Dallas

Photo of Downtown Dallas from I-35

Downtown Dallas

Photo of Downtown Dallas from I-35.
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Dallas is on the Trinity River in the center of Dallas County in North Central Texas. It is crossed by Interstate highways 20, 30, 35, and 45. The city was founded by John Neely Bryan, who settled on the east bank of the Trinity near a natural ford in November 1841. Bryan had picked the best spot for a trading post to serve the population migrating into the region. The ford, at the intersection of two major Indian traces, provided the only good crossing point for miles. Two highways proposed by the Republic of Texas soon converged nearby. Unknown to Bryan, however, he had settled on land granted by the republic to the Texan Land and Emigration Company of St. Louis, headed by William S. Peters. Bryan eventually legalized his claim, and the extensive promotional efforts of the Peters colony attracted settlers to the region. In 1844 J. P. Dumas surveyed and laid out a townsite comprising a half mile square of blocks and streets. The origin of the name Dallas is unknown. Candidates include George Mifflin Dallas, vice president of the United States, 1845–49; his brother, Commodore Alexander J. Dallas, United States Navy; and Joseph Dallas, who settled near the new town in 1843. When Dallas County was formed in 1846, Dallas was designated as the temporary county seat; in 1850 voters selected it as the permanent county seat over Hord's Ridge (Oak Cliff) and Cedar Springs, both of which eventually came within its corporate limits. The Texas legislature granted Dallas a town charter on February 2, 1856. Dr. Samuel Pryor, elected the first mayor, headed a town government consisting of six aldermen, a treasurer-recorder, and a constable.

Dallas quickly became a service center for the rural area surrounding it. By the 1850s it had dry-goods stores, groceries, a drugstore, an insurance agency, a boot and shoe shop, brickyards, and saddle shops, as well as a weekly newspaper, the Dallas Herald, founded in 1849. In 1852 French immigrant Maxime Guillot established the first factory, manufacturing carriages and wagons. Alexander and Sarah Horton Cockrell, who purchased Bryan's remaining interest in the townsite for $7,000 in 1852, built a three-story brick hotel, a steam sawmill, and a flour mill. With the breakup of the nearby La Réunion colony in the late 1850s, skilled European craftsmen and artists moved into Dallas, including brickmakers, cabinetmakers, tailors, milliners, brewers, and musicians. By 1860 the population was 678, including ninety-seven enslaved African Americans as well as French, Belgians, Swiss, and Germans. On July 8, 1860, a fire originating in the W. W. Peak Brothers Drugstore spread to the other buildings on the square and destroyed most of the businesses. Suspicion fell on slaves and Northern abolitionists; three slaves were hanged, and two Iowa preachers were whipped and run out of town. In 1861 Dallas voters voted 741 to 237 to secede from the Union. Dallas was selected as one of eleven quartermaster and commissary posts in Texas for the Trans-Mississippi Army of the Confederacy. After the war, freed slaves flocked to Dallas in search of jobs and settled in freedmen's towns on the periphery of the city. By 1870 the population was about 3,000.

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Jackie McElhaney, Michael V. Hazel | © TSHA

Handbook of Texas Logo

Adapted from the official Handbook of Texas, a state encyclopedia developed by Texas State Historical Association (TSHA). It is an authoritative source of trusted historical records.

Great Texas Land Rush logo
Adoption Status:
This place has been adopted and will not be available until July 7, 2025
Adopted by:
Debra Polsky
Dedication Message:
In honor of Jaynie Schultz

Belongs to

Dallas is part of or belongs to the following places:

Currently Exists

Yes

Place type

Dallas is classified as a Town

Associated Names

  • (Peters Colony)

Location

Latitude: 32.79392430
Longitude: -96.76582800

Has Post Office

Yes

Is Incorporated

Yes

Population Count, 2021 View more »

1,288,457

Place Type Population (Year/Source) Currently Exists
College or University Yes
College or University Yes
College or University Yes
College or University Yes
College or University Yes
College or University Yes
College or University Yes
College or University Yes
College or University Yes

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