Jonesboro (also known as Fort Jonesboro, Jonesborough, and Old Jonesboro) was the first permanent pioneer settlement in Jones Valley. It was established in 1813 by settler John Jones with the help of his brother-in-law Caleb Friley. Together they blazed a wagon trail southeastward from Bear Meat Cabin (Blountsville) on the Huntsville Road, and erected a timber stockade against the possibility of Indian attacks and a smithy.
A group of Indian mounds, called the Talley mounds were located on the creek bank and used as a camping place in the period of settlement. Ethnologist James Middleton prepared a descriptive report which was published in 1894.
The settlement grew quickly as settlers, mainly from East Tennessee, pushed into the frontier. Jonesboro grew up on the banks of a small creek south of Hall's Creek, near its outfall into Valley Creek, southwest of present day Bessemer. The wagon road diverged at Jonesboro, with one branch continuing west as Tuscaloosa Road and the other to Bucksville through Roupe's Valley.
Early merchants in Old Jonesboro included Hawkins and Earle, John Ayres, Mark Harris, John W. Bramlett and Ben McWhorter. William Rose Sadler erected a grist mill, and Thomas Sadler opened a tailor's shop. Hosea Holcombe settled nearby, becoming pastor of Canaan Baptist Church there in 1822. The church was founded in the home of Isaac Brown.
Samuel Tarrant, the son of settler James Tarrant, established the town's leading mercantile and also operated a boarding house, where his wife, Ellen kept table, serving biscuits described in the Jones Valley Times as "anti-dyspeptic". He was president of the Salem Male and Female Academy. In March 1862 he raised the Jonesboro Guards that mustered at Shelby Springs as Company H of the 28th Alabama Infantry Regiment. Another notable resident of the area was James McAdory, who raised cotton on a large plantation in the valley, sending it by wagon to Tuscaloosa. His brother, Thomas McAdory, lived two miles beyond town on Eastern Valley Road. Bachelor John Thomas operated a mill and cotton gin and also raised silkworms and manufactured silk handkerchiefs on Jonesboro's first loom.
Thomas McAdory's son Isaac merged the Bucksville Academy and Salem Academy to form the Pleasant Hill Academy in Jonesboro about 1866. When the Alabama Great Southern Rail Road was constructed through Jones Valley after the Civil War, its route took it about a mile southeast of the existing town, along what is now Alabama Avenue. New homes and businesses were established closer to the depot while the original settlement came to be called Old Jonesboro. The Blue Creek Extension of the Louisville & Nashville Railroad's Birmingham Mineral Railroad later ran through the older settlement toward Adger and Johns on the Blue Creek Seam of coal.
- 1814: John Jones, Caleb Friley, Andrew McLaughlin, Samuel Fields, Isaac Fields
- 1815: Williamson Hawkins, Thomas Barton, William Cowden, James Cunningham, Jonathan York, John Brown, Isaac Brown, John Wood, James H. Wood, William C. Tarrant, Henry Tarrant, James Tarrant
- 1816: John Owens, Joseph Riley, Drayton Nabers
- Moss, Florence Hawkins Wood (1947) Building Birmingham and Jefferson County. Birmingham: Birmingham Printing Company.
- Brown, Virginia Pounds and Jane Porter Nabers, eds. (1970) Mary Gordon Duffee's Sketches of Alabama. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press ISBN 081735011X