Decatur, the county seat of Wise County, is on U.S. highways 287 and 380 and the Burlington Northern Railway, forty miles northwest of Fort Worth at the approximate center of the county. It is near the western edge of the Grand Prairies, and overlooks the western Cross Timbers area. The Texas legislature established Wise County in 1856 and directed that a county seat named Taylorsville (in honor of Gen. Zachary Taylor) be founded within five miles of its center. The town was located and laid out by Absalom Bishop, an early settler in the region. Bishop, who was a member of the Texas Legislature, did not approve of Taylor's Whig party affiliation, and in January 1858 he arranged to change the name of the town to Decatur in honor of the naval hero Stephen Decatur.

The new community prospered in the years before the Civil War. A post office was opened in 1857 in the store of Daniel Howell, the town's first merchant and postmaster. The first school was established in the fall of 1857, and a courthouse was erected in the early 1860s. The Butterfield Overland Mail line served the community for several years before the war. As an exposed settlement on the Texas frontier, Decatur and its area stagnated during the war years and continued to suffer from Indian raids until 1874. Perhaps the most dramatic event of the war for the inhabitants of Decatur was the trial of members of the Unionist Peace party in the town and the execution of five of them in 1862


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