Shelby County History
A Spanish explorer named De Soto was the first white man to enter this area when he crossed the Sabine River at what is now Logansport, Louisiana, in 1539. The purchase of Louisiana by the United States in 1803 resulted in a boundary dispute with Spain. The absence of organized law provoked a conflict with the settlers and resulted in the organization of a group called the Regulators and an opposition group called the Moderators in 1842. Law and order was restored by militia under General Sam Houston.
Shelby County is one of the original counties of Texas. We are located in the eastern part of the state bordering what is now called Toledo Bend Lake. This territory was a path for many of the early migrants into Texas from the United States, many of whom settled here temporarily before proceeding westward. It is said that the first permanent settler was John Latham, who settled here in 1818 when the area was still under Spanish rule.
The present area of Shelby County was a part of the Municipality of Tenaha when Mexico became independent of Spain in 1821, and the most important town was Nashville which was created in 1824.
When Texas became independent from Mexico in 1836, the Congress of the Republic of Texas created Shelby County, naming it after an American Revolutionary soldier named Isaac Shelby. The county was organized in 1837, and Shelbyville, which was once called Nashville, became the county seat.
In 1866 a legislative act was passed requiring all county seats to be located in the center of the county. Center became the county seat and was named for its central location.
The present Shelby County Courthouse was built in 1885 and is on the National Register of Historic Places in Texas.