North Texas City (Suburb of Dallas)

Facts in Brief:

  • Population: 109,576 (2000 census)
  • Area: 36.6 square miles (94.9 km2)
  • Location: 32°59'24"N 96°53'36"W, just north and west of Dallas
  • Median Income/Household: $62,402
  • Per Capita Income: $26,746
  • Demographic: 72% white, 20% Hispanic, 6% African-American, 2% other
  • Mayor: Becky Miller

Cultural Life—This little city has many places to visit such as museums, parks, a fine public library system, golf courses, public areas and many fine neighborhoods with houses and apartments in a variety of price ranges. Carrollton is also home to a variety of dining (from fancy to modest), shopping, and hotels.

Among its many museums, Carrollton has the very interesting A.W. Perry Homestead Museum. Mr. Perry, one of the area's earliest settlers (see History, below), built his home on this spot in 1857. The museum, surrounded by a park, was donated by Pearl Perry Gravley in 1975. It offers a wonderful glimpse of life in the early years of the 20th century, complete with authentic artifacts, a smokehouse, a root cellar and a gas light plant.

The Carrollton Wind Symphony, Dallas School of Music (on Midway Road), the Plaza Art Center (on Fourth Street) and many local historical sites are among other cultural attractions of Carrollton. The city publishes Leisure Connections magazine as a guide to Carrollton's cultural events and recreational activities.

Economy—Carrollton has seen explosive growth in the past 30 years. Once a remote little bedroom community and farming/ranching town it now stands as a vital part of the economic life of North Texas. The extension of the North Dallas Tollway and the very new President George Bush Turnpike (both of which pass through Carrollton) has facilitated this expansion. Carrollton is convenient to both D/FW International Airport and the considerably smaller Addison Airport.

A number of major companies have facilities or headquarters in the city. Among them are Braun Medical Inc., Century Packaging Service, Dalton Medical Corp., Electro Plate Circuitry Inc., Ellsworth Adhesive Systems, Frito-Lay, General Aluminum Corp., General Binding Corporation, Halliburton Energy Services, International Paper, Pioneer Concrete of Texas, Sara Lee Bakery Group and Sumitomo Machinery Corporation of America. Additionally, there are hundreds of small businesses of almost every description here.

Carrollton is part of the Dallas Area Rapid Transit program (DART) and, as such, enjoys the DART bus service (such as it is). There are plans to connect the city with Dallas' (surprisingly good) light rail system within the next few years.

Government—The City of Carrollton is a Home Rule municipality with a council-manager form of government. The city is run by the mayor, along with a seven-member city council and the city manager, who as chief executive officer for the city. City council members are elected to staggered three-year terms. The council meets twice a month in a session which is open to the public.

HistoryTexas won its independence from Mexico in 1836. Many of the Texan leaders wanted to join the United States, but Texas did not have much to offer at the time (reader may feel free to insert any sarcastic joke here as desired). There was, at that time, a population of about 50-60 thousand Anglos spread very sparsely throughout Texas. To encourage settlement, the government of the new Republic of Texas offered settlers headrights to found small towns throughout Texas.

On February 4, 1841, the Republic of Texas awarded a contract to twenty businessmen from London, England and Louisville, Kentucky to found a settlement in North Texas. Signed six months later by Texas president Mirabeau B. Lamar, the contract stipulated that the company would place 600 families within three years–each family would receive 640 acres of land. This set into motion a complex series of moves and countermoves among the businessmen who had created the contract, eventually leading to the creation of the Texas Emigration and Land Company, which soon changed into the Texas Agricultural Commercial and Mining Company.

The company settled its colonists at the Elm Fork of the Trinity River. The overall project was named the Peters colony after one of the leaders of the company and the colonization project. Among the first colonists was Thomas Keenan, who moved to the area with his family in about 1841. Keenan called his initial home in the Peters Colony by the name Mustang Branch, but it was soon renamed to Farmers Branch (which is what it is called to this day). As colonists poured in from the United States and other countries, Daniel J. Carroll, one of the senior partners of the concern, began a settlement nearby (I have faith that you can guess what he called it). Soon, there were several settlements: among them were Farmers Branch, Stewartsville, Carrollton and the cleverly named "the Colony."* These settlements were in the counties of Dallas, Denton and Collin and some, such as Carollton, straddled one or more borders. The first map of Carrollton was a survey by the Dallas-Wichita Railroad.

The family of Mr. William Cochran was among the first group which settled in Carroll's colony. Mr. Cochran's brother-in-law, Isaac Webb moved to Carrollton and started the first church in Dallas County, Webb Chapel Methodist Church. There is an important road in that area of Dallas which still bears the name Webb Chapel.

Nearby, the small town of Trinity Mills was built on the Trinity River at Witts Stream Mill in 1853. It was a bustling commercial center and had much trade with Carrollton until the early 20th century, when the town dissolved into other local municipalities. Parts of Trinity Mills were absorbed into what is now Carrollton and a major thoroughfare in Carrollton is named for Trinity Mills.

The white settlers appear to have exited in a relatively harmonious arrangement with the indigenous Native American population. Records from the early days of the Elm Fork settlements mention a few disputes over cattle, but nothing more dramatic than that.

A.W. Perry was one of the most important residents of Carrollton in the latter part of the 1800s. He and his family donated land for a church and a school, set up the city's first cemetery and helped establish some of the residential areas in these early days. Likewise the family of Harrison Marsh was a vital part of the community for at least six generations. (Researching the history of this area was a trip through the map for me, as many roadways, parks, buildings and public areas are named for the early families of Carrollton!)

Carrollton remained a small farming and ranching community until after World War II. Beginning in the 1960s, the economy of northeastern Texas began to improve and Dallas, Fort Worth and nearby communities began to grow at an increasing pace. As the population of Greater Dallas swelled, expansion took place in a primarily northward direction. Carrollton (as well as several other communities such as Plano, Addison, Farmers Branch and, more recently, Frisco) prepared for this expansion in the 1970s by building good roads and lots of housing, as well as pouring funds into infrastructural programs such as schools, libraries and small businesses.

Living in east Dallas in the early 1970s, tiny Carrollton seemed like a remote province. When some childhood friends moved there in 1974, the trip to visit them felt gruelingly long. By the time I learned to drive, a few years later, my sister lived in Carrollton, which was beginning to look like a real city, despite vast tracts of ranchland surrounding it. I had an apartment there from 1988 to 1992 and the once remote little community was by then a slightly upscale town. Now, when I go to visit my friend who lives in Carrollton, I can't help thinking that Mr. Carroll's colony looks pretty good these days.

At this point, Carrollton is an important force in the economic and cultural life of the city of Dallas. Its growth has slowed somewhat, but the standard of living remains fairly high and the little city remains strong and vital.

*There is a city called The Colony in Denton County, but, as far as I can tell, it has nothing to do with this "The Colony." The present day one seems to have been founded as a big housing development in the 1970s.

Ogle, Georgia Myers, "Elm Fork Settlements: Farmers Branch and Carrollton" (Nortex Press, 1977).
Plus a couple of trips to the Carrollton Public Library (special thanks to the people there for helping me with the research!)

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