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The oldest continuously occupied town in East Texas

Sabine County, East Texas

31.477, -93.917

Highway 21 and FM 330
10 MIles NW of Hemphill the county seat
15 miles E of San Augustine
53 miles E of Lufkin
Population: 100 (est since 1933)

Geneva, Texas Area HotelsSan Augustine Hotels

Geneva Texas old gas station
Old gas station in Geneva
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, July 2004

History in a Pecan Shell

The site Geneva is on the Old San Antonio Road and considered to be the oldest continuously occupied town in East Texas, although there were times when it looked as if it might be abandoned.

In the mid-1700s Antonio Gil y' Barbo established a ranch he called El Lobanillo. In 1773 when the Spanish enforced an evacuation, the old and infirm remained at Ibarvo's ranch. One Juan Ignacio Pifermo applied for the land in 1794. It was confirmed in 1810, and was passed to his heirs who lived in the area into the 1840s. A historical marker commemorates the El Lobanillo Ranch. In the 1850s, a community called Shawnee Village developed. It was latter called Jimtown, after early settlers Jim Halbert and Jim Willis. A post office was granted in 1884 under the name Geneva and by 1890 the population was 150. By 1925 the population had fallen to 100, a figure the town is evidently comfortable with since it's been reported at that level since 1933.

Historical Marker: Hwy 21, 0.1 mile SE of Lee Arnold Road

El Lobanillo

In this vicinity was historic Spanish rancho called El Lobanillo. Pueblo of Gil Ybarbo (1729-1809), where his ill mother and other refugees remained when Spain evacuated colonists from Western Louisiana and East Texas in 1773. Granted 1794 to Juan Ignacio Pifermo, and inherited in early 1800s by John Maximillian (1778?-1866), this is now known as oldest continuously occupied site in East Texas.

More about Geneva:


by Bob Bowman ("All Things Historical")

There are four faces of old Lobanillo, which straddles East Texas’ oldest highway less than 20 miles from the Texas-Louisiana border.

But overriding the name is the fact that the site is considered to be one the oldest places continuously occupied in East Texas.

First, of course, was La Lobanillo, the pueblo of Gil y' Barbo, where his mother and other refugees remained when Spain evacuated colonists from western Louisiana and East Texas in 1773.

When Lobanillo exchanged hands, it was known as Shawnee Village and later as Jimtown, a name shaped after the first names of Jim Halbert and Jim Willis.

And, finally, along came Geneva, today’s name for the town at the intersection of El Camino Real (Texas Highway 21) and Farm Road 330 in northwestern Sabine County.

To tell the town’s story, you have to reach back to when Gil y' Barbo was born at Los Adaes, Louisiana, then the provincial capital of Spanish Texas, in 1729. His parents were colonists sent to Texas the same year from Andalusia, Spain.

At Los Adaes, Gil y' Barbo married Maria Padilla and they settled on Lobanillo Creek in what is now Sabine County. They called their place Rancho Lobanillo.

When Spain recommended the abandonment of its missions and forts in East Texas, Ybarbo became the leader of the displaced persons of the area, who were given the choice of settling at San Antonio or the Rio Grande River.

When Gil y' Barbo petitioned Spanish authorities to let the settlers return to their homes in East Texas in 1774, they were allowed to travel as far east as the Trinity River, where they founded the town of Bucareli in present-day Madison County.

But Gil y' Barbo and his fellow settlers soon abandoned Bucareli and went to what is now Nacogdoches, where he is credited with laying out the town. He died at his home on the Attoyac River near Nacogdoches.

Lobanillo apparently did not have a post office during the Republic of Texas years, but on July 23, 1884, a U.S. post office was established with the name Geneva and William W. Johnson as the first postmaster.

In the latter part of the 1800s, Geneva began to grow and soon had a population of 150. It acquired several cotton gins, a gristmill, a hotel, two churches, a livery stable and at least five stores.

Sabine County’s first independent school district was organized at Geneva in 1904. During the 1934-1935 school year, the community had 351 students.

The town lost its post office and the last cotton gin in Sabine County was operated by Joe Harris at Geneva until it went out of business in 1959.

Today’s Geneva has only one store, a cluster of homes at the intersection of its two highways, and a number of collapsed buildings.

All Things Historical September 29, 2008 Column

Texas Sabine County Map 1920s
1920s Sabine County map showing Geneva
N of Milam and Hemphill, E of San Augustine
Courtesy Texas General Land Office

Take a road trip
East Texas

Geneva, Texas Nearby Towns:
Hemphill the county seat
San Augustine
See Sabine County

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