COMMERCE, TEXAS. Commerce is at the juncture of State highways 50, 11, 24, and 224, fifteen miles from Greenville in northeastern Hunt County. It owes its origins to William Jernigin, a pioneer merchant in partnership with Josiah Hart Jackson in nearby Cow Hill, who in 1872 opened a mercantile store on the site of the northwest corner of the present town square to take advantage of a new trade route that developed with the building of a new bridge on the South Sulphur River.
The community grew up around Jernigin's store and apparently received its name on one of Jernigin's business trips to Jefferson. Jernigin had his merchandise sent to "commerce," since his small community did not have a name. In 1885, the year of incorporation, Commerce had twelve businesses in addition to a hotel and livery stable, a wood shop and wagon factory, and a steam mill and gin, as well as a church and school. In 1887 the St. Louis Southwestern Railway (the Cotton Belt) connected Commerce with Texarkana, Sherman, and Fort Worth.
During the 1890s Commerce gained additional rail outlets to Ennis and Paris with the arrival of the Texas Midland Railroad. Commerce has been a college town since 1894, when William L. Mayo moved his East Texas Normal College from Cooper to Commerce to benefit from the rail connections and to collect a $1,000 bonus offered by the community. By 1910 the population of Commerce had risen to 2,818, and the town had a flour mill and cottonseed oil mill, four cotton gins, a roundhouse, rail yards and machine shops, and four banks; East Texas Normal College enrolled 900 students
In the early 1950s the roundhouse was abandoned, and the machine shops were moved to Tyler. In 1956 passenger service to Commerce was discontinued. Also during this period the many cotton gins of Commerce began to close; the last one shut down in 1978.
Commerce is the second largest town in Hunt County.
Text from the Handbook of Texas Online