a Pecan Shell
planters established a community here sometime before the Civil War
but it wasn’t until 1888 when a post office was granted.
James C. Brady could be considered the town “founder” since he was
the primary businessman. Brady ran the community store as well as
a grist mill and cotton gin.
By the mid 1890s, Jumbo had two churches and a school – but no estimate
of population. The post office closed in 1912, but it appears on the
1907 post office map.
Jumbo’s schoolmerged with the school in Gary
in the 1940s and the few residents that inhabited the area filtered
into neighboring towns or left the area in search of work. By the
1990s, Jumbo was no longer seen as a community and was downgraded
to a “dispersed rural community.”
The forgotten towns of East
Texas got their names from a variety of ways--from people, places,
events...even geological landmarks.
But Jumbo, in Panola
County, is the only town to be named for an elephant.
The town was settled by cotton planters before the Civil War years,
but it wasn’t until 1885 when James C. Brady established a cotton
gin, a general store and a grist mill, and the community began to
In 1888, Brady secured a post office for the expanding community
and the community began to think about a name.
P.T. Barnum’s traveling circus, which made a tour in Panola
and surrounding counties between 1882 and 1885, someone suggested
that the community be named for one of its star attractions, Jumbo,
an elephant billed by Barnum as the largest African elephant in
In the 1800s, the circus would have traveled in East
Texas on the old Houston, East and West Texas Railroad, sometimes
Either Way Taken,’ after the line was built from Houston
to Shreveport in the early l880s. The tracks ran through dozens
of small towns not far from the Jumbo community, such as Timpson,
Barnum, bought Jumbo from the London Zoo for $10,000, an enormous
sum of money in the 1880s. Standing twelve feet high and weighing
six and a half tons, Jumbo quickly became a huge attraction.
Jumbo the Elephant
at the Zoo
1888, as would-be town namers in the little community near the Panola-Rusk
county line suggested names, Jumbo would have been fresh on their
mind because of the circus’ visit and, more importantly, because of
Jumbo’s untimely death in 1885.
A tragic accident in Ontario, Canada, ended Jumbo’s life when an unscheduled
freight train hit him while Barnum’s circus was loading in the freight
The collision derailed the freight train and 150 people were required
to haul the elephant’s body up an embankment. Jumbo’s hide was given
to Tufts College, stuffed and mounted, and put on display in the Barnum
Museum at the college, now Tufts University.
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