Jacksonville History 1934
Two denominations, the Methodists and the Baptists, built churches in Old Jacksonville prior to 1850. Later the Cumberland Presbyterians built just east of the town. Among the ministers were Doctor Orceneth Fisher, Reverend A. H. Shanks, Reverend Jefferson Shook, Reverend Robert Finley, Reverend John B. Renfro, Reverend Robert Rountree, Reverend D. M. Stovall, Reverend Isham Lane, and Reverend G. W. Slover.
Despite competition with Larissa, business must have been profitable. In his reminiscences the late M. L. Earle lists forty-eight firms in Old Jacksonville's mercantile roster. The first three, all of whom carried general stocks in log houses on different sides of the public square, were A. S. Johnson & Company, Hughes & Maples, and J. B. Able & Son. W. T. D. Guy, then manager for the Johnson Company, is credited with having sold the first bill of goods. He was also the first postmaster after the name was changed from Gum Creek to Jacksonville in 1850. In 1855 Peter G. Rhome opened a stock of goods bought in New York, shipped to Houston and hauled to Jacksonville in ox-wagons.
The town's hotel, built partially of logs, was opened by Joseph Turney in 1850. In this popular community center General Thomas J. Rusk and many other Texas heroes were served by a succession of managers, including Thomas D. Campbell, father of the future governor. The last proprietor was W. C. Cobb, who established the first hotel in present Jacksonville (Lots 17-18, Block 137). [footnote: In 1855, General Rusk was chief speaker at a barbecue. His mission was to persuade citizens who had deserted the Democratic ranks for Know Nothingism to return to the fold.]
In 1871 railroad surveyors passed the old town by. Two town sites were laid off before E. B. Ragsdale, officially consulted as to a suitable site, suggested the division between the waters of the Neches River and Mud Creek. His suggestion was followed and on July 27, 1872, Sarah Fry sold the International Railroad Company seventy-five acres of land with the stipulation that the road run its cars to Fry's Summit and permanently locate a depot on the land on or before January 1, 1873. Thus the present site of Jacksonville was established.
Gay in the face of its death warrant, Old Jacksonville, already noted for its "feuds, fights and homicides," opened five new saloons for its sporting newcomers, took one last wild fling at living and moved bodily to the new town site. When the exodus ended only two dwellings and one store building were left. Getting into new quarters became a race. Maples, Ragsdale & Company unloaded the first building material in the business section, but overnight George Tilley put up his saloon. Allen & Lawlor, Peter G. Rhome, B. K. Smith (all general merchants), H. Gover & Company (drugs), W. H. Lovelady and A. J. Chessher (groceries and saloons), the Masonic Lodge and the Methodist Church soon followed. Houses, one side at a time, were loaded on ox-wagons, hauled to their new sites and put together again. New Jacksonville came partially ready-made! Had it not been for the panic of 1873 its early development would doubtless have been even more rapid.