JACKSBORO, TEXAS. Jacksboro, the county seat of Jack County, is a prosperous agribusiness center located at the intersection of U.S. highways 281 and 380 in the approximate center of Jack County. Attracted by the offerings of the Texas Emigration and Land Office (see PETERS COLONY), settlers first arrived in the Jacksboro area in the mid-1850s. Along the banks of Lost Creek a small community of farmers took root and spread out over the pastureland between the river and the waters of the West Fork of Keechi Creek, south of the original settlement. As the distance from the original site increased and the number of buildings, including a church and schoolhouse, grew, the settlers began referring to the town taking shape as Mesquiteville. The town was chosen county seat in 1858 and renamed Jacksborough, or Jacksboro, in honor of William H. Jack and his brother Patrick, both veterans of the Texas Revolution. That year the first stagecoach arrived from the Butterfield Overland Mail; this service ran until early 1861. Regular postal service to the town began in 1859.
Jacksboro, located in one of the few Texas counties to vote against secession, was the most westward settlement still standing in Texas after the Civil War. It had been devastated by Indian raids and consisted of fewer than a dozen ramshackle buildings, most in ruins. In 1870 the completion of Fort Richardson just south of the town made the site safe for settlers; the population of the county seat increased to several hundred, and the town became established as the trading center for the county. Jacksboro received national publicity in 1871 when the Kiowa chiefs Satanta and Big Treeqqv were tried for murder in the district court there. The town had three flour mills, a brickyard, a cotton gin, two churches, a school, and a newspaper, the Jacksboro Frontier Echo. By the late 1880s a second paper, the Gazette, had replaced the Frontier Echo.
The arrival of the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad in 1898, followed by the Gulf, Texas, and Western in 1910, made Jacksboro the principal shipping point for Jack County farmers and ranchers. The construction of a series of farm roads, combined with the completion of U.S. highways 281 and 380, enhanced Jacksboro's commercial position. The discovery of oil in the nearby communities of Antelope and Bryson in the 1920s helped to diversify the local economy by adding oil-well servicing to agribusiness.
The population of Jacksboro reached 1,000 in 1900 and had nearly doubled by 1930. It fluctuated over the next fifty years and was more than 4,000 in the mid-1980s; by then the town housed just over 50 percent of the county's population. The community supported a number of churches, public schools, a high school, a popular fishing and swimming spot at nearby Lake Jacksboro, Fort Richardson State Historical Park, and the annual Mesquiteville Days festival. In 1990 the population was 3,350. The population was 4,533 in 2000.
Thomas F. Horton, History of Jack County (Jacksboro, Texas: Gazette Print, 193-?). Ida Lasater Huckabay, Ninety-Four Years in Jack County (Austin: Steck, 1949; centennial ed., Waco: Texian Press, 1974). Carl Coke Rister, "The Significance of the Jacksboro Indian Affair of 1871," Southwestern Historical Quarterly 29 (January 1926). William Orville Witherspoon, Populism in Jack County (M.A. thesis, North Texas State University, 1973).