KEMP, TEXAS. Kemp is on State highways 175 and 274 and Farm roads 1895 and 1391, near Cedar Creek Reservoir eight miles southeast of Kaufman in southeastern Kaufman County. The community was named for Malvina Kemp Watkins, wife of John Marr Watkins, the first postmaster, and was officially established when the post office opened in 1851. Growth was slow during its first thirty years, but after the Civil War an increasing number of settlers moved to the community. In 1870 Dr. A. J. Still, hoping to profit from this growth and the possible construction of a railroad through the area, bought land just north of the community. After dividing the tract into lots, Still persuaded the directors of the Southern Pacific Railroad to lay tracks across his property by offering the company a number of lots. Another early settler, Sam Parmalee, followed suit and offered the rail company right-of-way through his property. The mid-1880s witnessed the completion of the rail line through the community, the construction of a depot there, and the designation of Kemp as a terminus on the line.
The railroad attracted settlers to Kemp. Prospering with the surrounding cattle ranches and cotton farms, the community developed as a trade center for the lower part of the county. By the early twentieth century the population had reached 513. By 1936 forty-six businesses operated in Kemp and the population had expanded to 1,200. Much of the land around town was still devoted to cattle production, and many residents commuted to jobs in the Dallas area. The 2010 census reported the population to be 1154.
Robert Richard Butler, History of Kaufman County, Texas (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1940). Kaufman County Historical Commission, History of Kaufman County (Dallas: Taylor, 1978).