Commerce – Fire Clean Up
In 1894, after a fire destroyed the school he had established in Cooper, W. L. Mayo moved East Texas Normal College to Commerce as a result of an offer by the city of a $10,000 building and 10 acres of land. On September 3, 1894, Professor Mayo and 35 students attended their first class in Commerce in a brick business building downtown. A fire in 1897 destroyed the buildings along one side of Main Street. When they were rebuilt, 40 feet was added to the street width, making it 80 feet wide.
In the early 1900’s educational and commercial growth continued: East Texas Normal College had 702 students and 15 teachers by 1906; the public school system under Superintendent A. L. Day employed 10 teachers for Commerce’s 711 pupils; the Commerce Board of Trade was organized in 1909 by Commerce Journal publisher Sterling Hart; a sewage system with five miles of pipe was installed in 1910; the public well in the square was filled in and the hitching rack around it removed. The square was paved between 1918 and 1920.
Beginning from a small store on a ridge between two rivers, Commerce grew and prospered, emerging as a community which owes its beginnings to the railroad and shops. Its current economic health is due to a major state university, over 400 business establishments and steadily expanding industries.