Last updated: 4/1/2011
Marshall, Texas
Street Address
Old Harrison County Courthouse
Marshall, TX 75670
Mailing Address
P.O. Box 1987
Marshall, TX 75671
Martha Robb
Gwen Nolan

RESEARCH LIBRARY: The Research Library files are closed for research until May 4for building renovations. Contact Research Librarians at 903-935-8417. Wednesday-Friday 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. or email at

The Museum owns one of the largest archival and artifact collections relating to the early settlement of Northeast Texas. The Museum began collecting artifacts in 1965 and amassed a collection of over 20,000 artifacts.

NEXT: Complete Phase II fund-raising for military exhibits in Memorial City Hall annex. Thanks to a recent $117,000 gift we've reached our campaign goal for the Historic Courthouse exhibits, but you can still be part of our exciting NEW Museum project.

EXHIBITS Temporarily Closed
Watch for the Reopening of Our Exciting NEW Exhibits in the 1901 Historic Harrison County Courthouse in 2011.


The Victorian courthouses of Texas symbolized the aspirations of a new breed of Americans bent on civilizing a vast frontier. Collectively, the thirty-two surviving structures in the state's 254 counties are remainders of a time when big government was at the county level and when the courthouse square served as the hub for all merchant and much religious and social activity. Harrison County's 1901 courthouse, designed by noted architect J. Riely Gordon, is one of the finest surviving examples of the Renaissance Revival style in the Lone Star State. The building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, is a Recorded Texas Historical Landmark, and also carries the designation as a Texas Archaeological Landmark.

Early Texas pioneer Peter Whetstone donated 160 acres of his land for a county seat in 1841, plus additional acreage for town lots, a Methodist church, and a university. The first Harrison County courthouse was a log structure occupying a corner of the central square. In 1852, the county built the Little Virginia Courthouse, replaced in 1889 by a handsome edifice in the then-popular French Empire style. On June 7, 1899, the courthouse went up in flames. The resident cat was lost in the conflagration.

During the 1920's wings were added to the east and west sides of the 1901 courthouse, and in 1964 the county moved into a modern structure facing the square. The old courthouse became the Harrison County Historical Museum. The museum opened with two galleries of displays which eventually expanded to thwenty-three rooms devoted to the history of Harrison County. Just as the courthouse had long served as the repository for the offical records of the populace, the building became the center for preservation of their rich and diverse culturral heritage.

The collection, estimated at more than 50,000 items, represents one of the best regional archival and artifact holdings in Texas. Objects date to the prehistoric Caddo occupation of the land, and genealogical records draw inquiries from across the US and abroad. Original artifacts owned by famous native sons--Lady Bird Johnson, Bill Moyers, George Foreman and James Farmer, to name a few--are included in the museum holdings.

In 1986, the city of Marshall began the annual Wonderland of Lights, a five week festival centered on the historic 1901 courthouse, that draws 750,000 visitors each year. The old courthouse is adorned with two million lights. Now in its tenth year, Wonderland is known throughout the United States and in many foreign countries as a unifying holiday event that attracts people of all persuasions and from all walks of life in a common agenda of peace and good will.

Harrison County contains a population of roughly 55,000 people, half of them African American. The city of Marshall, the county seat, is a town of 25,000 residents with an elected city commission working under a council-manger form of government. The county was a major hub during the long occupation by the confederation of Native American known as the Caddos, an important early immigration point and settlement area for Anglos during the 1830's and after, and enjoyed initital prosperity asa a cotton-grwing region and steamboat port before the arrival of the railroads in 1873. Marshall's prosperity continued until 1974 as a manufacturing center for railcars for the Texas & Pacific; in 1908 the world's first off-shore oil rigs were constructed in Caddo Lake. Harrision County remains a producer of oil, natural gas and timber. Neither the city nor the county have been significant beneficiaries of the Sun Belt boom of the 1970's and later.

Artifact Collections

50,000 items primarily of American origin, ranging in date from prehistory to the modern era, and focusing on the history of Harrison County.

Research Collections

Old newspaper clipings, 1850--1870; 1880 census on many local families.

Educational Programs

Working on an education program.


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Dallas, Texas

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