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Most local historians believe Carrollton received its name from the hometown of early settlers, who came from Carrollton, Illinois. The name was officially established on May 16, 1878, when the first U.S. Post Office opened in Carrollton.
Carrollton's early settlers arrived in the 1840s. These early settlers purchased land from The Peters Colony. These hardy pioneers were rugged individuals with incredible courage to risk it all for their dream of a better life and an even better life for future generations. These people had the determination to withstand the hardships of their treacherous journeys to this untamed frontier - a foreign and wild country. These several hundred industrious families shared a dream of prosperity. They planted crops, raised cattle and sheep, and built homes and churches.
One story told is about an early settler who came to scout the area before bringing his family to this area. He was so impressed with what he saw that he scooped up a handful of dirt to take back to his family to show them how rich the soil was for farming.
Another story with a different outcome is told about a family arriving from Europe. They were frightened by the sight of the longhorns and returned to Europe. Most settlers were farmers, but teachers, lawyers, preachers, and doctors also came to the area. Farming was the main form of occupation, but many professionals supplemented their income by farming and raising cattle.
The settlers typically married young and had large families. An average cabin might have been only 12 x 14 feet and would hold two parents with seven children.
The 1850 Federal Census for Dallas County and its neighboring counties reveals that most families had migrated from another state before settling in the area. Although these early pioneers seemed to be nomadic, they found their roots in North Texas.
During this time of settlement, newcomers were camping and building cabins in an area around present-day Perry Park. The rise of the land to the south provided a good lookout advantage, and the springs provided plenty of clear, fresh water. After the initial hardships of the journey and the first few years of settling in, life took on a normal routine for these Carrollton settlers. A list of menu items from a 1903 reunion of one of the first families is as follows: Branch Water, Salted Pecans, Buffalo Broth, Steer Portage, Buffalo Ham, Bear Ribs, Jack Rabbit with Onions, Roast Mallard Duck, Prairie Hen Fricassee, Venison, Wild Turkey,Terrapin Roast with Wild Honey, Cucumber Pickles, Sweet Potatoes,Coffee, Tea, and Sweet Milk, Pumpkin Pie, Indian Pudding, Devonshire Cream, Dried Peaches, Persimmons, Red Haws, and Pig Plums.
The city of Carrollton is a part of a greater area of land that was once home to the Wichita Indians. This group was divided into several tribes - the most predominant being the Tawakonis, Wacos, Taovayas, and Wichita's proper. They migrated from what is now Kansas and established villages along the Trinity, Red, and Brazos rivers about the same time the French and Spanish were competing to establish a foothold in east Texas in the late 1600s. The Wichita Indians were short and stockily built, with very dark skin color. Both men and women practiced extensive tattooing on their faces and bodies. They seem to have gotten along well and conducted trade with the French, although they often fought the Spanish. In addition to hunting buffalo, the Wichita tribes were industrious and grew crops such as pumpkins, squash, beans, corn, and maize. They were excellent horsemen and placed a great value on their horses. Women often held places of leadership in the tribes and shared in the work with the men.
The Comanches, who eventually got control of the Red River area, were a constant threat to the Wichita Indians. They also had difficulties with the migration of Anglos into North Texas and eventually removed themselves to a reservation in Indian Territory (Oklahoma) near present day Anadarko, Oklahoma.
An excellent article on Texas Indians can be found at The Handbook of Texas Online.
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By 1853, Trinity Mills was a thriving grain mill, which was typically surrounded by wagons, carts, buggies, horses, and people. The mill produced flour and meal from corn and wheat. People came from miles around to have their corn and wheat ground into meal and flour. The exact location of this two-story rock gristmill is not known, but it is reported to be on the south bank of White Rock Creek, east of present-day Farmers Branch-Carrollton. A large grain elevator was built in 1950 for storage of private and government supplies. Cotton was king during this period in history, and cotton gins that had been built in the area to accommodate a few settlers began to ship cotton and cotton seed throughout the nation. There were about 13 cotton gins in the Carrollton area at the beginning of 1900. The 1924 cotton crop from the Carrollton area produced 300 bales.
Around 1904, a new industry emerged in Carrollton - manufacturing brick. The Carrollton Pressed Brick Company was located northeast of the Carrollton Town Square, adjacent to the Cotton Belt and Frisco railroads. The best-known structures made from brick produced at this plant are the Belle Allen home on Clint Street, the chimney and fireplace in the Wade H. Perry home, the Gravley Hardware store on the Carrollton Square, the Vandergriff building on the southwest corner of the Carrollton Square, and possibly some stores on the north side of the square. It is also reported that the old high school in Grapevine was made from Carrollton brick. Brick from this plant is easily identified. They have the name CARROLLTON embedded on it and are highly prized by collectors.
In 1890 the first telephone went into operation in Carrollton, and the first commercial electricity became available in 1913 when a private power plant opened.
The first composite listing of business, industrial, and professional services available in Carrollton is found in the Texas State Gazetteer and Business Directory for 1882. With an estimated population of 500, the town had one steam gristmill, four cotton gins, two churches, and two schools. Exports were cotton and grain.
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A new era was beginning for Carrollton with the arrival of railroads and a post office in the late 1800s. Carrollton quickly emerged from an agricultural community to a hub of bustling business and professional activity. The Dallas-Wichita Railroad arrived in Carrollton in 1879. By 1908, there were three railroads using Carrollton as a way station. The Cottonbelt and the Katy Railroads provided passenger service and maintained a depot while the Frisco Railroad only provided freight service. Prior to the 1940s, all significant commerce was by rail. The tracks of all three intersected just north of what is now the Carrollton Town Square. Having three railroads intersect was unique for this part of the country and contributed to Carrollton's early prosperity. With the coming of the railroads, Carrollton developed into a sizable shipping center, particularly for cattle. A depot was established in Carrollton, and daily mail was then available by rail. In 1922 the Texas Interurban Railway, an electric train, began passenger service in Carrollton for transport between Dallas and Denton. The first locomotive to the area was in 1923.
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Since the ability to read and write was not necessary for farming at that time, a large number of farmers were illiterate, but they wanted a good education for their children. With this focus on education, the Carrollton community was intent on providing educational facilities. Various private schools were established with the cooperative efforts of several families who furnished a meeting place and paid for a teacher's salary and schoolroom equipment. The first school was started in 1856 in the Union Baptist Church, where Perry Cemetery is located today.
Around 1871, in a log cabin with a dirt floor and Mrs. Lou Skinner as the teacher, school was held for about 25 pupils who came on horseback or on foot. The cabin was located on what is now Denton Drive near the area of Jeanette Way. This cabin was moved in 1873 to the present-day intersection of Josey Lane and Country Club Road with John Larkin as the teacher.
Although there had been schools in Carrollton prior to 1890, the first building that was officially dedicated as a schoolhouse was erected circa 1890. Located near the present-day intersection of Josey Lane and Country Club Drive, it was called Carrollton Academy.
On September 1, 1902, a new two-story frame schoolhouse admitted its first students. It was on the northeast corner of College Avenue (now Belt Line Road) and Erie Street at the foot of the hill and offered first through tenth grades. Although it was a public school, tuition was still charged, as there were no school property taxes at that time.
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In 1900 George Myers and his brother J.S. filed a plat for property on what would become the east and south sides of the Carrollton Town Square. Then in 1901, they filed a plat for property to the west, and the town square began to take shape. By 1913 the town square was the center of a thriving community. The Carrollton Mercantile Company, besides being a dry goods and general store, offered hearses for funerals - your choice of black or gray, with matching horses owned by Arch Fyke. With the convenience of being located near the railroads, Carrollton Town Square developed where it did because of its abundant water supply. A creek ran through the middle of the square. Eventually a pump was installed, and water was piped to stores and a few homes. The water works and a hand-pushed fire hose cart were concealed in the bottom of the bandstand that was erected in the middle of the town square where the current-day gazebo now stands.
Due to the efficient water supply in the area, Carrollton's first ice wagon delivery business began in 1904 or 1905. There was one delivery of ice each week except when the weather grew hotter - then two deliveries a week were made. Ice tea was usually a Sunday treat along with homemade ice cream. Before ice was available, a family built shelving or boxes made of wood or brick for submerging in a spring or creek so the milk and butter would stay cool and fresh. If a spring or creek was not close, wet cloths were wrapped around the milk pails and butter dishes and placed into the windows so the breeze would keep the dampened cloths cool.
Perishable fruits and vegetables were canned, preserved, or pickled, and meat was cured with smoke or salt and kept hanging in a smokehouse.
The gazebo in the middle of current-day Carrollton Town Square was built in 1921. Concerts by the town band, speeches by political candidates, and Saturday dances provided entertainment on the square.
The first theater in Carrollton was an outdoor, makeshift screen stretched across the side of the George F. Myers Grocery Store. The Plaza Theater was built in 1949 and still stands today. This theater served patrons from a 10-mile radius until the 1970s.
The town square is still an active retail area. Click here to go to the Old Downtown Carrollton Association website.
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On June 14, 1913, Carrollton voted to incorporate as a general law city. The vote was 52 for and 23 against. The first city officers were elected on July 19, 1913, with William Forrest Vinson elected as Carrollton's first Mayor. For reasons now unknown, Vinson declined the office. Junius Tribble (J.T.) Rhoton qualified and served as Mayor through 1915. The City of Carrollton received a deed from J.R. McFarland in 1933. This property is located on the southeast corner of College Avenue (now Belt Line Road) and Denton Drive. This became the site for Carrollton's first City Hall and fire station.
By the mid-1920s, Carrollton had held its first bond election and organized a volunteer fire department. During the next two decades, Carrollton's first official police force was hired. Carrollton's first city charter was adopted in 1961, providing for a home-rule form of government under a manager and city council.
Governor John Connally attended Carrollton's 50th anniversary ceremony in 1963 and dedicated a new library and recreation center.
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Click here to open a brochure about the historic sites in Carrollton. (PDF)
(Location maps are in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format, and will open in new windows.)
1. A.W. Perry Homestead Museum
1509 North Perry Road (map)
This lovely homestead was the third owned by DeWitt C. Perry, son of founder A.W. Perry. It was completed in 1909 using building materials carefully salvaged from the Perry's second family home built around 1857 on the same site. The site of the original Perry home, built in the 1840s is at the northwest corner of the intersection of Jackson Road and Old Denton Road. The museum displays authentic period furnishings and is now maintained by the City. Group tours are available free of charge. Click here for more information about the museum, including its hours.
2. A.W. Perry Cemetery
West of the intersection of Sherwood Drive and Perry Road (map)
The first Carrollton cemetery was opened with the burial of Mrs. A. W. Perry in 1896. Most of the 482 graves at this site are of pioneer families.
3. Belle Allen Home
1208 Clint Street (map)
This 1910 three-story prairie-style home was built with Carrollton brick and occupied by Mrs. Belle Allen, an historic civic leader for 46 years.
4. Bramblitt Woodright
2335 Sandy Lake Road (10 acres located in Elm Fork Nature Preserve) (map)
Purchased in 1861, the wood from this property was used by the Elkanah Bramblitt family for over 122 years to provide shelter and fuel for cooking and heat.
5. Carrollton Town Square
Bounded by Broadway, 4th, Elm and West Main Streets (map)
The Square's formation began prior to 1900 with buildings erected that cultivated commerce and created the first downtown Carrollton. A fresh spring flowed through the center of the square where the gazebo now stands. The Square still has early 20th century charm and continues to be a focal point for many town gatherings. The town square is still an active retail area. Click here to go to the Old Downtown Carrollton Association website.
6. Carrollton High School
1709 E. Belt Line Road (map)
The oldest school in the Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD. Land donated by DeWitt Clinton Perry and sister Harriet Perry Warner. Construction began December, 1935, school opened September 14, 1936. Though “DeWitt Perry High School” was in stone over the entrance, it was referred to as Carrollton High School and diplomas were issued in that name. DeWitt Perry name officially recognized in 1962 when Turner High School opened and this became a junior high school. This is also the site of the first Carrollton High School building “Old Red” which opened on January 19, 1916. That two-story & basement building was built of red brick from the Carrollton Brick Company. Previously, students attended an unpainted clapboard school at the corner of what is now Belt Line & Erie. “Old Red” was razed in 1966 for additions to DeWitt Perry Jr. High and the Harriet Perry Warner Gymnasium. The original cornerstone for “Old Red” is located adjacent to this marker.
7. Carrollton Railroad Crossing
College Avenue at North Broadway Street (map)
This unusual railroad track intersection served the Cotton Belt, Missouri, Kansas & Texas ("Katy"), and St. Louis & San Francisco ("Frisco") railroads which provided commercial and passenger service through Carrollton, enabling the city to grow and prosper.
(Note: the marker was damaged by a vehicle, and has been removed for safe-keeping. We plan to delay re-installation until after construction of the DART LRT line.)
8. Carrollton Black Cemetery
Approximately 1,000 feet west of Hutton Drive and 600 feet south of Belt Line Road (map)
Although dating back more than 100 years, this cemetery was not formally dedicated until 1915. Despite periodic flooding, several gravestones are still visible.
9. First Carrollton Post Office
Marker located on the west side of Broadway Street, between 3rd and 4th Avenues
John Miller Myers made the application for Carrollton's first post office on May 10, 1878. It was moved a few blocks to Carrollton Square in the 1890s.
10. First United Methodist Church (congregation)
2201 East Hebron Parkway (map)
In August 1901, a group met under a brush arbor near the corner of Walnut St and Jackson St forming what would become the First Methodist Church. A circuit preacher, John Major, preached monthly. The church, built in 1903 at Jackson St and Belt Line Rd, was the first within the city limits. A 2nd church was built at the same location in 1915, a 3rd on Pearl St in 1957, and ground was broken in 2003 for a 4th on Hebron Pkwy. The congregation celebrated its 100th anniversary on October 14th, 2001.
11. Furneaux Cemetery
East and west sides of Cemetery Hill Road, south of Rosemeade Parkway (map)
In 1884 this cemetery was established with the burial of Mr. William Furneaux, who immigrated to Texas in 1857 from England. A Methodist Church was originally located here.
12. Hebron First Baptist Church (congregation)
3000 Hebron Parkway (map)
Organized in 1883 at the Willow Springs School, this congregation was originally known as the Big Valley Baptist Church. E.C. Bramblett served as the first pastor.
13. Josey Ranch
1440 Keller Springs Road, at Josey Lane (map)
In the 1940s, "Colonel" C.W. Josey purchased the first 70 acres of "Josey Rancho," and continued to acquire acreage to raise buffalo and longhorns. Today the remainder of the 1,000-acre ranch contains a popular city sports complex. The lake on the site is the result of a quarry supplying clay to one of Carrollton's two brick factories.
14. Pioneer Park
Carroll at Main Streets (map)
Located on the site of Carrollton's first City Hall, this half-acre mini-park is dedicated to the pioneer families who settled in this area.
15. Plaza Theater
1115 Fourth Avenue (map)
The Plaza Theater was built in the Carrollton Town Square by Mrs. A.R. Lowrey and her son, John. It opened December 23, 1949, and operated continuously until December 31, 1994, surviving the "golden age of motion pictures."
16. Riley Cemetery
1328 Riley Drive (map)
Born in Indiana in 1815, Jacob Riley came to southeastern Denton County in the mid-1850s and claimed a preemption grant of 160 acres on Indian Creek. He and his descendants held the land for more than 100 years. As family members died, they were buried on the site overlooking the Elm Fork of the Trinity River. This little cemetery was high enough to avoid flooding, and it remained undisturbed until development of the property began in 1996. Typical of remote pioneer homesteads and once quite common, few family burial grounds remain.
17. Simms Chapel AME Church (congregation)
1229 West College Avenue (map)
Around 1890, a plot of land near the current intersection of Crosby Road and Stemmons Freeway (IH 35E) was donated by a Reverend John Miller Myers, one of the organizing members of the Union Baptist Church of Carrollton (now known as Highland Baptist Church) as a site for a church where African-Americans could gather for worship. The Reverend Wash Simms (called the "Black Angel" because of his fiery sermons) was the first pastor. In 1939, the church moved to its current location. The move was necessitated by the construction of U.S. Highway 77, now Stemmons Freeway (IH-35E). Note: this congregation is no longer active, and the property has been sold. The City has removed the marker pending relocation in an appropriate spot.
18. Trinity Mill and Community
Roughly the current intersection of Stemmons Freeway (IH-35E) and the President George Bush Turnpike /Trinity Mills Road (map)
About 1851, brothers W.H. and Preston Witt began building a steam mill on the property of brother-in-law A.W. Perry 1/10 mile north of here to serve settlers in Dallas and Denton counties. In 1855 Perry sold his interest to W.H. Witt. By 1858, a store and post office were added. The Scott family bought the business after the Civil War. They later platted and sold 50 acres to the railroad for a depot. The community prospered by farming and mining gravel. The store closed in 1915 and the depot closed in 1923. The gravel operation ceased in 1966.
19. Union Baptist Church (congregation)
4561 North Josey Lane (map)
Established on May 11, 1846 it is the first and oldest continuing Baptist congregation in Dallas County. The first meeting was held in a pioneer cabin in the general location of the Keenan Cemetery in Farmers Branch. Although the site of the first Carrollton location is not known with certainty, the church moved to the southwest corner of College Avenue (present-day Belt Line Road), and Myers Street in the 1940s following the growth of Carrollton. At that time it was called the College Avenue Missionary Baptist Church. In 1961, the congregation moved to a new building located at 1225 N. Josey Lane, and changed their name to Highland Baptist Church. In 2000, they moved again to 4561 N. Josey Lane and changed their name to Castle Hills Baptist Church.
20. Vandergriff Street
Downtown Carrollton (map)
This street is dedicated in honor of John Thomas Vandergriff who was a beloved blacksmith and automobile dealer, and an active civic leader.
21. Warner Cemetery
2600 Belmeade Drive (map)
Robert and Sarah Warner began this family cemetery in 1873. It contains 10 marked graves.
22. City of Carrollton
Marker on the south side of City Hall, 1945 E Jackson Road (map)
Carrollton incorporated June 14, 1913, with a 52 - 23 vote. A city council was elected July 19, 1913. With 40 Votes, William Forest Vinson was elected as Carrollton's first mayor. Vinson, who also served as the presiding officer of the election, school board trustee, precinct chairman and Dallas County sheriff, declined the office. August 5, 1913, Junius Tribble (J.T.) Rhoton qualified and served as mayor through 1915.