The legislature of the Republic of Texas authorized Leon County in 1846 from part of Robertson County, and named it in honor of Martín De León, the founder of Victoria, Texas. However, local tradition holds that it is named for a yellow wolf of the region commonly called the león ("lion" in Spanish).  The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad crosses from Normangee to Jewett, where the two rail lines intersect. Leon County embraces 1,078 square miles of rolling plains. The first European to explore the region was probably Domingo Terán de los Ríos, who traversed the county on his way to inspect Spanish claims in East Texas. In 1718 Martín de Alarcón crossed the southeastern tip of the future county. Though the main route of the Old San Antonio Road passed along what is now the southern boundary of the county, the Spanish failed to establish permanent settlements there; Bucareli, on the Trinity River in neighboring Madison County, founded in 1774, was the nearest the Spanish came to settling Leon County. Area recreation opportunities include fishing, hunting, and historic Fort Boggy. 


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