In the heart of East Texas and surrounded by pine and hardwood forests and small farms, Rusk is rich in history and natural beauty. The site was chosen as the county seat because it was in the center of the county.
The town was named for Thomas Jefferson Rusk in 1846. The lawyer was, with Sam Houston, one of Texas' original U.S. senators. He hailed from Nacogdoches, just east of the town which bears his name.
After Texas joined the Union, Americans began filling the county in a mad rush, bringing with them Southern plantations. The first two native-born Texas governors came from Rusk: James S. Hogg, governor from 1891 to 1895, was born on his family's plantation outside of town; Thomas M. Campbell was also born in Rusk and served as governor from 1906 to 1911.
Jim Hogg State Historical Park preserves Hogg's birthplace in a 175-acre state park two miles northeast of town on US84 with hiking trails, a museum, and a cemetery. The park only has primitive camping. For more information, call 903/683-4850.
From mid-March to late October, the Rusk State Park, Texas' narrowest and longest state park, is the western terminus of the Texas State Railroad, the railroad which runs the 31 miles between Rusk and Palestine through the East Texas forest. Three miles west of town on US84, the park began as a city park in 1972. Ten years later it was turned over to the state. From prairie grasses to dogwood trees and loblolly pines, the diverse vegetation supports a wide variety of wildlife and shades a campground with 93 sites, picnic grounds, and a small lake. For more information on the park, call 903/683-5126.
Another of Rusk's claims to fame is the Rusk State Hospital for the criminally insane, on the north side of town off US69. Built in 1879, the hospital's administration building was a state prison until 1919. No tours are given and the grounds are not open to the public.
Eastex Farms four miles north of Rusk has a gift shop (open Mon-Sat, 8am-5pm) of locally grown and made preserves and pick-your-own fields. To find out what is in season, call 903/683-4783. There are five bed and breakfast inns in the Rusk area; for more information, call the Chamber of Commerce at 903/683-4242.
Coming up this weekend...
Las Posadas begins at 6pm at Blanco's St. Ferdinand's Catholic Church and winds through town and back to the church for an authentic Mexican buffet, Dec. 20. 210/833-2201.
World's Longest Hayride begins and ends at the courthouse and lasts for about an hour, taking visitors on a trip to see Caldwell's Christmas lights, Dec. 20. 409/567-3218.
Sendero de Maravillas/Trail of Marvels at San Antonio's McNay Art Museum exhibits photographer Geoff Winningham's work documenting the celebrations of Catholic saints in small, often remote villages across Mexico, Jan. 1-5. 210/805-1754.