Swartwout, TX

By: Robert Wooster

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: April 1, 1995

Swartwout (Swartout) is on Lake Livingston and Farm Road 1988, seventy-five miles north of Houston in western Polk County. In 1838 James Morgan, Arthur Garner, and Thomas Bradley laid out a town on the east bank of the Trinity River, calling their community Swartwout in honor of New York financier Samuel Swartwout, a backer of several early Texas colonists. Sam Houston was one of the early shareholders. A Trinity River ferry and landing were established there, along with a hotel and warehouses for cotton and corn awaiting river transport. The Masonic Lodge established the first school in what would become Polk County at Swartwout in the early 1840s. A cotton gin and stage station further increased Swartwout's importance to the regional economy.

The subcounty seat of the northern division of Liberty County in 1840, Swartwout sought unsuccessfully to become county seat of the newly established Polk County in 1846. Although denied the commercial advantages of a county seat, the town continued to enjoy the benefits of the Trinity River trade through the 1870s. However, the coming of railroads to East Texas sharply reduced the river traffic. The Swartwout post office, established in 1846, was discontinued in 1875. A number of black families maintained a rural community for several years after most of the original settlers had left. The state erected a small marker at Swartwout in 1936. Much of the old townsite was subsequently washed away, and the marker was moved away from land inundated by Livingston Reservoir. The old ferry crossing is now a rural community called Swartwout, located where the Livingston Dam spans the Trinity.

T. Lindsay Baker, Ghost Towns of Texas (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986). History of Polk County (2 vols., Livingston, Texas: Keen Printing, 1968). A Pictorial History of Polk County, Texas, 1846–1910 (Livingston, Texas: Polk County Bicentennial Commission, 1976; rev. ed. 1978).
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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Robert Wooster, “Swartwout, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed May 19, 2022, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/swartwout-tx.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 1, 1995

Currently Exists
Place Type
Town Fields
  • Has post office: No
  • Is Incorporated: No
Belongs to
  • Polk County
Associated Names



  • Latitude: 30.63853060°
  • Longitude: -95.00493520°