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Dallas County, Central Texas North

3235'57"N 9651'32"W (32.599286, ?96.858828)

12 miles S of Dallas
Population: 53,523 est (2018)
49,047 (2010) 37,646 (2000) 30,544 (1990)

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DeSoto TX Neighborhood residents on wagons ,1911 old photo
DeSoto, Texas in 1911
Click on image to enlarge
Vintage photo, Wikimedia Commons


By Clint Skinner

Boasting a population of 49,047 within its 21.6 square miles, DeSoto lies twelve miles south of Dallas on the outer edge of Dallas County's southwestern region. Duncanville resides along the northwestern border, Glenn Heights runs along the south, Lancaster holds the east, and Cedar Hill hugs the west. These neighbors, with the exception of Glenn Heights, combine with DeSoto to form what is called The Best Southwest, claiming a grand total population of 168,960 in the year 2010. Despite its size and prosperity, DeSoto started out very small.

Curtis and Amelia Parks first settled the area in 1847. The couple from Indiana were soon followed by Thomas Cheshier, Zebedee Heath, William Caldwell, T. Rhodes, F. M. Hamilton, Allen Q. Nance, Otway B. Nance, and John P. Rhodes. The following year in 1848, T. J. Johnson arrived from Tennessee and built the first general merchandise store. Located at the intersection of Belt Line Road and Hampton Road, it was simply called The Store by locals. It did not take long for the town to develop around it. Sometime during the 1870s, the store was accompanied by a harness shop established by S. E. Judah.

The year of 1881 brought with it the establishment of a post office. The citizens named it DeSoto to pay tribute to Dr. Thomas Hernando DeSoto Stewart, a popular physician who had dedicated a considerable amount of service to the community. Four years later, the town had 120 residents. In 1898, Judah's son built a general store, offering competition with Johnson's business. Nothing much happened afterward, mainly because DeSoto was an agricultural town. By 1930, it had only seven businesses and ninety-seven people. This would change during the next decade.

The end of World War Two sparked a massive increase in the town's population. Unfortunately, the water distribution system proved inadequate to support the influx of residents. Officials determined that incorporating the town would solve the problem. On March 2, 1949, they held an election. The measure passed with fifty voting "yeah" and two "nay". DeSoto became an incorporated city the next day. Wayne A. Chowning served as the first mayor and worked with a city council of five alderman to run the local government. The first meeting took place on March 17th at a schoolhouse located on E. Belt Line Rd.

A year later, the 1950 census showed that the population has reached three hundred. The size of grew to fifteen square miles, thanks to a series of annexations. From 1956 to 1962, the local high school was located at 200 E. Belt Line Road. A population of 1,969 in 1960 prompted the school to move to a new location further down the road. However, it did not last long. Seventy-one businesses and a population of 6,617 prompted a bond election in 1973 to fund the construction of new high school, which would be located on Eagle Drive. The following year, on October 26th, the citizens narrowly approved the acquisition of an incorporated town called Woodland Hills. It was located northwest of DeSoto and had 366 residents living in the area. DeSoto High School opened its doors during 1976, abandoning the old site which would later become DeSoto East Junior High.

In 1980, the city boasted a large population of 15,338 that was being served by 168 businesses. The number of companies more than doubled over the next four years. In February 1986, a group of businessmen led by Pierce Monkeres opened the Bank of DeSoto. Upon its establishment, Monkeres became the CEO and worked hard to ensure that the financial institution played an important part of the community. The Focus Daily News began publication the following year. Owned by Publishers Newspapers, it provided information on local stories and events throughout Dallas County. It currently serves as the officially newspaper of DeSoto, Duncanville, Lancaster, Cedar Hill, and Glenn Heights. It has the largest circulation in Texas among the many suburban daily newspapers.

The population reached 30,544 during 1991. To help with overcrowding in the school system, a campus opened next to DeSoto High School in 1997 to handle all the ninth graders. The city celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 1999 and boasted a population of 37,646 a year later. It had one police station, one library, three fire stations, ten public schools, 37 parks, and 1,203 businesses.

Things to Do

1) The Nance Farm : Designated as a Texas historical landmark in 1976, the Nance Farm can be found at 1325 Greenbrook Drive. Otway Bird Nance built it in 1851 on 640 acres he had bought from the Peters Colony Land Grant. He arrived from Illinois with his wife and ten children. Once he settled down, Otway successfully doubled the size of his farm during the course of several years. The main house was originally a two-story home designed using the Greek Revival style. The place was remodeled to fit the Victorian style sometime before 1883. The Nance Family lived at the farm until the middle of the twentieth century.

From the 1950s to the 1970s, the farm acreage was divided up and sold for residential development. The City of DeSoto bought the house in 1975 and used it as a community center. However, the city sold the property to a private citizen six years later. The house was later in danger of being foreclosed. The City of DeSoto stepped in and saved it in 2007. By then, the property had been reduced to two acres.

2) The Roy Orr Trail : The Roy Orr Trail runs a total of 3.6 miles along Ten Mile Creek from the city's western border at Mirkes Parkway to the eastern boundary at Murphy Hills Park. The trail was originally two separate treks. One went from Westmoreland Road to the Town Center while the other went from Polk Street to Murphy Hills Park. In 2001, the city council approved a measure to connect the two pieces. The new trail was named after an influential man named Ray Orr.

Born on October 2, 1932, Roy Lee Orr spent his whole life in DeSoto. He served during the Korean War working for the Air Force, then returned to become a successful businessman in the insurance and banking industries. He co-founded banks in DeSoto and Red Oak and became the chief executive officer of First National Bank Red Oak.

In 1963, Roy helped with the drafting and passage of the charter for the DeSoto Chamber of Commerce. He was then elected as mayor because of his business success, tenure as the president of the DeSoto School Board, and early service as a volunteer fireman among other factors. While doing his duties as mayor, officials appointed him to the Dallas County Commissioners Court, where he served for ten years.

Throughout his life of public service, Roy Orr was elected to the National Association of Counties, DeSoto Chamber of Commerce, Oak Cliff Lions Club, Texas Research League, Advisory Board of Abilene Christian University, Board of the Medina Children's Home, and the Executive Committee of the Circle Ten Board of the Boy Scouts. He helped state governors Dolph Briscoe, Mark White, and Bill Clements by working for various boards and commissions including the Texas County and District Retirement System Board, Texas Commission on Jail Standards, and Texas Aeronautics Commission. Governor Ann Richards appointed him to the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission, a position which he held for six years. On the national level, Roy Orr served Jimmy Carter's Board of the Advisory Commission and Ronald Reagan's Advisory Committee on Federalism.

3) Windmill Hill Nature Preserve
: The Windmill Hill Nature Preserve covers 75 acres of land set aside by Dallas County and the City of DeSoto. It is located near the intersection of Duncanville Road and Wintergreen Road. In addition to its twelve nature trails, the preserve has a bridge which is named in memory of musician Stephen Ray Vaughn.

4) DeSoto BMX : Grimes Park at 500 E. Centre Park Boulevard serves as the home of the DeSoto BMX. The building became the first covered BMX track in the United States.

© Clint Skinner
November 2, 2019

  • Bankdesoto.com
  • City-data.com
  • Dallasnews.com
  • Desototexas.gov
  • Dfwtrailguide.com
  • Livability.com
  • Tourtexas.com
  • Tshaonline.org
  • Wikipedia.org

  • Take a road trip

    Central Texas North

    DeSoto, Texas Nearby Towns:
    Dallas the county seat
    Glenn Heights
    Cedar Hill
    See Dallas County

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