. At its first session after the decision, the Republic of Texas Congress accepted the invalidity of the judicial counties but passed a law on July 18, 1842, that validated the acts of the surveyors and land commissioners of the defunct counties. The judicial counties were Burleson, Burnet, DeWitt, Guadalupe, Hamilton, La Baca, Madison, Menard, Neches, Panola, Paschal, Smith, Spring Creek, Trinity, Ward, and Waco. The Constitutional Convention of 1868–69, by declaration, attempted to organize Delta, Richland, Webster, and Latimer counties. Probably because of Texas prejudice against the radical Republican convention (see RECONSTRUCTION, and REPUBLICAN PARTY), the legislature never organized or legalized the counties, and three of them were never more than names. Delta County was reestablished by legislative act in 1870. The five counties authorized by the legislature but never organized were Buchel, Dawson, Encinal, Foley, and Wegefarth, though a separate Dawson County was later established on the Llano Estacado in 1876. Counties established outside the present boundaries of Texas were Greer, Worth, and Santa Fe, which were formed in areas that became parts of Oklahoma and New Mexico. Counties that were established under one name or functioned for a time under one name but have a different name at present include: Harrisburg County (changed to Harris County in 1839); Navasoto County (changed to Brazos County in 1842); Davis County (changed from Cass County in 1861 and back to Cass County in 1871); Buchanan County (changed to Stephens County in 1861); and Cibolo County (changed from Wilson to Cibolo and then back to Wilson County).

R. L. Batts, "Defunct Counties of Texas," Quarterly of the Texas State Historical Association 1 (October 1897). James Wilmer Dallam, A Digest of the Laws of Texas (Baltimore: Toy, 1845). Hans Peter Nielsen Gammel, comp., Laws of Texas, 1822–1897 (10 vols., Austin: Gammel, 1898).


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

Anonymous, “Defunct Counties,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 24, 2021,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 29, 2018