in a Pecan Shell|
Kemp comes from the middle name of the wife
of the town's first postmistress. Her full name was Malvina Kemp Watkins, and
John Marr Watkins was her husband.
The post office dates from 1851. Growth
was slow until after the Civil War when an influx of settlers from other Southern
states arrived. Resident Dr. A. J. Still got wind of the approaching railroad
and in 1870 bought land which he subdivided into lots. He managed to lure the
railroad to lay tracks across his property, as did another settler (Sam Parmalee).
The railroad did arrive in the mid 1880s and it built a depot. Kemp was the terminus
of the railroad.
The town prospered by shipping cotton
and cattle from their depot. Methodist
and Baptist churches were built and the new century (the 20th) was met with a
healthy population of just over 500 residents.
By the mid 1920s the population
swelled to 1,200 people and Kemp had 60 businesses. These fell to 46 by the mid-1930s
and the population declined in the 50s and early 60s to 816.
Reservoir was constructed in the mid 1960s which bolstered the economy somewhat.
The population rebounded to new heights (1,184 for the 1990 census). Many residents
of Kemp are employed in Dallas.