Founded in the early 1900s, Ratliff initially had a population of more than five thousand, with most working at a sawmill operated by the Louisiana and Texas Lumber Company. This Four C Mill used the lake that is the heart of Ratcliff Lake Recreation Area as its millpond. The recreation area is located within the Davy Crockett National Forest.
Ratcliff is named for an early settler, J.H. Ratcliff, who operated a smaller sawmill, which cut the timber for the larger Four C Mill.