Van Alstyne was built in 1872, for settlers to be near the railroad stop of the Houston and Texas Central Railway. The town was named for either William A. Van Alstyne, a civil engineer with the railroad, or for Marie Van Alstyne, a shareholder in the railroad company. The town was incorporated in 1890. Per a Van Alstyne Leader newspaper article September 3, 2015 the Outlaw "Bushwhacker Bill" Wilson, on whom the Clint Eastwood movie The Outlaw Josey Wales is based, was murdered somewhere in the vicinity of either the intersection of Texas Hwy 5 and Prong Creek 1 mile North of Van Alstyne or South of Van Alstyne halfway to the old ghost town of Mantua. A lot of movie buffs would likely be interested if this was marked somewhere in the town.