Marshall is located in the heavily forested East Texas timberlands. Anglo-American settlement began in 1835 with the arrival of families with land grants from the Mexican government. The area was settled so rapidly following the Texas Revolution that the new republic established Harrison County in 1839, carving it from neighboring Shelby County. Marshall was designated the county seat three years later. As in other East Texas counties, a cotton-based economy quickly developed in the easily cultivated soils found in the watersheds of Cypress Bayou and the Sabine River. From 1850 through the Civil War, Harrison County had the largest enslaved population in Texas, working one of the most prosperous and productive economies in the state. Financial prosperity for the town was secured in 1858, when the Southern Pacific Railroad completed a sixteen-mile line that linked Marshall with Swanson’s Landing on Caddo Lake, a waterway connecting with the Red River at Shreveport, and on to the Mississippi and New Orleans. In 1869, the line was extended west to Longview, and in 1873, following the Texas and Pacific Railway’s acquisition of the Southern Pacific, Marshall became the eastern terminal of a transportation network chartered by the federal government to extend a transcontinental line west to El Paso and San Diego and east to connect with the national rail network. The town received an immediate economic boost from the influx of railroad workers and soon developed into a regional distribution center.
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