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Shelby County was one of the original thirteen counties in Texas,
being organized by the Republic of Texas Congress in 1837. The county
was named for Issac Shelby, an American military hero and Governor of
Kentucky. Shelby County eventually became one of the most populous and
prosperous counties in the state because of its proximity to Louisiana
and location along the Sabine River.
The settlement which eventually became the City of Center was
originally called White Cottage. A post office was established at this
settlement on April 6, 1848.
Al Johnson, an East Texas State Representative, introduced a bill to
have all county seats be as close to the center of the county as
possible. R.L. Parker, the County Clerk at the time, arranged to have
the county surveyed and the center located. A vote was held in Shelby
County to move the seat of county government from Shelbyville, the
original county seat, to the center of the county. The result of the
vote was in favor of relocating the county seat. The people in
Shelbyville organized to protect the county records. However, one night
in 1866, a group of men led by Parker entered into the courthouse,
confiscated all of the records and relocated them to a log cabin near
White Cottage. Shortly after the incident, the community became known as
Center, primarily to reflect the requisite location of the county seat.
The Center post office opened in October 1866. In 1869, Confederate
veterans Captain Jesse Amason and William P. Wilson each donated fifty
acres of land for the townsite of Center. According to one historical
account, Amason would not give the land unless the new town would have a
four acre town square, and that is the reason that Center has such a
large Square. Mr. Wilson owned considerable land in the southern quarter
of the town. Much of that area is called the "Wilson Addition".
On the night of May 31, 1882, a fire erupted at the courthouse and
the building was a complete loss. The county contracted with J.J. E.
Gibson, an Irish immigrant, to construct a new courthouse and jail. When
the bond of builders J.J. E. Gibson and Pat McLaughlin for the sum of
$26,725 was issued in 1884 for them to erect a new courthouse for Shelby
County, the firm of Wilson and Martin were among the securities. The
courthouse, modeled after an Irish castle, was completed in November,
1885 and is still standing as the centerpiece of the Center Square.
The city celebrates a county wide Watermelon and Poultry Festival
every year. The poultry festival is also accompanied by the Poultry
Festival Pageant which is participated in by the high school seniors of
the county. The Pageant crowns a Poultry Festival Queen who presides
over the three day Poultry Festival. The festival is in honor of John
Moosberg who started the broiler house system in Shelby County. A mural
of the events is located in the Center State Bank with John Mooseberg's
picture. The Queen is decided by a board of non-partisan, appointed
Also in Shelby County there is the Miss Shelby County Pageant: The
Pageant is open to all Shelby County Young Ladies and a PreTeen, JrTeen,
Teen and Miss Queen is crowned. The title holder represents Shelby
County throughout her annual reign at many area events.
The annual What A Melon Festival also crowns a queen to reign over the festival in July each year.