Anson, the seat of Jones County, is at the intersection of U.S. highways 83/277 and 180. The town was established at Fort Phantom Hill but was moved to its present location when an enterprising speculator, John Merchant, anticipated that the Texas and Pacific Railway would go through the new site. Merchant’s offer of land induced McD. Bowyer and P. S. Tipton to open a general store and a hotel. Though the railroad never materialized, the founding of Anson, then known as Jones City, had occurred. On July 17, 1881, Jones City was declared county seat. By 1882 the town had been renamed Anson, again in honor of Anson Jones, last president of the Republic of Texas. By 1883 Dick Davis had established the Texas Western, Anson’s first newspaper. In 1909 county commissioners engaged Elmer Withers to design a new courthouse, which was completed in 1910 at a cost of $100,000.
In 1926 the Phillips Petroleum Company struck oil southwest of Anson, a discovery that led to exploration throughout Jones County. The Bullard oilfield opened one mile southwest of Anson in 1950. In addition to serving as a supply center for the county’s agricultural and oil industries, in 1980 Anson produced concrete, magnetic signs, and polished rock. The population of 2,831 was served by a bank, a savings and loan, 100 businesses, and a newspaper, the Western Observer. Despite its modern economic activities, the town has not forgotten its western heritage. The Cowboys’ Christmas Ball, initiated in December 1885 by M. G. Rhoads at his Star Hotel, continues to be a traditional event.
– Connie Ricci, “ANSON, TX,” Handbook of Texas Online
No Dancin’ in Anson
Anson is home to the “Texas Cowboys’ Christmas Ball”, a three-night event held the weekend before Christmas. The first ball was held by M.G. Rhodes at his Star Hotel in Anson in 1885 and annually thereafter until 1890, when the hotel burned down. The event happened sporadically until it faded away during Prohibition. Teacher and folklorist Leonora Barrett revived the event in 1940. The dance was (and still is) held in Pioneer Hall, a Works Progress Administration project from the Great Depression. Music is usually provided by Michael Martin Murphy and his band. Anson also may or may not have been the inspiration for the movie “Footloose” and, as of 1987, still had an enforced “no dancing” law on the books that is/was only lifted for the annual Christmas dance. An effort was made in 1987 to change the ordinance to allow supervised dancing, which was successful.