The History of Jackson Parish – The founding of Jonesboro!

Ever wondered when Jackson Parish began to be settled and why it was called such? What about how the town of Jonesboro actually got its name? Maybe you curious about how Jonesboro became the parish seat or even things like how the early settlers made their money or got around back. You are not alone. Over the next several weeks a series entitled “Blast from the Past” will be published exclusively in the Jackson Parish Journal designed to help shed a light on these questions and more. This week – The founding of Jonesboro!

Joseph Jones and his wife Sarah migrated to north Louisiana in 1850. When they first arrived, five years after Jackson Parish had been created they patented land in Bienville Parish before selling his holding in 1860 and establishing a home in the vicinity of where the town of Jonesboro is now situated. they are considered as the first people to settle in what is now the Town of Jonesboro. 

There were only two small log cabins in the area at the time, one being on the hill where the courthouse stands and the other on the ridge of what is now the Jonesboro Cemetery. That became the first “meeting house” and was known as Macedonia Baptist Church. Both church and school services, although irregular, were held there. From 1860-1902 the original building had been replaced twice. The latter date marks the time when both church and school were moved to new and separate locations.

The great forest of virgin timber that had been a hindrance to farming activities of the pioneers became and asset with the advent of the timber industry after a group of men organized what was known as the South Arkansas Lumber Company. Bill Culbert and W.W. McDonald Sr. were sent here as timber estimators and buyers.

The necessity of a railroad was recognized and since the same company owned sawmills and the Arkansas Southern Railroad, construction southward was begun going first through Ruston and then Punkin Center. During the clearing of the right of way a “tent store” was set up a short distance off the Vernon-Gansville Road, which was the main thoroughfare of the settlement, just southeast of where the old Rundell Junior High School stood between 3rd and 4th street in Jonesboro. This was the first store to locate in the community and was given the name of the “The Rag Store” because it was a tent. Mr. Carson McDonald brought his general mercantile business from Rochester and built the first frame store across the road from the “Rag Store.”

Mr. J. Stark Cargill purchased 160 acres of land from Dr. W.S. and Mary E. Jones, heirs of the late Richard Henry Jones where the saw mills and a town for employees was built. Almost simultaneously the railroad was completed to the Old Vernon Road Crossing.

Many people came to help build up the area. Mr. M. Jackson, with the help of W.S. McDonald Jr. surveyed for the railroad and mill. T.M Dodson had the original contract for building the railroad with grading of the road bed let to Billy Dodson. Sam Neal, Jim Palmer, C.E. Andrews and Tom Clark were sub-contractors on the road. Oscar E. and David L. Stinson supplied timber for bridge construction and W.S. McDonald Sr. furnished teams for hauling and grading as well as cleared the right of way from Quitman to Wyatt. The first train was brought to Macedonia in 1900 made up of 27 cars with the first regular freight train arriving later that summer.

Meanwhile, resident engineer W.P. Bullock began to lay out streets, avenues and blocks completing the task in December of 1900 according to the map on file at the Office of the Clerk of Court. The streets were named numerically running east to west as follows: First, Second, Third, Fourth, Main, Sixth, Seventh and Eighth. The Avenues running north to south were named after individuals.
(1) Hudson Avenue – W.D Hudson, office manager for the South Arkansas Lumber Company
(2) Polk Avenue – Named for a stock holder
(3) Bullock Avenue – Named for W.P. Bullock (see above)
(4) Cooper Avenue – Named for Mr. Cooper who was water well driller for the mill.
When the town was resurveyed in 1902 Bullock Avenue was changed to Allen Avenue honoring Jackson Parish Tax Assessor W. H. (Billy) Allen.

Mr. Cargile also gave the new town a block to be designated as the “Public Square” thinking that with the railroad in place the town would one day be the parish seat and would need an imposing court house. Dr. Jones also sold the 22 acres where the original Macedonia Baptist Church and cemetery was located to W.W. McDonald Sr. who then in turn donated the land to the town to officially become the site of the cemetery and church.

The name Macedonia didn’t meet the approval of mill officials as the name of the new town. There was a custom in those days for new towns to be named for the baby girl of the community and as Dr. and Mrs. W. S. Jones was only one family residing in the immediate vicinity before the influx of industrial workers the name of the baby of the family, Stella Blanche, was brought up.

Stella was quickly rejected as it was found that another woman by the same name was in jail for murdering her husband and town leaders didn’t want the unfavorable publicity that was sure to follow. Blanche was also not able to be used as there was already another location in Louisiana by that name.

It was then decided that the town would bear the last name of the family from whom the land was purchased. Jones and Jonesville proved to be already taken leading C.C. Henderson, President of the Arkansas Southern Railway and South Arkansas Lumber Company to decree the town would be name Jonesboro. The Post Office Department accepted and confirmed the name Jonesboro, Louisiana on January 16, 1901. 

Next: The growth of Jonesboro!

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