Kountze may not be the biggest town but it is big in history
Not the biggest town in Hardin County, Kountze, the county seat, is big in history.
At the junction of Farm Roads 418 and 1293, State Highway 326 and U.S. Highway 69, Kountze is in a central location of Hardin County. The city was named for Herman and Augustus Kountze, financial backers of the Sabine and East Texas Railroad, and became a station on the line. Retail businesses and lumbermen accompanied the railroad. Soon sawmills were established near the growing towns of Plank, Nona and Olive, all within three miles of Kountze and all of which are now gone.
The town of Kountze was quickly growing with proof of a post office opening in 1882. Two years later an attempt to make Kountze the county seat failed by 11 votes. But in 1886 a fire destroyed the courthouse in the town of Hardin. The fire considered suspicious was the push that got the county seat moved to Kountze. Folk lore has it that the fastest man in the county, Gus Hooks, was encouraged by city leaders to set the courthouse on fire in Hardin. Known to be the fastest runner in the area, by the time local authorities got suspicious and started looking for Hooks, he was in home in bed.
However the fire was started, the damage was done. Hardin eventually withered away and is now considered Old Hardin just on the outskirts of Kountze. What is left of the old county seat is a cemetery, and a historical marker.
Kountze continued to grow with the progress of the timber industry and the railroad. The arrival of the Golf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway in 1902 gave Kountze and east-west route to join the older north-south line. City voters agreed to incorporate the community in 1902, although it had already been the county seat for 15 years.
The thriving lumber and retired businesses was not the only thing on the increase in Kountze. By 1910 the population, which had been 295 in 1890, was estimated to be 1,000.
The area's boom was short-lived. The decline of the area's lumber industries along with a fire in 1916, slowed development, as did the growth of Silsbee and other towns. Add to that the Great Depression in the 1930's and business and population slowed. By the mid-1940's the population of Kountze had fallen to 800.
Nearby oil discoveries during the early 1950's once again sparked the town's growth and allowed renovation of many of the city's aging utilities and roads.
Somethng else the city had going for it at the time was a newspaperman and his ability to find the best in the area and promote it. Archer Fullingim and his Kountze News became known for its advocacy of the Big Thicket Preserve and for its liberal politics during the 1960's.
Population has fluctuated in Kountze for the last two decades but has been above the 2,000 mark. Considered a good place to live because of its community spirit and hometown essence, people have been moving to the Kountze area in the last few years to escape the city life of the larger Jefferson County area.
Contributed by The Silsbee Bee
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