The community destined to become Naples, Texas will soon be 130 years old. Perhaps it is even a little older, but the first Post Office was established on December 7, 1868 at Wheatville, Texas; a town sight 3 miles northwest of Naples near the H.J. Vissering home. It was than part of Titus County, but was made a part of the newly established Morris County in 1857.The Cotton Belt route later by-passed Wheatville 3 miles, so Wheatville moved to the railroad at this present location and the name was changed to Station Belden on January 9, 1882. The only evidence of the once-thriving community of Wheatville is the Wheatville Cemetery and the Senator Morris Sheppard Monument.
In the summer of 1893, a group of progressive citizens and business men including J. H. (Gee) Matthews, W. J. Gallaway, local merchants, Dr. J. W. Lewis, local dentist, and J.C. Martin, a young Belden businessman, determined to establish a bank in Station Belden. On August 15, 1893 they succeeded in opening the Morris County Bank in the general mercantile store of Gallaway and Moor paid-in capital of $25,000.Records show that at the end of the first day’s business the bank had five depositors and total deposits of $995.30. At the close of the second day’s business, with a boost in business to 7 depositors, the total deposits were $2, 469.32.
Because the name Station Belden conflicted with the already established Belton, Texas, the name was changed to Naples on February 16, 1895. The name Naples was selected with no special significance by the Post Office; the name was simply selected from several names submitted by Post Office officials.Naples was a thriving, booming area. Land was selling for the inflated price of $3.00 per acre. Meat sold at the outrageous price of between $.03 and #.06 a pound. A gallon of syrup, a must on every pioneer table, cost $.50 and a bushel of potatoes cost $1.00. You could buy five gallons of coal oil for $.10 and a small bottle of machine oil cost $.25. In 1897, an obstetrical fee was $7.00.In the late 1890’s came the era of the western flavour, and Naples had its share of livery stables, saloons, opera houses, mud streets and player pianos. Men carried guns and had shootout on the streets. Women and children got off the streets after sundown.
Just after the turn of the century, Naples became an industrial centre with three factories and 31 businesses. There was a box and crate factory, a hardwood veneer factory, the Sullivan-Sanford Lumber Company and the Hardwood Mill which was the second largest hardwood mill in the world and employed over 500 people.They build the lake we know as the Mill Pond for its water supply, built its own railroad to the Sulphur River bottom via Wheatville to haul it log supply. The mill kept 7 million feet of lumber cut on its yards and grounds extending from Highway 67 to about one mile north and on both sides of the Mill Pond.
At the turn of the century, lumber was shipped to Germany and other countries. Naples cotton was shipped to England, China, and Japan. During 1910, Naples shipped 4,464 bales of cotton, 64 cars of cattle, 1,000 cars of lumber and 200 cars of ties. Naples had 2 churches, a high school, 2 hotels, a 4-story building containing an Opera House, 2 national banks, 1 state bank, and a bottling and ice cream plant; plus 3 railroads.
A great fire destroyed Naples’ industry dynasty, and the town dwindled and economy turned to King Cotton and other agriculture. Naples then found itself with only 833 populations, but in 1940 began to grow to 1,355; in 1950 Naples grew to 1,661. Another growth period began in 1960 bringing the population to over 1900 today! Naples now has 1000 acres in its city limits, 48 businesses, and 9 churches, 2 doctors and 1 dentist. Naples is on the St. Louis South-western Railway and U.S. Highway 67, twelve miles northeast of Daingerfield in north-eastern Morris County. The town developed around a station on the Texas and St. Louis Railway, which built through the area in 1880. Most of the original merchants had moved their stores from Wheatville, which lay about three miles north of the railroad. The new town was originally called Belden, but when the post office was moved there from Wheatville in 1882, it was named Station Belden, apparently because postal officials were concerned that “Belden” would be confused with Belton in Bell County. The town quickly became an important shipping point and supply centre. By 1884 it had a district school, two churches, two gristmills, two cotton gins, and a population of 350. The population had grown to 750 by 1890, and a weekly newspaper, the BeldenMonitor, was being published there. In 1895 residents submitted a list of names to the post office, and Naples was selected as the new town name. By 1896 the community had a bank and an estimated population of 1,200. During the early 1900s lumber was an important local industry, and a narrow-gauge railroad was constructed to haul hardwood logs to the sawmills. The town was incorporated in 1919.
Naples experienced a minor boom in the late 1920s, with its population growing from an estimated 887 in 1925 to 1,500 in 1929. The Great Depressionqv brought a collapse, however, and by 1933 the population had declined to 843, with thirty-eight rated businesses. The population level remained relatively stable until the late 1940s, when it began to rise again, reaching 1,346 in 1950. In the 1950s the Naples and Omaha school districts were consolidated into the Pewitt Independent School District. Naples continued to be an important trade centre for area farmers, but as the town began to grow after World War II,qv many residents acquired industrial jobs elsewhere. In 1964, 239 of the 567 employed persons living in Naples worked in industries at Lone Star, at Daingerfield, or at the Red River Army Depotqv in Bowie County. In 1980 Naples had a population of 1,908. During the early 1990s its population of 1,530 was served by sixty-three rated businesses.