On November 10, 1837, the Battle of the Knobs was fought in what is now Wise County between about 150 Native American warriors and 18 Republic of Texas soldiers under Lieutenant A. B. Benthuysen. Despite being heavily outnumbered, the Texan soldiers held their ground, killing or wounding an estimated 50 Native Americans and losing 10 of their own men. More settlers began coming into the area not long afterward, with people relocating from both the Upper South and Deep South. Wise County was not founded until 1856. It was named after Virginia Congressman Henry A. Wise, who had supported annexation of Texas by the United States. He was elected governor of Virginia in 1856.
As few residents of Wise County were slaveholders, opinions were mixed at the time of the Civil War, and many people opposed secession. Unionists were persecuted in North Texas, and some were lynched. Forty-two men were murdered in the Great Hanging at Gainesville in October 1862, over the course of several days in neighboring Cooke County. This was one of the worst examples of vigilante justice in American history.
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