Ratcliff was founded when a Georgia wagon train moved into eastern Houston County around 1875, bringing a band of settlers. It was named for Jesse H. Ratcliff, who built a sawmill in the virgin pine area in 1885 and opened a post office on February 6, 1889. Ratcliff's sawmill was sold to Central Coal and Coke Company in 1901 and was the foundation for the large sawmilling operation known was Four C Mill. The population during the boom sawmill days was more than 5,000. Old Ratcliff School was established in 1890 with Dora Hager as the first teacher. The school was moved closer to town in 1901 and consolidated with the Kennard school district in 1955. Ratcliff flourished as a lumbering town until the early twentieth century. By 1920 the surrounding 120,000 acres of timber had been cut, and the town declined until the mid-1930s. Land sales, the designation of Davy Crockett National Forest, and a reforestation program undertaken by the Civilian Conservation Corps helped revive the economy. Ratcliff Recreation Area, a campground one mile west of town, became a tourist attraction. Ratcliff received two Texas historical markers: one for the community itself in 1972 and a second for the Four C Mill in 1973. In 1980 Ratcliff had two businesses; the population in 1990 and 2000 was 106.