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What’s in a name? Chico, Texas

By Messenger Staff | Published Saturday, August 25, 2018
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Brown Hotel

The Brown Hotel

As the story goes, J.T. Brown came to the area in the mid-1870s from Chico, Calif. He purchased land from R.C. Mount and opened a store in what is now Chico.

Brown is generally regarded as the founder of Chico. He was certainly one of its early organizers. He suggested the name “Chico,” which must be an homage to his previous home in California.

Other names were suggested, such as Brownstown and Mountville, and a vote was called. With seven men voting, Chico won by one vote and the town of Chico, Texas, was named.

Chico, Calif. was founded not too many years before Chico, Texas, in 1860. A man named John Bidwell bought some land referred to as “Rancho Arroyo Chico.” That land is the area where Chico, Calif., was founded, in Butte County. Rancho Arroyo Chico means “ranch of the little stream.” Chico, while it also means “boy,” in this case means “little.”

James Thompson Brown was born in August 1827 in Tennessee. He married Sophronia G. Brown in 1854. He went west at some point before 1863 because that was the year his son, James T. Brown Jr., was born in California. He then found his way to Wise County in the 1870s. He opened the Brown Hotel in 1888. He died Sept. 15, 1908, at the Brown Hotel.

His obituary reads, “His death closed a long and strenuous career, that of Mexican war veteran, pioneer Indian fighter and the founder of Chico.”

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