John Hilyard Tackitt, Alonzo Larkin, J. T. Crawford, and T. A. Patillo were among the early settlers who began moving into this area as early as 1850. The small community that developed was first known as Willow Point. By the 1870s, the first church was established.
By the mid-1880s, the community had grown to a population of 150 and a post office had been established. By this time, residents had begun calling the town Ravenna. Local tradition indicates the name was for the numerous ravines in the vicinity, especially a deep ravine that cut through the middle of the townsite. At that time Ravenna included some ten businesses, including a steam sawmill, a cotton gin, and a gristmill.
The community incorporated in 1887. A school, Ravenna College, was established by G. L. Marshall and Kate Wolfe and offered private education to local children until it was moved to Ector in 1889. The Denison, Bonham and New Orleans Railroad built tracks through Ravenna in 1891, resulting in a growth in population to some 400 residents and thirty businesses.