Jacob E. Gilcreest, early Cooke County physician and surgeon, was born on August 20, 1850, in Cartersville, Georgia, shortly after his father, William Gilcreest, had immigrated from Cork, Ireland. Jacob Gilcreest received a common-school education, then taught for a year before attending Sonora Academy. In the fall of 1872 he started classes at Louisville Medical College on a beneficiary scholarship from Dr. G. W. Holmes, president of the Georgia State Medical Association, but ran short of money, left after his first course of lectures, and traveled to Texas. Because of a local shortage of qualified doctors, the county medical examining board deemed Gilcreest's training acceptable and issued him the first certificate to practice medicine recorded in Cooke County.
He eventually returned to Louisville to complete his studies and graduated in 1879, after which he moved to Gainesville with his wife, Emma Catherine (Looney), whom he had married in 1878, and her widowed mother, Mary Ann Looney. Mrs. Looney was instrumental in establishing in 1879 the first Catholic church in Gainesville, and until a church building could be constructed, Mass was often celebrated in the Gilcreest home. In 1906 the Gilcreests' son Oscar, one of five children born to the couple between 1879 and 1886, owned the first motorcycle in Gainesville, and by 1909 Gilcreest owned the first Ford automobile there. He and his wife remained in Gainesville until his retirement in 1921, when they moved to Ennis to live with one of their daughters. His eldest son, Edgar Lorrington Gilcreest, also became a physician and surgeon who received his M.D. from Johns Hopkins University in 1910 and served on the faculty of the medical school at the University of California; there he wrote numerous scholarly articles before his death in 1964.
Jacob Gilcreest joined the Texas State Medical Association (later the Texas Medical Association) in 1884, and in 1901 he was appointed to a three-man committee to revise the association's constitution and by-laws to conform to the standards of the American Medical Association. He was elected first vice president in 1902 and president three years later. In his 1906 presidential address, Gilcreest called for the medical examination of schoolchildren as a way to stem the spread of infectious diseases and stressed the need for revisions to the Medical-Practice Act. In 1909, Gov. Thomas M. Campbell appointed him one of the seven original members of the state board of health (see TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF HEALTH).
In addition to his activities on the state level, Gilcreest was one of the original members of the Cooke County Medical Society, organized on July 3, 1890, and was elected as its president several times. Around 1900 he helped organize, and was the first president of, the faculty of the University of Dallas Medical Department, later known as Baylor College of Medicine. Gilcreest died in his daughter's home in Ennis on March 18, 1926, and was buried in Gainesville.