A man in a small cowboy hat stands with a large plastic bucket of blackberries in a green berry patch

© Casey Chapman Ross

This East Texas hamlet of 905 residents is located on Interstate 45, almost exactly between Dallas and Houston, which led to the popular assumption that the town got its name due to its place between the two metropolitan giants. But when the town was founded in 1850, Houston was a young bayou port and Dallas wasn’t much more than a frontier trading post. The real reason it’s called Centerville is because it’s the midpoint of Leon County, a swath of rural Texas that’s crisscrossed with creeks and lush vegetation. Centerville also claims a stunning state park, a beef jerky emporium, and a fascinating courthouse.

Huebner Berry Patch

Steve and Carole Huebner grow a plethora of fruit in the rich soil of their Leon County farm—and they have plenty to share. The Huebners invite visitors to their home in the hills to enjoy fresh blackberries, peaches, and plums. This summer, the bushes were practically exploding with a bounty of juicy blackberries. Left to my own devices, I could have picked a truckload in minutes. Carole’s homemade “spooky” jelly, made with blackberry and ghost pepper, is sure to put some pep in your step.

Woody’s Smokehouse

This filling station that doubles as a beef jerky emporium was opened in the 1970s and boasts a near-endless jerky selection, Texas barbecue, baked goods, a deli, and an array of convenience store items. There are two locations, each on opposite sides of the interstate. Many locals say they have their favorite of the two, but why choose sides? Try ’em both.


Fort Boggy State Park

The fort is the oldest settlement in the area, built by Anglos in 1840 to repel Native American raids. It was mostly abandoned when the region’s growing populace shifted south, toward Leona. In 1985, a private landowner donated the surrounding 1,847 acres to the state. It became a state park in 2001 and has proven to be a peaceful getaway. There’s a 15-acre lake, miles of trails, and well-appointed cabins. I was surprised to find a great sandy swimming beach and to reel in a decent-sized catfish while kayaking the lake. Luckily, I had some beef jerky to use as bait.


The Historic Leon County Courthouse

Just east of the highway you’ll find the Leon County square, which is home to one of the oldest courthouses in Texas. It was built in 1886 and has been in continuous use ever since. It’s had a face-lift or two over the years—check out the beautifully renovated courtroom, where tours are available by appointment. History buffs will enjoy learning the place’s quirks, like how the building houses at least 10 fireplaces.


Leona General Store

The rib-eye at Leona General Store is so good that folks will drive hours for it on Friday and Saturday nights. That’s when this 100-year-old general store serves up one of the finest steaks this side of the Piney Woods. The minimum order is 10 ounces; the only limit is your appetite. Don’t waste your time trying to find a filet or strip on the menu—at Leona General Store, rib-eye is king. Get there early to beat the crowds, and BYOB. If you prefer surf to turf, come down on Thursday for the store’s catfish night.

So whether you follow my footsteps or forge your own path,
I hope to see you on the road.

Chet Garner is the host of The Daytripper® travel show on PBS.
To view the Centerville episode, visit thedaytripper.com.
Follow along on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter @chettripper.


From the September 2023 issue

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