For a current population of more than one million, Dallas, Texas, had humble beginnings. Through the determination of one man, the settlement called Dallas became a reality in the Three Forks area of the Trinity River, in the 1840s.
John Neely Bryan originally stumbled across Three Forks in 1839, on a mission to establish a trading post for Indians and settlers. The advantages of locating at Three Forks, were that it was the easiest river crossing location, and it was located on the soon-to-be established Preston Trail. After plotting the town, Bryan returned home to Arkansas to prepare for his emigration to West Texas. In the meantime, the U.S. government negotiated a treaty to remove the existing Native American population from all of North Texas.
Upon his return in 1841, he discovered that the Indians had remained and his customers were gone. To ensure the survival of the settlement, Bryan traveled to nearby Peters Colony and convinced many of those settlers to relocate to Bryan’s new town. Among those settlers was John Beeman, who planted the first corn crop upon his arrival, in April 1842. In the election to annex Texas into the Union, Dallas residents supported the move at their own polls.
The Peters Colony transplants soon spread news of the good conditions in what was now called Dallas, and the population of this new Texas town increased rapidly. In 1850, the town became the permanent seat of Dallas County.
Dallas was officially incorporated as a town in 1860, with 2,000 residents and its first mayor, Samuel Pryor. As Dallas prepared to enter the Civil war, public debates about this issue of secession were held and a volunteer company of soldiers was assembled. In July, a fire burned down most of the business district. Arson was suspected and two abolitionists were run out of town and three slaves were hung. The remaining slaves were beaten.
The business district was rebuilt by December, but because the town was experiencing runaway growth, there was a housing shortage. In 1861, Dallas County and the state seceded from the Union, and sent volunteers and supplies when the war spilled over into Texas on June 8.
After the Civil War, Dallas experienced another growth spurt that brought with it former slaves, outlaws, and unfair price structures for crops. The first passenger train came through Dallas from the Houston and Texas Central Railroad, in 1872. Farmers established The Farmer's Alliance in 1877, and built a warehouse for housing cotton until it could be shipped to St. Louis. The Alliance collapsed after only 20 months because of lack of support from the lending industry. Such outlaws as Belle Starr, Doc Holliday, and Sam Bass made their mark on Dallas before their departure, sometimes in a pine box.
Dallas, like other towns, was initially affected by the Great Depression, so that by 1931, more than 18,000 people were out of work. Although the town established a “work for food” program, it was the discovery of oil that resurrected the town's economy.
With the help of bank loans, the oil industry began to explore and exploit their finds, starting in 1931. Small businesses began springing up all over town to support the oil fields, while the roughnecks and roustabouts made their drilling machines purr like loving cats. The fields were plentiful and productive in Dallas, the Permian Basin, the Panhandle, the Gulf Coast, and Oklahoma. "East Texas" became synonymous with "Big Oil."
The unthinkable happens in Big D
On November 22, 1963, Dallas and the world were stunned when, during a presidential motorcade parade, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, close to the location where John Neely Bryan first settled the city. Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested in town for the murder and was killed two days later by Jack Ruby, a Dallas nightclub owner. Having not forgotten, Dallas erected the Kennedy Memorial in 1970, and the Sixth Floor Museum (of the Texas Book Depository) was opened in 1989.
On the lighter side of Dallas
Dallas became the nation's third-largest technology center during the 1950s and 1960s, with the growth of such companies as Ling-Tempco-Vought (LTV Corporation) and Texas Instruments. With the opening of the Home Furnishings Mart in 1957, the home furnishing business grew into the Dallas Market Center, which eventually became the largest wholesale trade complex in the world.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the Dallas skyline changed with the introduction of some prominent skyscrapers. When the oil industry relocated its headquarters to Houston by the 1980s, Dallas was beginning to see the benefits from a burgeoning technology boom, by the expanding computer and telecommunications industries, while continuing to be a center of banking and business. Dallas became known as Texas’ Silicon Valley or the “Silicon Prairie,” in the 1990s.
The sporting life
In Dallas, professional sports teams are plentiful and famous. Due to their success and popularity by the 1970s, the Dallas Cowboys football team had become known as “America’s Team.” And of course, along with the Cowboys, came the famous Dallas Cowgirl Cheerleaders.
Dallas is also the home of the Texas Rangers * Major League Baseball team (since 1972), and the NBA Mavericks, who came to play basketball in 1980. The Sidekicks MLS soccer team came to claim Dallas as home in 1984, and in 1993, the town had an NHL professional hockey team, the Dallas Stars.
Education and the arts
Bringing institutions of higher learning was important to Dallas early in its history, so that in 1910, efforts began to convince Southwestern University in Georgetown (just north of the state capital, Austin), to relocate there. They refused, but this action brought Dallas to the attention of the Methodist Church. They voted to establish a university there in 1911, after the city offered $300,000 and more than 660 acres of land for the campus. Subsequently, in 1915, Southern Methodist University opened its doors to the general population, in addition to students of the faith.
The city now hosts the University of Texas at Dallas, as well as Dallas Baptist University, which moved to Dallas from Decatur in 1965.
There are many unique museums in Dallas, including the Dallas Museum of Natural History, founded in 1936. Located in the city’s arts district is the Dallas Center for Performing Arts, which has plans for several new projects for that area.
A hub of transportation for the western U.S., Dallas is served by two commercial airports: the Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport Dallas, which is the second largest airport in the country, and Dallas Love Field. In the surrounding area, the airports in operation are the Addison Airport, two more general aviation airports in McKinney, and two in Ft. Worth.
Dallas, located in the so-called “Bible Belt,” is known for its religious diversity. Methodist and Baptist churches are quite prominent in town as they serve as an anchor to their private universities. The Catholic Cathedral Santuario de Guadalupe serves the second largest congregation in the country. There is an active Church of Latter Day Saints (Mormon) community, active Jewish residents, and a significant Muslim community. Dallas is also home to the Cathedral of Hope, which hosts the largest gay congregation in the world.
¹The Rangers actually play at Ameriquest Field in Arlington, a suburb on the southwest outskirts of Dallas. They were already established on the field, as they were originally the Washington Senators’ franchise that moved their operation to the Dallas-Ft.Worth metro area in 1972.
² The Dallas Stars originally were known as the Minnesota North Stars, but left their Minneapolis-St. Paul surroundings because of lack of attendance.
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