Dallas Rewind Moment – Founding Dallas

Dallas Rewind Moment – Founding Dallas

Dallas Rewind Moment

In this “Dallas Rewind Moment” we take a look at the early history of Dallas, answering the questions: Who found the location? When did it become a town? And who was its first Mayor?


John Neely Bryan

John Neely Bryan and wife Margaret Beeman – Courtesy Dallas Municipal Archives

Today, with over 1.3 million citizens, it’s hard to believe that Dallas in 1860 had only 678 people calling it home. In fact, the area where Dallas sits, once nicknamed the Peters Colony, was home mostly to Native Americans. This is what drew John Neely Bryan to the area.  He was hoping to start a trading post that would offer goods between various indigenous cultures.


In 1856 Dallas would be granted a town Charter by the Texas legislature. Dallas gained its city Charter in 1871.

Early Dallas Skyline

Dallas skyline courtesy of Dallas Municipal Archives

Dallas City Charter

Dallas City Charter – Dallas Municipal Archives


Date Description
1841 North Texas area containing the future Dallas becomes part of Peters Colony, land settlement grant made by the Republic of Texas to American and English investors led by William S. Peters; City founded by John Neely Bryan, who settled on the east bank of the Trinity near a natural ford (November).  Two highways proposed by the Republic of Texas soon converge near Dallas.
1844 J. P. Dumas surveyed and laid out a town site comprising a half mile square of blocks and streets.
1846 Dallas County formed; Dallas designated as the temporary county seat.
1850 Voters select Dallas as the permanent county seat over Hord’s Ridge (Oak Cliff) and Cedar Springs.
1856 The Texas legislature grants Dallas a town charter on February 2.  Dr. Samuel Pryor, elected the first mayor, headed a town government consisting of six aldermen, a treasurer-recorder and a constable.
1860 Population of 678, including 97 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.
1861 Dallas residents voted 741 to 237 to secede from the Union. Dallas 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.
1870 Population about 3,000.
1871 Dallas City Charter is substituted for town charter.


To find out more about Dallas history visit the Dallas Municipal Archives: http://dallascityhall.com/government/citysecretary/archives/Pages/archives.aspx



Dallas City Hall website “Timeline of Dallas City Government” accessed May 18, 2017, http://dallascityhall.com/government/citysecretary/archives/Pages/Archives_govtimeline.aspx


Handbook of Texas Online, Jackie McElhaney and Michael V. Hazel, “Dallas, TX,” accessed May 18, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hdd01.


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