Jacksonville History 1934
Only one of the old town firms is represented in the Jacksonville business directory of today. Ragsdale Brothers, present Jacksonville's oldest firm, is the direct descendant of Maple, Ragsdale & Company. Among other early firms were J. & C. Bolton, Clapp & Brown (J. H.), J. P. Douglas & Company, Two Brothers Saloon, B. B. Cannon, L. Grimes, N. G. Gragard, Jarratt & Goodson, Thompson & Dellis, S. T. Spruill (carriage and wagon maker), J. A. Templeton & Company, and McKinney & Brown (W. A.). W. H. Lovelady built the first brick store. E. B. Ragsdale & Sons and McKinney & Brown built the next two in 1882.
In addition to Ragsdale Brothers, Jacksonville's 1934 business directory shows a number of firms with distinguished service records. Among the oldest are the Jacksonville Drug Store, established by John H. Bolton in 1882 and now operated by the Parker-Tipton Drug Company under the same name: J. L. Brown, a drygoods business established in 1895; and the Sam D. Goodson Hardware Company just a year younger.
The dean of Jacksonville merchants, however, was the late W. A. Brown, with sixty-one years of continuous service to his credit. After two years' employment as clerk for Clapp & Brown he formed a partnership with William McKinney in 1874. For the next fifty-nine years he operated on a strictly cash basis, never swerving from his original "buy as you need and pay as you go" policy. While others fell victim to panics and bank failures the Brown business stood on this rock foundation, a marvel to many who deemed adherence to such a plan impossible. In this pioneer store Jacksonville farmers found not only a source of supplies but an outlet for surplus produce hitherto largely unmarketable. In his untiring efforts to create markets W. A. Brown rendered invaluable service. [footnote: After the retirement of William McKinney, A. C. Dixon, a stepson of Mr. Brown, was a partner in the business for more than forty years.]
The Cobb House, which had been moved from the old town to the corner of Kickapoo and Main Streets, and the Spear House, on the present Liberty Hotel site, were the most noted of Jacksonville's early hotels.
The old town never had a charter. Jacksonville of today was incorporated in May, 1873, the I. & G. N. station being the center of the original city limits. J. H. Martin was the first mayor. His successors include M. D. Morris, W. M. Andrews, R. H. Small, N. M. Fain, J. H. Thompson, Sam A. Cobb, W. H. Sory, John C Box, M. L. Earle, J. E. McFarland and T. E. Acker. In 1931 the city manager form of government was established.
The Methodists had the first church, a box house near the W. A. Brown residence, which also served as a union Sunday school until the Presbyterians built on their lot about 1880. In 1882 the Baptists added their church to the group. The Christian Church is the youngest of the organizations. During a six-year period, 1908-14, the present Methodist, Presbyterian, Central Baptist and First Baptist Church buildings were erected.