Why was Palo Pinto County named from a Spanish word that means painted trees? What's known for sure is that Spanish explorers passing through the area came up with the name Palo Pinto, which means "painted trees" or "painted post." They first gave the name to Palo Pinto Creek, a stream that emptied into the Brazos River. Eventually, the county and county seat were also named Palo Pinto. One explanation is that early Spaniards, who supposedly came through the area in autumn, were referring to the burr oak and post oak trees' colorful fall leaves. Another theory is that the explorers noticed uniquely colored, spotted moss or lichen on the trees along the creek. The History of Palo Pinto County has a more interesting explanation of what the Spaniards saw and what were still on hundreds of trees, when the first pioneers arrived. W.W. Cochran settled on land near Palo Pinto Creek in 1854, before the county was officially created by the Texas Legislature. Cochran passed down stories to Roland McMinn Jr., who wrote the article, Painted Trees for the county history book. Cochran told McMinn about trees that he believed Indians had painted on the North Fork of Palo Pinto Creek. The place is one-half mile west of where the coal town of Strawn was built. McMinn said another place in Palo Pinto County had four-acres of painted trees, a claim recorded by an early Texas Ranger. Indian fighter William J.


Hale saw the distinctive trees at what settlers knew as Painted Camp near Turkey Creek, which is located in the Hart Bend area where Big Keechi Creek empties into the Brazos River. McMinn backs up Cochran's story by referring to a 1930s study of Texas Indian rock art made by an archeologist named A. T. Jackson. The man spent eight years studying rock drawings and carvings done by pre-historic Indians across Texas. Apparently, he also considered the Palo Pinto tree paintings as authentic as the numerous Indian rock art works in the county. Jackson believed that Painted Camp got its name from four acres of large cedar trees marked with red and blue paintings. It appeared that the Indians had first peeled away the rough outer bark of the cedar trees and painted on the smooth inner bark. The paintings varied in size from 4- to 12-inches in length and some formed a complete band around the tree. The most striking aspect about the tree art was that it was not the ordinary stick figures but complicated drawings and designs. Apparently, after Jackson's studies, early day cedar hackers had no idea the paintings were valuable, and they cut the trees down. Despite the archeologist's findings, it seems that no one knows for sure exactly why the Spaniards came up with a word for painted trees or exactly what they saw. Even so, the names of other Texas counties seem boring and unimaginative compared to the name given to the county seat, creek and the county of Palo Pinto.