The area that is now Angelina County was originally occupied by agricultural Indians of Caddoan and Atakapan-related stock. The county was named for a Hainai Indian girl who, according to Spanish legend, helped early Spanish missionaries of the area around 1690. The Spanish Franciscan priests called her Angelina or "Little Angel". Eventually her village became known as Angelina's Village and the stream where it was located became Angelina's river.
Angelina died in the early 1700s. Her grave site is unknown. In 1846, when Angelina County was formed, it was named for the Indian maiden and the Angelina River.