Leon County History 1940
The county's first church was organized in Leona by Z. N. Morrell, a missionary of the Baptist Church. Other religious leaders, who influenced the life in the county were the Rev. Nash and the Rev. Creatte. The Methodists, Church of Christ, and Presbyterians were also active in their organization work. As for the negroes, they preferred membership in the church which had the greatest number of white communicants. Leon County was not long to enjoy a period of tranquility and that feeling of security that had accompanied the annexation of Texas to the United States. There were men in the county who owned many slaves and who had moved to the county from other southern states when they sensed the possibility of conflict. While many of the county residents counselled moderation, and a few were hostile to the thought of bringing Texas into the Civil War, the dominant sentiment was in favor of secession. When recruiting began, D. M. Whaley was one of the first to go. Before he was killed in Virginia, he had been made a colonel.
During reconstruction two companies of Federal soldiers were stationed in Centerville. It is recalled that elections were held at the point of the bayonet, and that the voters had to walk between two rows of negro soldiers, who had been their former slaves. Such incidents were rapidly creating considerable unrest and would have led to serious disturbances and possible blood shed, but when Governor Coke was elected, open hostilities were obviated. In 1870 construction was begun on what was then known as the International Railroad, at Hearne in Robertson County, and by the close of 1871 fifty miles were in operation, as far as Jewett in Leon County. In the following year the line was extended to Palestine, giving this county a line across its entire northern border. The building of this railroad contributed to the establishment of Jewett, Marquez, Oakwood, and Buffalo. These soon became the points through which trade was directed. and the county seat of Centerville was at considerable disadvantage through lack of railroad facilities. Shortly after the turn of the century, two other lines were constructed (the Trinity and Brazos Valley, and the Houston and Texas Central), through the western part of the county. In 1931, Highways 75 and 43 were completed which had a marked effect on further developments. With excellent roads, Centerville doesn't seem concerned if it ever has railroad facilities. This is quite a different attitude than that of the 70's, when the county seat thought it would be ruined because railroad connections were not forthcoming.
Communities that no longer exist are Navarro, Cairo, and Rogers Prairie. The derivation of some of the names of existing towns follows : Jewett was named after Judge Henry J. Jewett. Buffalo is said to have been thus named because of buffalo in that region. Marquez is the name for Marie de la C. Marquez, who received a grant in the present county in 1833. Normangee was named for Judge Norman G. Kittrell. His first name and middle initial were joined to form Normangee. Oakwood—probably because of the various kinds of oak trees in this area. Leona is the Spanish for lioness, and thus named for the same reason as the county was named, which has been explained. Middleton—after William B. Middleton, a Texas patriot and first sheriff of Leon County. It may be mentioned that the Texas Almanac states that Leon County was named after Alonzo de Leon, an early Spanish explorer.
The principal resources of the county are timber, natural gas and deposits of lignite, clay, and iron ore. It has 3,481 farms with a total farm population of 14,732. Cattle raising is important, and it is one of the leading producers of hogs. It is one of the minor oil producing counties at present, having made some 25,000 barrels in 1938.