Nacogdoches, the county seat of Nacogdoches County, is on State highways 7, 21, 59 (a principal artery to Houston), and 259, fifty miles west of the Sabine River and 100 miles north of Beaumont in the central part of the county. It was named for the Nacogdoche Indians, a Caddo group. Archeological research has established that mounds found in the area date from approximately A.D. 1250, when the Indians built lodges along Lanana and Bonita creeks, which converge just south of Nacogdoches and continue as a single stream to the Angelina River. The mounds were found to contain human bones and pottery. The expedition of René Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, visited the area in 1687. Louis Juchereau de St. Denis was sent by the French governor Sieur Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac to establish trade with the Indians in Spanish Texas. St. Denis marked a trail through Nacogdoches to the Rio Grande, along part of the route later known as the Old San Antonio Road, and was briefly arrested. In the summer of 1716 he accompanied Domingo Ramón back to East Texas to found Nuestra Señora de Guadalupe de los Nacogdoches and five other missions. The Franciscan Antonio Margil de Jesús had charge of the missions. Guadalupe Mission was abandoned briefly two years later due to fears of a French invasion but was reestablished by the Marqués de Aguayo in 1721. It operated more or less continuously until 1772, when viceroy Antonio María de Bucareli y Ursúa promulgated the New Regulations for Presidios, which recommended the recall of all missions and settlers to San Antonio. The following year Governor Juan María Vicencio de Ripperdá sent soldiers to force the removal of all Spanish subjects to San Antonio. Antonio Gil Ibarvo, from the Lobanillo Creek area southeast of Nacogdoches, became the leader of the settlers. He petitioned successfully for the group to be allowed to return part of the way to East Texas. They established a community named Bucareli on the banks of the Trinity River, where they remained for four years until floods and Indian raids caused Ibarvo to lead them in 1779 to the abandoned mission site at Nacogdoches, possibly the only building of European origin then standing in East Texas. Later Ibarvo was commissioned commander of the militia and magistrate of the pueblo of Nacogdoches, the first official recognition of civil status for the community.
Nacogdoches became a gateway for trade, mostly illicit, with the French and later the Americans, from Natchitoches and New Orleans, Louisiana. Ibarvo constructed a stone house, later known as the Old Stone Fort, where he conducted business. Because of his governmental position it also assumed a public nature, which it retained until it was demolished in 1902. A replica of the building was constructed on the campus of Stephen F. Austin State University during the Texas Centennial celebration (1936). The location of Nacogdoches also gave it prominence in early military and political activities. During the 1790s the American mustanger and filibuster Philip Nolan often headquartered there. In 1806 Lt. Col. Simón de Herrera headquartered at Nacogdoches while negotiating the Neutral Ground agreement with Gen. James Wilkinson of the United States. In 1812 filibusters Augustus Magee and Bernardo Gutiérrez de Lara proclaimed Texas free from Spain while at Nacogdoches, and they published the first newspaper in Texas, the Gaceta de Tejas, before going on to meet defeat at the hands of Gen. Joaquín de Arredondo at a battle near San Antonio. Arredondo ordered all who collaborated with them to be arrested, and the entire population of Nacogdoches fled into the Texas or Louisiana wilderness for safety temporarily. Arredondo's men almost completely destroyed the town. After the signing of the Adams-Onís Treaty, which fixed the Sabine River as the boundary between Texas and the United States, James Long and 300 followers occupied Nacogdoches in 1819 and again declared Texas independent of Spain. Long remained in Nacogdoches only a short time before attempting another expedition on the coast, which resulted in his death. The empresarial grant of Haden Edwards was headquartered at Nacogdoches, as was his abortive Fredonian Rebellion of 1825–27. After this movement Col. José de las Piedras commanded a Mexican military garrison at Nacogdoches until driven from the area in August 1832 after the battle of Nacogdoches, one of the events that led to the Texas Revolution (see ANAHUAC DISTURBANCES). During that movement several prominent figures, including Hayden S. Arnold, N. Adolphus Sterne , and four signers of the Texas Declaration of Independence- John S. Roberts, Charles S. Taylor , Thomas J. Rusk , and Robert Potter -claimed Nacogdoches as their home. The town was a seat of unrest and supplied the revolutionary cause with men and money. After the revolution the uprising of Vicente Córdova against the Republic of Texas in 1838 also centered around Nacogdoches.
In antebellum Texas and during the Civil War and Reconstruction , Nacogdoches lost its prominence in state political and business affairs, due to lack of transportation facilities, particularly railroads and navigable rivers. Though once one of the three most important counties in Texas, Nacogdoches County was reduced to 902 square miles as other counties were formed from its territory. Nacogdoches itself had been incorporated in 1837. During the twentieth century it remained a small city with steady if not dramatic growth. When Stephen F. Austin State Teachers College (now Stephen F. Austin State University) was established in Nacogdoches in 1923, the college became the community's largest attraction to new residents and inducement to cultural activities. The Nacogdoches economy is based on education, agriculture, agricultural services, and manufacturing. The town is the headquarters for Texas Farm Products, a state leader in the manufacture of fertilizer, animal feed, and animal health products. Nacogdoches is a state leader in the broiler industry; several poultry hatcheries, feeders, and processing plants are located here (see POULTRY PRODUCTION). McGraw Edison (electrical equipment), Sun Terrace (lawn furniture), East Texas Canning Company (beverages), Bright Coop Company (chicken coops), Foretravel (recreation vehicles), Herider Farms (processed poultry), Holly Farms and Indian River International (chicks, feed, poultry breeding stock), Mize Brothers Manufacturing Company (women's wear), Moore Business Forms, and NIBCO (valves) are among the local industries. Nacogdoches is a distribution and trade center for East Texas. Tourism is also a major industry. Public ground transportation is provided by the Southern Pacific Railroad, the Trailways Bus Line, and seven freight companies, and private air service is available at East Texas Regional Airport, operated by the city, on State Highway 7 southwest of town. Nacogdoches has two commercial radio stations and a public station sponsored by the university. It receives signals from television station KTRE, which also serves Lufkin, twenty miles to the south. The Daily Sentinel is the city's only newspaper. The community supports several financial institutions.
The population was 27,149 in 1980 and 30,872 in 1990. By 2000 the population was 29,914. The town is predominantly White, but African Americans make up an estimated one-third of the population, and the Hispanic population is rapidly growing. There are a few American Indian and Asian residents. Residents are served by nearly forty churches, of which nearly one-half are Baptist. Other communions represented are Assembly of God, Catholic, Church of Christ, Church of God, Episcopal, Lutheran, Methodist, Mormon, Nazarene, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, and Seventh-day Adventist. Cultural activities in Nacogdoches center around Stephen F. Austin State University, where local and professional theatrical productions and musical performances are held. More than seventy civic, professional, and fraternal organizations are present in the city. The Nacogdoches Independent School District provides kindergarten, elementary, and secondary education, and private schools located at Christ Episcopal Church and Fredonia Hill Baptist Church provide elementary education. Stephen F. Austin State University, which grants baccalaureate and graduate degrees, annually enrolls approximately 12,000 students. Spectator sports are available at the high school and collegiate level. Other recreation is available at the city parks, at the lake belonging to the park system (primarily intended as a water reservoir), and at nearby Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend reservoirs. Nacogdoches is located on hilly terrain with an altitude that varies from 150 feet to 600 feet above sea level. The center of the city, still a viable downtown shopping area, is a mixture of historic and contemporary architecture. It includes the city hall, a public library, and a retail shopping area with food services, although most fast-food businesses are located along North Street near the university campus. Victorian homes are located along shaded Mound Street, and later subdivisions ring the city. Historic preservation is encouraged; among the historic structures are the restored home of Adolphus Sterne, the oldest structure in the city, the Old University Building, the Blount House, Millard's Crossing (a preservation village), and many private dwellings.