Named after General Edmund P Gaines, Gainesville was established in 1850 on a 40-acre tract of land. Growth came with the arrival of freight, passengers and mail through the Butterfield Stagecoach in 1858 but with frequent Indian attacks growth was slowed. Gainesville quickly became an important hub of commerce due to being in the center of two major cattle trails, the Chisolm and the Shawnee. The cattle trails brought many travelers through the city.
The Katy railroad arrived in 1879. With the arrival of the railroad and the significant decrease in Indian attacks, the population was able to grow and thrive! Cattle money also financed the construction of the new county courthouse in 1878 and provided much of the tax revenue to support local schools and the building of public roads. Gainesville was incorporated on February 17, 1873 and by 1890 was established as a commercial and shipping point for area ranchers and farmers. Gainesville was chosen as one of the initial distribution points for the newly invented barbed wire in the 1870’s. Ten reels of the wire were sold to the Cleaves and Fletcher hardware store becoming the first spools of barbed wire ever sold in Texas! Farming became very important to the local economy, and cotton was the major crop produced. Gainesville’s economy continued to grow because of the high price of cotton.
In 1890 the Gainesville Board of Trade was organized, chartered by the Secretary of State with the purpose of “aiding, assisting, and fostering all enterprises that will tend toward the advancement and growth of the city.” This Board of Trade evolved into the Commercial Club which assisted in the movement to obtain the Opera House in 1895. This club would later evolve into our Chamber of Commerce.
Chamber Accomplishments over the years:
- The Commercial Club “started agitation for an “auto stage line” between Gainesville and Valley View and in June this service was started.
- A young men’s business league was suggested by Col. M.P. Kelly (he will be instrumental in the construction of the new Cooke County Courthouse which still serves as the county’s courthouse and is on the National Register of Historic Places) when he was president of the Chamber (so-called for the first time in 1912) and the organization was completed at a meeting on August 25. The first project was sponsoring a street fair on October 25 and 26, 1912.
- W. D. Garnett was President of the Chamber at this time. The Chamber subscribed $11,000 for the purchase of land and to begin the construction of buildings for the State Training School for Girls east of the city. The school was awarded to Gainesville by virtue of the gift and the school opened in 1916.
- The Chamber also subscribed $8000 for the Producers Refinery site a plant being built that employed more than 100 people.
- The Chamber of Commerce was officially chartered with offices located in the Lindsay Hotel building on California Street. Previously, the Chamber had been located in the Cooke County Courthouse. The Chamber of Commerce was led that year by W.W. Leverett.
- The Chamber assisted in organizing the Cooke County Poultry Association and sponsored a livestock show in the fall.
- The Chamber also assisted in locating the Lone Star Gas plant west of Gainesville.
- The chamber began a campaign against boll weevils in Cooke County cotton fields offering $2.50 per 1000 for weevils brought to the Chamber office. While boll weevils posed a real threat to cotton fields in that era, one can only imagine what the Chamber staff thought as they dealt with sacks of boll weevils being deposited in their office.
- Improvement of the tourist camping ground in City Park was another project.
- Chamber raised a budget of $4000 for the maintenance of a Chamber of Commerce band of adult musicians and for the organization of what became known as the largest boys’ band in the world with as many as 149 members. The boys’ band brought much publicity to Gainesville by its trips to the district Rotary convention at Mineral Wells, district Kiwanis convention at Galveston, Fat Stock Show in Ft. Worth, and appearances on radio broadcasts.
- Road and detour signs were installed.
- Four hundred and fifty road maps purchased and distributed to tourists
- Road information was given to approximately 1000 travelers during this time.
- A committee representing the Chamber of Commerce attended a state conference in Dallas for the purpose of considering the establishment of textile mills in Texas. It was decided at this time that Gainesville was not prepared to build a mill.
- Preliminaries for the purpose of building a White Way (modern lighting system) on California Street was entered into, to the extent of having made an engineer’s report as to construction, cost, etc.
- Entertainment of the secretaries and county agents of North Texas resulted in some excellent publicity appearing in one of the largest farm journals of the state.
- Preliminaries were raised to the amount of $100 for first and second bales of cotton ginned in Cooke County and marketed in Gainesville.
- The Chamber carried on an extensive campaign for eradication of boll weevils and laid foundation work for Boys Cotton Club contest.
- Promoted two poultry shows and carried on the work of the Poultry Association.
- The Chamber financed exhibit of the State Training School at the State Fair up to $25 and maintained Boys band.
- A motion was made and approved to purchase building at 310-310 ½ E. California for a Chamber building.
- A motion made by Clarence Leonard, seconded by Ancil Smoot, that the Chamber ask the S.W. Bell Telephone Company to make a survey with the idea of installing the dial system in Gainesville.
- A report on the location of an Army Camp site near Gainesville was made by Roy Stamps.
- A good highway system of roads had been planned and completed.
- The housing area of Howzeville had been secured which had relieved our serious housing shortage.
- The USO building was acquired for a Community center.
- Consent was obtained from the Federal government to permit former land owners to repurchase their former holdings as well as to purchase one or more barracks to reconstruct their homes and farm buildings.
- A National Guard Unit company was secured for Gainesville.
- A celebration! The chamber purchased the land for National Supply awaiting their arrival to Gainesville.
- The paving of Highway 82 East was set to be completed by fall with plans to then focus on Highway 82 West.
- A Contract for the paving of FM51 5 miles south of Dexter are set. Joe Leonard Sr. secured the sites for 2 roadside parks on North 77. Plans are finished, and these parks will be completed in conjunction with the service roads when they are completed.
- Direct Distance Dialing—J.B. King, manager for Southwestern Bell Telephone in Gainesville and Ken Shaw, manager of General Telephone in Denton appeared at a Board of Directors meeting. King explained that the local system would be changing to Direct Dialing in late 1971 and that this would necessitate going through the General System in Denton. This move will eliminate some 33 operators in Gainesville with all operational functions of the telephone company being moved to Denton with the exception of maintenance and service personnel.
- Chamber plans the first Depot Day celebration.
- The chamber worked to bring Amtrak’s Heartland Flyer to Gainesville.
- Support for the construction of the Community Playground in Leonard Park was provided. The chamber also provided support when the playground was expanded in March 2011.
- The Chamber of Commerce worked with the Medal of Honor committee once it was formed and continues to do so today.
– The chamber supported the effort to restore the Santa Fe Depot.