Whitehouse, TX

By: Shirley Terry Smith

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: April 1, 2021

Whitehouse is on Farm Road 346 and State Highway 110, six miles southeast of Tyler in southeastern Smith County. In 1818 a Quapaw Indian camp was located in the vicinity. Travelers from Tennessee, Alabama, Georgia, Virginia, and North and South Carolina first came through the area in 1836 en route to San Antonio to help Texas defend the Alamo, but arrived after the fort had fallen. Impressed with the countryside, they returned home, collected their families, formed a covered wagon train, and moved back to settle in the area. By 1850 local farmers raised cotton, tomatoes, peaches, watermelons, and vegetables on land purchased in the Emmanuel Gutierrez survey, and the town had sawmills, gristmills, and cotton gins. By the early 1870s the International-Great Northern Railroad made it practical to ship produce from Whitehouse, and a post office was established in 1873. Whitehouse is said to have gotten its name from a whitewashed building near the railroad tracks that served as a school, church, and place for business meetings and social gatherings. Steam locomotives going through stopped to take on water near the "white house," and soon the community itself became known by the term. By 1885 the town had a population of seventy-five. The New Hope Baptist Church, organized in 1869 by area settlers, moved to Whitehouse in 1901 and was renamed the Whitehouse Baptist Church. A local fair was held in 1912, and the community's oldest business, the Whitehouse Mercantile Corporation, began in 1913. During the East Texas oil boom of the 1930s the town's population mushroomed to a high of 500, but by 1940 it had dropped to 300. Whitehouse was incorporated on March 16, 1953. Local school enrollment in 1960 was 432 White and 417 Black students, and the population grew from 842 in 1960 to 3,300 in 1989. The reputation of the Whitehouse Independent School District, Lake Tyler two miles to the east, and the town's proximity to Tyler all contributed to its growth. Many local residents commute to Tyler. Local industries include cattle raising, chicken farming, and tree nurseries. In 1988 the community had more than sixty businesses, a new library, a baseball and softball complex, and a Community Resource Center used by senior citizens. The annual YesterYear celebration held the last weekend in June is devoted to the history and heritage of the area. It features arts and crafts exhibits, western shootouts, demonstrations and exhibits of old-time skills, and the selection of a Mr. and Mrs. YesterYear. The population was 4,032 in 1990 and 5,346 in 2000.

Robert W. Glover, ed., Tyler and Smith County, Texas (n.p.: Walsworth, 1976). L.M. Green, History of Smith County (1918?). Shirley Terry Smith, Whitehouse, Texas (1961). Donald W. Whisenhunt, comp., Chronological History of Smith County (Tyler, Texas: Smith County Historical Society, 1983).


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

Shirley Terry Smith, “Whitehouse, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed October 19, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/whitehouse-tx.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

April 1, 2021