Tenaha is at the junction of U.S. highways 84, 59, and 96, on the tracks of the Southern Pacific some eleven miles northwest of Center in northern Shelby County. It was founded in 1885 as a shipping point on the Houston, East and West Texas Railway, when that railroad was being constructed through the county. The community was named by members of the Hicks family for Tenehaw Municipality, the original name of Shelby County. A post office was opened there in 1886 with James N. Woodfin as postmaster. By 1890 the town had 200 residents, several stores, three churches, and a school, and by 1896 it had an estimated 680 residents and a number of businesses, including a weekly newspaper, the Ledger. By that time Tenaha had become a shipping center for area farmers and lumbermen. The community was incorporated in the 1900s and by 1946 had several lumber-manufacturing industries and a large tomato-canning plant. By the 1980s many of these businesses no longer existed, but the town had profited by its proximity to Toledo Bend Reservoir. In 1988 Tenaha reported an estimated 1,073 residents and forty-three rated businesses. Its population was reported as 1,072 in 1990. In 2000 the population was 1,046.