Rusk is also home to the Texas State Railroad, Thunder Mountain Raceway, Cherokee County Motorsports park (drag racing), Jim Hogg Park, Rusk State Park, Gourmet Gardens, the nation’s longest footbridge (circa 1861), and many historical sites.
On the way to Marshall, Texas from Austin, Texas, I had a spur of the moment thing, veered off from US 79 to Palestine, Texas on US 84 all the way to Rusk for a change. I kept hearing about the longest footbridge. It was pouring like cats and dogs but that didn’t deter me from checking it out. I didn’t realize that there was another attraction, Texas State Railroad, on the same highway. I promised myself to check it out after visiting the Footbridge. Which I did, I wrote my next blog about the trains.
Rusk was established by an act of the Texas legislature on April 11, 1846, which defined the boundaries of Cherokee County and called for the county seat to be named for Gen. Thomas Jefferson Rusk, one of the signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence.
The commission originally wanted to locate Rusk at Cook’s Fort, the largest settlement in the area near the junction of the Neches-Saline and Fort Houston roads. When James Cook, the owner of the property, refused to sell the land, the commission opted for a 100-acre tract in the James Hundley survey, owned since 1839 by James F. Timmons, who agreed to sell the property, situated three miles east of the Saline Road, for $600. On April 13, 1847, the land was deeded for a town site. At the time only John Kilgore and his family lived on the site; but within two years most of the families in and around Cook’s Fort had moved the new town, and by 1850 Rusk reportedly had 355 residents. A post office was authorized on March 8, 1847, and the town’s first church, the Cumberland Presbyterian Church, was organized by Rev. J. B. Harris in May 2, 1847.
Rusk was laid out on a grid pattern based on the Shelbyville plan with a courthouse square in the center. Rusk remains a commercial center for a surrounding agricultural, lumber, and iron ore area. The nearby Texas State Railroad, now operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the Rusk State Park, attracts numerous tourists to the area. The current population of the city is 5,295.