James J. Jarvis, lawyer and businessman, son of Daniel and Lydia Jarvis, was born in Scurry County, North Carolina, on April 30, 1831. He received his early education in North Carolina and Tennessee. By 1852 the family had moved to Illinois, where Jarvis read law with W. B. Somers, who resided in Urbana. After Jarvis obtained his license to practice law in 1856, he moved to Texas and settled in 1857 at Quitman. There he started a law practice and acquired an interest in one of the first newspapers in Wood County, the Quitman Herald.
In 1861 Jarvis volunteered for Confederate service in Company A, Tenth Texas Cavalry. This regiment, along with the Eleventh, Fourteenth, and Thirty-second Texas Cavalry regiments, formed a brigade under Gen.Matthew Duncan Ector. The Ector brigade was attached to the Army of Tennessee for most of the war and served primarily east of the Mississippi River. Jarvis was a sergeant major, adjutant, and first lieutenant of the Tenth Texas. He was commended for valor in action during the Battle of Murfreesboro, where he was slightly wounded in the left arm. He returned to Quitman on furlough sometime in late 1863 and was still on leave when the war ended in 1865. He was elected county judge on November 19, 1863, and held the office until 1865, when he was replaced by an appointee of provisional governor A. J. Hamilton.
Jarvis moved to Fort Worth around 1872. He continued to practice law there and began to make investments in real estate. He was elected district attorney for the Sixth Judicial District shortly after he arrived in Fort Worth, and held that position for two years. He represented the Twentieth District in the Texas Senate during the Twentieth and Twenty-first legislatures in 1887 and 1889. He served as chairman of the Committee on Finance during his term and held several other committee appointments. His real estate investments proved very lucrative, and he used his wealth in charitable and philanthropic ways to benefit his community. He was a founder and charter member of the board of directors of Texas Christian University. He helped establish Jarvis Institute, which later became Jarvis Christian College, by donating a grant of land he owned in Wood County. He also helped found and build the First Christian Church in Fort Worth.
With his wife, Ida Van Zandt Jarvis, whom he married in 1866, he had four children. Their son, Van Zandt Jarvis, became a well-known rancher and president of the board of directors of Texas Christian University. Jarvis died on January 20, 1914, at the Westbrook Hotel in Fort Worth and was buried in Fort Worth.
Is history important to you?
We need your support because we are a non-profit organization that relies upon contributions from our community in order to record and preserve the history of our state. Every penny helps.
Please make your contribution today.
Dallas Morning News, January 21, 1914. Lewis E. Daniell, Personnel of the Texas State Government, with Sketches of Representative Men of Texas (Austin: City Printing, 1887; 3d ed., San Antonio: Maverick, 1892).
Law, Law Enforcement, and Outlaws
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
David W. Gilbreath,
“Jarvis, James Jones,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 26, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
Original Publication Date:
Most Recent Revision Date:
November 9, 2020
This entry belongs to the following Handbook Special Projects: