Chico is at the intersection of State Highway 101 and Farm Road 1810, five miles north of Bridgeport in northwestern Wise County.
Originally part of a survey of 1,920 acres of land belonging to the heirs of William Heresee, the land became a settlement for several families including Cal Mount, Benjamin Booth, Sim Odom, T. Merriman, H.F. Hawkins, Sr., Dave Manning, Allen Gore, Tom Traister and Adam Johnson, among others. R.C. Mount bought this survey of 1,920 acres for 13 cents per acre before the Civil War.
The area we now call Chico grew primarily as a trade center for surrounding farms. It originated with a deed for 44 acres filed by RC Mount on October 27, 1876. Mount reserved two acres for a school and a church. Around 1875 Colonel Brown arrived and became a merchant and first postmaster of the village serving the needs of the pioneer families. He paid $1.26 per acre for the townsite and plotted the area designing a public square, a business section and residential lots. Brown wanted to call this new town after his hometown of Chico in California. Other name suggestions were Brownstone and Mountville. Four of the seven men voting in the election officially named the town Chico. There are still descendants of the original pioneers living in and around the city of Chico and there are streets bearing their names throughout the city.
The first school in the Chico Community was built in 1873 about three and one-half miles northeast of present day Chico. The 8X16 log cabin had an enrollment of 14 pupils that ranged in age from eight to fourteen. The cabin had a dirt floor and used a huge fireplace for heating. One log on the north side of the building was sawed out for a window and ventilation. The school was nicknamed “Sling Mud” because the stagecoach would sling mud on the building as it passed by. School was held in this building for two years.
In 1875 Katy Grove School was erected. Each patron was to contribute an allotment of logs delivered to the building site. It also used a large fireplace for heat but had no windows. The new school building measured 16X32, had a dirt floor and used split logs for seats. The building also served as a church house and a courthouse. Katy Grove School existed through 1879.
In 1879 Chico Masonic Lodge No. 508 erected a two story building sandstone structure named Chico Masonic Academy. The enrollment was 143 students. The Academy actively sought out students from the surrounding communities and charged a tuition fee from $1.50-$3.00 per month. Vocal music was free of charge. Room and board was no more than $10.00 a month. In 1883 the name changed to Lee College. The name change was meant to bring prestige to the school because of the popularity the South had for Robert E. Lee. The building began to crack and was condemned in 1889. For the next two years school would take place in the local churches.
The Chico Male and Female Institute was completed in time for the 1891 school year. It was located on the site of the present day elementary school. It housed the school until November 3, 1911 when it was destroyed by fire. To support the school the local voters levied a $.20 per $100 valuation of property. The vote passed 36 for and 12 against. The Institute educated students from 7 years of age to 17 years of age and had about 400 students.
After fire destroyed the Institute in 1911 a three story “modern” brick building was erected in 1912. The new building was located near the site of the Institute. The Chico High School Building served students until 1934. The completed cost of the building was $14,000. In 1934 the top story was removed and additional classrooms as well as a gymnasium were added. The building was used until 1950.
In 1950 the facility that houses current day Chico Elementary was built and is still in use today. This new building was one of the first in the state to have air conditioning.
The first frame building, built in 1888 was the Brown Hotel which still stands. The Rock Island Railroad was built through town in 1893 and the depot was built in 1902.As the town grew the square changed and there was once a park-like area with a boxing ring in the center and room for roller skating, fiddlers and get-togethers. Later the area was blacktopped and a portion of the state highway was cut diagonally across the area bisecting it into two triangles.
In 1997 the Texas Department of Transportation financed a project costing $284,000 from TXDOT discretionary funds, meeting a plea for traffic safety, resulting in the "Squaring the Square" project. Chamber of Commerce fund raisers and private donations paid for streets and sidewalks in the Square. Grass and trees have been planted. Twelve lampposts and a matching clock were purchased with donations, adding an old fashioned look to the square. Personalized bricks bought by families and individuals and businesses are being used for decoration.
History of the Chico Public Schools, C. C. Bock, 1950
The History of Wise County, 1975