Paris has been described by noted commentator Paul Harvey as a city . . where tomorrow fell in love with yesterday and, side by side, they lived happily ever after. Others have described Paris, Texas as an American people with a French name in a Spanish land which began in a area with a strong economic base, diversified industry, and a thriving population. Settlements first sprang up in the Paris area in 1824. Soon after, in 1836, the city of Paris was founded.
City founder George Wright allowed the fledgling community to be named for Paris, France by Thomas Poteet, one of his employees. Five years later the area now known as Lamar Co. was created and named for Mirabeau Buoaparte Lamar, President of the Republic of Texas. The Central National Road of the Republic was carved through the county in 1844; we know it now as FM 195.
Catastrophe has played a major part in the building of Paris. Twice, in 1877 and in 1916, the city was nearly destroyed by raging fires. Rebuilding took place immediately, and many reconstructed grand homes remain as reminders of an earlier more stately Texas.
Through the years, Paris, the county seat, has been a cattle town, a railhead, farming center, and a military center. Today the community stands strong with a good blend of agriculture and diversified industry, and as the trade and medical center of Northeast Texas and Southeast Oklahoma.
Paris is the county seat of Lamar County. It is on U.S. highways 271 and 82 in the central part of the county in the upland separating the tributaries of the Red and Sulphur rivers. The first recorded settlement in the vicinity was in 1826, and settlements were known to be in the area as early as 1824. The town was founded by merchant George W. Wright, who donated fifty acres of land in February 1844, when the community was also designated the county seat by the voters. It was incorporated by the Congress of the Republic of Texas on February 3, 1845. The community was named for Paris, France, by one of Wright's employees, Thomas Poteet. Paris was on the Central National Road of the Republic of Texas, which ran from San Antonio north through Paris to cross the Red River. By the eve of the Civil War, when it had 700 residents, Paris had become a cattle and farming center. Lamar was one of the few Texas counties that voted against secession, though many of its inhabitants later served in the Confederacy. In 1877 and 1916, major fires forced the city to rebuild.
Paris has long been a railroad center. The Texas and Pacific reached town in 1876; the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe and the St. Louis and San Francisco in 1887; the Texas Midland (later Southern Pacific) in 1893; and the Paris and Mount Pleasant (Pa-Ma Line) in 1910. Paris Junior College was established in 1924. In 1990 it was one of the oldest junior colleges in Texas; at that time the main campus had twenty buildings, including a new $1.1 million physical education center, and the college offered both technical and academic instruction. Its jewelry technologies department was recognized internationally. On April 2, 1982, Paris was hit by a tornado that destroyed more than 1,500 homes and left eight dead and 3,000 homeless. From 1984 through the early 1990s, local businesses invested nearly $7 million in renovating and revitalizing the downtown area. The city in the early 1990s was a regional medical center serving northeast Texas and southeast Oklahoma. Around that time Paris had some ninety churches, representing every major religion and denomination. At that time there were two military installations in Paris and nearby: Gaines Boyle Memorial Reserve Center and Camp Maxey National Guard Training Site.