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Updated by jonesjaric on Feb 07, 2017
Headline for Early Dallas Entrepreneurs
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Early Dallas Entrepreneurs

Listed are sources of information on the early entrepreneurs of Dallas, TX, including John Neely Bryan, Sarah Horton Cockrell, and George Bannerman Dealey.


DALLAS, TEXAS. 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.


COCKRELL, SARAH HORTON (1819–1892). Sarah Cockrell, businesswoman and entrepreneur of Dallas, daughter of Enoch and Martha Horton, was born in Virginia on January 13, 1819, and in 1844 moved to Texas with her parents and six brothers and sisters. After her marriage on September 9, 1847, to Alexander Cockrell, she lived in Dallas County until 1852, when Alexander purchased the remainder of the original headright containing the settlement of Dallas. After the family moved into the town, Cockrell started a construction business, established a sawmill and gristmill, and erected a building for rental to business firms. His wife, in addition to her homemaking duties, kept the records, managed the money, and handled the correspondence for the businesses. After Alexander's death in 1858, Sarah took over the family enterprises. In 1859 she opened the St. Nicholas Hotel under her own management. When it burned in the fire that destroyed most of Dallas in 1860, she opened the Dallas Hotel, which later became the St. Charles.


DEALEY, GEORGE BANNERMAN (1859–1946). George Bannerman (G. B.) Dealey, publisher and civic planner, was born on September 18, 1859, in Manchester, England, to George and Mary Ann (Nellins) Dealey. In the mid-1860s the family moved to Liverpool, where he began his schooling and worked as a grocer's apprentice. In 1870 his family immigrated to Galveston, Texas, where he continued in public school and worked at various odd jobs. He took the position of office boy at the Galveston News on October 12, 1874. He worked for this publishing concern the rest of his life.


BRYAN, JOHN NEELY (1810–1877). John Neely Bryan, Indian trader, farmer, lawyer, and founder of Dallas, son of James and Elizabeth (Neely) Bryan, was born on December 24, 1810, in Fayetteville, Tennessee. He attended Fayetteville Military Academy and after reading law was admitted to the Tennessee bar. Around 1833 he moved to Arkansas, where he became an Indian trader. According to some sources, he and a partner laid out the town of Van Buren, Arkansas. Bryan made his first trip to the future site of Dallas, Texas, in 1839. He returned to Van Buren temporarily to settle his affairs, and in November 1841 he was back in Texas. He settled on the east bank of the Trinity River, not far from the present location of downtown Dallas. In the spring of 1842 he persuaded several families who had settled at Bird's Fort to join him. On February 26, 1843, Bryan married Margaret Beeman, a daughter of one of these families. The couple had five children. Bryan served as postmaster in the Republic of Texas and operated a ferry across the Trinity where Commerce Street crosses the river today. In 1844 he persuaded J. P. Dumas to survey and plat the site of Dallas and possibly helped him with the work. Bryan was instrumental in the organizing of Dallas County in 1846 and in the choosing of Dallas as its county seat in August 1850. When Dallas became the county seat, Bryan donated the land for the courthouse.

Today’s Notable Texan: John Neely Bryan

Around 1833 he moved to Arkansas, where he became an Indian trader. According to some sources, he and a partner laid out the town of Van Buren, Arkansas.

Dallas's First Capitalist, Sarah Horton Cockrell

An image of the bridge built over the Trinity River in Dallas, TX

Welcome to Big D

An overview of the Dallas area and history, told by a traveler from New York


Considered by many to be Dallas’ first businesswoman, entrepreneur, and capitalist, Sarah Horton Cockrell moved to Texas from her native Virginia when she was in her early twenties. She married Alexander Cockrell in 1847, and along with him ran family businesses including a sawmill, gristmill, and construction company. After Alexander’s death in 1858, she expanded her business interests by opening a hotel.


Dallas: The Making of a Modern City

Dallas: The Making of a Modern City

Hill, Patricia. Dallas: The Making of a Modern City. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1996