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Early History of Jasper, Texas

The Jasper area was called the Municipality of Bevil after it’s first settler, John Bevil. At his request the name was changed to the Municipality of Jasper in 1835, to honor Sgt. William Jasper, an American Revolution hero. Bevil had grown up in Georgia, where the legend of Sgt. Jasper and Cpl. Newton were well known. At that time Jasper County extended all the way to the Sabine River. In 1846, when Texas joined the Union, Jasper was divided in half, North to South, and the Eastern half became Newton County after Cpl. Newton, a close friend of Sgt. Jasper’s.Jasper County Courthouse. 1939

Jasper was one of the 23 original counties when the Republic of Texas was created in 1836. The Legislature of the Republic recognized the existing municipalities as counties without changing their boundaries.

There were two signers of the 1836 Texas Constitution from Jasper County, George W. Smyth and Stephen H. Everitt. George W. Smyth surveyed the first league of land in Jasper County, the John Bevil League, on which the City of Jasper is located. He was Land Commissioner for the Republic of Texas and served as Senator after Texas came into the Union. Stephen H. Everitt served in the first five Legislatures of the Republic of Texas.

An Act by the legislature approved on December 14, 1837, defined the boundaries and directed the commissioners to select a site for the Jasper County seat of government, thus becoming the county’s birthday. There was much disagreement about where the county seat would be located. An Act of the Texas Legislature on January 14, 1844, made it official that the town of Jasper was named the county seat. It remained an unincorporated town until 1926, when the citizens voted to incorporate and chose A. L. Black as their first mayor.

East Texas logging in the early 1900 Jasper’s first courthouse, a small wooden structure, burned in 1849, destroying all the Jasper County records. A second wooden two-story structure was completed in 1853 and served as the county courthouse until the present-day brick building was completed in 1889 with the exception of the two additions on the west and east sides, which were added in the 1940's.

In 1851, the Jasper Collegiate Institute was chartered with Professor M. A. Montrose as president. The War Between the States brought about the closing of this fine school. In 1877, an Act of the Texas Legislature created the Southeast Texas Male and Female College. The College burned in the early 1900's, but was rebuilt. It later evolved into the public school as Jasper High School in about 1919. It was located where the present Jasper Middle School is presently located.

The War Between the States created much strife in the county. The men were at war and farms fell into disrepair with cattle being stolen or strayed and crop failures. Our county government had little control of events under the occupation of the federal troops, who were bivouacked on the courthouse square and around the town.

Early settler, Andrew Smyth, saw the importance of river boat use on the Angelina and Neches Rivers to take goods down river to Beaumont, Sabine Lake and Galveston and return with supplies and goods not available in his home area of Bevilport. Railroads eventually replaced the river use and sawmill towns began to be built as the need for timber was in demand. This demand for lumber increased the population of Jasper and it became a thriving municipality.