In 1846, the Texas legislature created Hunt County and specified that Greenville would be the name of the county seat, honoring Texas War for Independence veteran Thomas J. Green. Voters ultimately selected this location, on land donated by Tennessee surveyor McQuinney Howell Wright, for the new community of Greenville. The townsite was platted in May 1846 and the first lots were sold at auction the following January, although Wright did not file the deed officially conveying his land until March 22, 1850.
Albert G. Hamilton served as first mayor after the town incorporated in 1852. Unlike most north central Texas counties, Hunt County voted in favor of secession during the national crisis in the 1860s. Economic hardship, occasions of violence, and occupation by federal troops characterized the Civil War and Reconstruction period in Greenville.
The arrival of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas railroad in October 1880 was a watershed in Greenville's history. The railroad provided cotton farmers with easier shipping access, and cotton production and processing became major economic activities. New businesses and service industries, including banks, hotels, street cars, and the state's first municipally owned electric utility, developed to serve the growing community.
Greenville was home to Majors Army Air
Field and three colleges in the 20th century. Its location at the crossroads of major state and national highways helped Greenville develop over the years to become an industrial and trade center in northeast Texas.