Nacogdoches (population circa 30,000) claims to be Texas’s oldest town, and though some historians debate this, there’s no denying the wealth and breadth of its East Texas heritage and culture.
Named for the Caddo tribe (the Nacogdoche) that lived in the area, Nacogdoches was an active Native American settlement until 1716 when Spain established a mission at the site. In 1779, Nacogdoches received official designation from Spain as a pueblo (village), prompting locals to deem it Texas’s first official “town.”
Soon after, Nacogdoches became a hotbed of trading activity, most of it illicit, primarily among the French and Americans, with much of the action centered around the Old Stone Fort. The frequent activity coupled with the town’s prime location on several major trade routes made Nacogdoches prominent in early military and political arenas.
By the mid-1800s, Nacogdoches lost its distinction in these areas due to its lack of modern transportation facilities such as steamboats and railroads. Growth remained relatively stagnant until the 1920s, when Stephen F. Austin State Teachers College (now Stephen F. Austin State University) opened its doors, bringing fresh faces, jobs, and cultural activities to town. With a current enrollment of nearly 12,000 students, the university remains the lifeblood of Nacogdoches.
© Andy Rhodes from Moon Texas, 6th Edition