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Extreme NW corner of Dallas County into Denton County
North Central Texas

32°58'2"N 96°59'12"W (32.967341, -96.986564)

U.S. Hwy 121, I-35 and I-635
E of Grapevine
S of Lewisville
W of Carrollton
N of Irving
23 Miles NW of Dallas
29 Miles NE of Fort Worth
Close to DFW Airport
ZIP codes 75019
Area code 972, 214
Population: 41,290 Est. (2020)
38,659 (2010) 35,958 (2000) 16,881 (1990)

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Coppell, Texas - City of Coppell Texas 1890
City of Coppell, Texas 1890
Photo courtesy Clint Skinner, October 2021

History in a Pecan Shell

Settled in the mid 1800s by James Parish, it wasn't until 1887 that a post office was granted under the name Gibbs Station (after Lt. Gov. Barnett Gibbs). In 1888 the St. Louis, Arkansas and Texas Railway built through the community, giving growth a jump start. It was renamed after British financer George A. Coppell who helped make the railroad a reality.

By 1914, Coppell had a respectable population of 450 served by most essential businesses and wired for telephone service. Coppell suffered from competition from neighboring cities and by 1926 it counted only about 200 residents. This slump continued for years until the construction (WPA) of a park on Grapevine Creek in 1936. This infrastructure lured businesses and population. Coppell remained primarily agricultural through the 40s and into the 50s. The 1960 census reported a population just over 650.

By the 1970s, Coppell's population was spreading into Denton County. In three years (1981 to 1984) it went from just under 2,000 residents to nearly 4,000. Construction of the Dallas/ Ft. Worth Airport caused the population to explode to its current (2010) 39,000 level. In the 1990s Coppell continued developing its parks and lakes as well as expanding its library.

Guest Column

What Makes Coppell, Texas Special?
Recollections and History

by Joshua V. Chanin

Traveling Down Memory Lane

Nine months ago, I received a phone call from an old principal, inviting me to join the faculty at Coppell High School (my ole' stomping grounds). I was extremely honored at the appointment and tremendously blessed to receive a full-time opportunity to teach history at a superb school as well as positivity contribute to the lives of future community leaders. Life quickly changed… my wife and I packed our bags, departed Commerce, and settled in Coppell (where, ironically, I had grown up prior to my collegiate career). Since our big move, I have continued to research various episodes in Texas history, recently concentrating on the history of Coppell. Despite its incorporation as a city by the state in 1955, Coppell's story began after the Civil War. Due to its extensive and rich past, Coppell's history ought to be further analyzed and documented (Jean Murph and Lou Duggan did a spectacular job on compiling a brief, yet important book on the history of Coppell in 2016 - Coppell, Texas: A History (Charleston: The History Press, 2016)). In this article, I intend to share a fresh angle on Coppell's vibrant story by seamlessly blending my childhood memories with historical vignettes on Coppell.

Coppell TX  train depot c1890
Coppell's train depot on North Coppell Road, c. 1890.
Coppell was originally named "Gibbs" in honor of Barnett Gibbs, lieutenant governor of Texas between 1885 and 1887.

Photo courtesy Coppell Historical Society Collections

George Coppell engraving, c. 1890
George Coppell engraving, c. 1890.
Mr. Coppell was a prominent New York Banker who financed the St. Louis Southwestern Railway Company, which opened its North Texas line through Coppell on April 14, 1888.
Courtesy Joshua V. Chanin Collection

A Family Community

My family immigrated to North Texas in 2004 when I was ten years old. Coppell, a small suburb north of the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, became my "new American home." Our first two-story house was different from the city's first residences. Since Coppell had been primarily an agricultural community in the late nineteenth century, many founding families—including the Howells, Moores, Cozbys, and Gentrys—lived in tiny, wood-framed houses on large farms. The first brick house in Dallas County was built by the Washington Bullock family in 1865, but this type of home was uncommon until the 1920s. Electricity, plumbing, and heating were gradually introduced in homes in the early twentieth century (the luxuries were initially purchased by the affluent). During the Great Depression and World War II, when the state encouraged rationing and assisting the war effort, many Coppell residents discarded their cotton acreages in favor of chicken coops, Victory Gardens, and cow pastures. When servicemen from the European and Pacific Theaters returned, inexpensive, quaint houses were quickly built in the DFW metroplex. Coppell, then home to the Dallas Power & Light Company's multi-million dollar generating plant at North Lake, exploded in growth in the 1950s and 1960s. The open fields that remained in Coppell in the 1970s swiftly vanished when Dallas Developer Bill Troth oversaw a whopping $8.5 million residential community in the eastern part of the city (over one thousand homes on 557 acres of land were built between E. Sandy Lake and E. Belt Line Roads). An exceptional school district, family parks, and affordable city taxes made Coppell an attractive place to live—entrepreneur Judy Troth Parsons recalled "the Coppell land had a lot more potential so our whole family decided to invest in its future." At the start of the twenty-first century, Coppell had left farming behind, embraced the rapidly changing industrial vibe, and warmly accepted a nervous yet excited British family to its lively community.

Coppell, TX - Washington Bullock's house , c. 1870
The Washington Bullock's house in Coppell, c. 1870.
This was the first brick house in Dallas County, and later purchased by businessman Joseph Walter Thweatt. Thweatt later tore down this residence and built a frame house for his large family, which included five sons and a daughter; today, the site is home to the Thweatt family's windmill at Heritage Park in Old Town Coppell.

Photo courtesy Coppell Historical Society Collections

Coppell, TX - Henry A. Ledbetter, 1943.
Henry A. Ledbetter, 1943.
Ledbetter, a Coppell resident and graduate of Carrollton High School (Coppell did not have a high school until 1965), served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He later married his high school sweetheart Virginia Smith and started a family in Coppell with federal assistance from the G.I. Bill.

Photo courtesy Coppell Historical Society Collection

Redefining Success in Schools

Walking to school every morning was memorable. The beautiful melodies from chirping birds and recurring gusts of cool air in my face made me excited to learn new material from my caring, knowledgeable teachers when I made my trek up the road to Denton Creek Elementary and Coppell Middle School North. I am in debt to the fantastic educators in Coppell ISD; their dedication to pedagogy and resolute willingness to bend over backwards to help me overcome a crippling speech impediment was unmatched and phenomenal. Coppell ISD, which is rated one of the best school districts in Texas, has been the academic playground for thousands of children since 1959. Prior to that year, children in the Coppell area attended three schools (Bethel, Gentry, and Coppell Schools) until a brick-built facility on six-acres was constructed in South Coppell in 1927, consolidating the academies (this later became Pinkerton Elementary). The early structures were rudimentary, lacking toilets and air conditioning—students used Sears Roebuck catalogues for toilet paper!! Despite these inadequate facilities, Coppell's teachers were among the best in the region. Ples Corbin taught at Bethel and Coppell Schools, and, according to Clifton Harrison, introduced his students to scholarship from his personal library and "instilled in us high ideals and principles for living…" Another Coppell educator who tirelessly worked to create a positive and engaging classroom atmosphere was Sallie Kirkland Brooks. Bernice Ledbetter Graham, a Bethel School child in the 1920s, wrote that Ms. Brooks "devoted her nights to grading papers and planning lessons", and ensuring each student received materials to help them succeed by traveling the many miles to the Dallas County superintendent's office to pick up textbooks. Today, I am continuing the work of Corbin and Brooks as a history teacher at Coppell High School, striving to redefine success in my classroom.

Coppell, TX - Students and teachers outside Coppell School, c. 1928.
Students and teachers outside Coppell School, c. 1928.
Coppell, Bethel and Gentry Schools consolidated in 1927 when a brick-built facility was constructed in South Coppell. The school would burn down in 1949, yet was quickly replaced. Today, this building is the home of Pinkerton Elementary.

Photo courtesy Coppell Historical Society Collections

Coppell, TX -  Joshua V. Chanin at Coppell High School, 2021
Mr. Chanin at Coppell High School, 2021.
I am a product of Coppell Schools and am blessed to have an opportunity to teach U.S. history at Coppell High School. In my first year of teaching (2021-2022), I wore a face shield while lecturing since the pandemic was still raging.

Photo courtesy author Joshua V. Chanin

A Walk in the Park

Coppell is renowned for its safe, clean parks. A couple of weekends ago, my wife and I strolled around Grapevine Springs Park in South Coppell. We thoroughly enjoyed the tranquility of natural space while chatting about our futures. Although the park appears to be an unexciting plot of land, a historical marker details a famous encounter that happened there in August of 1843. Sam Houston, victor of the Texas Revolution and president of the Texas Republic, met with the leaders of ten tribes at Grapevine Springs Park to broker peace between the Natives and white settlers. Houston had deep respect for the indigenous people—he had lived with the Cherokee as a teenager, earning the nickname "Raven." Hence, "he clothed his giant frame in a purple velvet suit embossed with embroideries of fox heads… a well folded Indian blanket thrown in debonair manner over his shoulder." Friendly and confident, Houston, under the park's large oak tree, was able to create a treaty. The compromise created a series of trading houses where Natives could bring hides and pelts to barter for Texans' goods. Also, the treaty affirmed communication, friendship, and aid between the two factions. The park was untouched until the 1930s when FDR's Works Progress Administration, which offered short-term employment to ninety men, constructed stone entry columns, three footbridges, landscaping, and 2,500 feet (about 762 m) of gravel sidewalks—elements that my wife and I love to admire whenever we want to escape the commotion of the city. Today, Coppell is home to many parks (Andy Brown, MacArthur, and Duck Pond to name a few) which are historical and delightful.

Coppell, TX - Grapevine Springs Park, 1942
Two women and a military private walk alongside a stone wall at Grapevine Springs Park, 1942.
Once used as a location for a peace treaty between Sam Houston and Natives, the Grapevine Springs Park received a landscaping makeover as part of a New Deal project in the 1930s.

Photo courtesy Coppell Historical Society Collections

Coppell, TX - WPA  laborers at Grapevine Springs Park, 1937
A group of male laborers at Grapevine Springs Park, 1937.
In an attempt to reduce unemployment, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the Works Progress Administration in 1935. The WPA employees in Coppell enhanced the landscaping at Grapevine Springs Park.

Photo courtesy Coppell Historical Society Collections

Coppell, TX - Grapevine Springs Park, 2022
Grapevine Springs Park, 2022.
My wife and I enjoy walking around this lush paradise whenever we want to relax. The park received a Texas State Historical Marker in October 2005.

Photo courtesy Joshua V. Chanin

Fun in the Sun and Fields

Since Coppell is comprised of many residential pockets and few businesses, it was necessary for my friends and I to drive to neighboring cities to catch a sports game or watch a movie. We often traveled to Globe Life Park in Arlington to chow on a hot dog and watch a Texas Rangers baseball game (as I was unfamiliar with the game, I was usually the one who asked questions). One of the unforgettable home games was against the Houston Astros on a sweltering day. As the sun baked our heads, I could not help but think of the simple activities Coppell teenagers played in the late nineteenth century. Comparable to most teenagers in rural Coppell, Vert Parrish assisted his blind father in managing the family farm. He recalled the grind of his youth: "I was pretty well employed, went with my daddy everywhere, drove the wagon." Clayta Harwell also labored in her family business by helping her aunt at a train station. Harwell became Coppell's part-time railroad agent at the turn of the twentieth century. Thomas Moore, the son of Coppell farmer Charles Moore, often spent his days between Dallas Business University and Dr. Jess Bennett's drugstore (the studious lad was later employed at the Ford Motor Company). Repeatedly, multiple adolescents "played in the pasture, swung on grapevines, hunted pecans and red haws and caught crawdads," recollected Jewel "Jack" Kirkland. The wildest rascals secretly "smoked grapevine and dipped cinnamon for snuff" prior to smooching in one-seat buggies and catching a flick in Grapevine, Lewisville, or Carrollton. On Sunday afternoons, the youth in Coppell convened at Carrollton Dam, where swim lessons and picnics occurred.

Coppell, TX - Jewel "Jack" Kirkland (L) and sibling on a tractor, c. 1920.
Jewel "Jack" Kirkland (L) and sibling on a tractor, c. 1920.
When Coppell was a small, rural community, teenagers assisted their parents on the farms.

Photo courtesy Coppell Historical Society Collections

A Hearty Gathering at Dairy Queen

After an entertaining Texas Rangers baseball game, where we chuckled at the mascot race and merrily sang "Deep in the Heart of Texas," my friends and I concluded an amazing evening of comradeship at the Dairy Queen in Coppell. While we indulged in juicy hamburgers and multi-flavored Blizzards, the question of why this low-key, boxed establishment was special comes to mind. Dairy Queen, the Illinois-based restaurant franchise that is famous for its soft-serve ice cream, opened a Coppell location at the intersection of S. Denton Tap Road and Southwestern Boulevard in the mid-1970s. The eatery was a huge hit, especially among the teachers at the neighboring Coppell Elementary. Vonita White (the ISD administration building would later be named in her honor) was a young, bright-eyed educator in the 1970s and frequently ordered hamburgers, recalling the "very exciting" addition to a small town. Prior to the mass availability of road maps and installation of street signs, Dairy Queen was "a directional icon of Coppell." Longtime resident Evelyn Elwood observed that the Dairy Queen in Coppell "probably was our town's identity… I would usually tell people how to get to our house from the Dairy Queen." Also, the Dairy Queen has played host to many Coppell family celebrations-including where Bruce MacDonald, a beloved school principal, and his wife signed their house papers in 1981. In 2006, former restaurant owner Parrish Hence, noted that the Dairy Queen often saw "State Farm agents meeting people and typing up insurance." Coppell's Dairy Queen, despite a very antique facade, has been and remains a treasured artifact and pleasant place to create fond, long-lived memories.

Coppell, TX - Dairy Queen, 1985.
Coppell's Dairy Queen, 1985.
The Dairy Queen in South Coppell has become an icon of the city since the 1970s-residents have met friends, enjoyed ice cream, and signed legal documents at this Dairy Queen restaurant.

Photo courtesy Coppell Historical Society Collections

An Oasis in the Metroplex

The City of Coppell was the backdrop of my teenage years, where I had many opportunities to create memories that I will cherish for a lifetime. I played with friends, walked through beautiful parks, widened my academic horizons at schools, and feasted on treats in Coppell. When my high school graduation beckoned, I had grown to love this quaint community, yet was eager to explore the wider world. Ten years later and newly married, I had different goals in mind. Eager to start a family, I excitedly returned to Coppell, appreciating the family-friendly vibe and excellent school district. I am grateful to the educators who inspired me to dream big (Sandy Stubblefield, Kolby Kerr, Angela Geiger, Laura Springer, and Diane de Waal come to mind) … and now I am on the opposite side of the desk, giving guidance to many scholars. As seen in this brief article, Coppell has had a colorful history (stories that have influenced my life), and since the "small town" magic survives to this day, Coppell will continue to be an oasis in the metroplex for future generations, the young and elderly.

Coppell, TX - breakfast at the Local Diner, 2022
Enjoying a scrumptious breakfast at the Local Diner, 2022. This popular restaurant, now located at Old Town Coppell, has been a city staple since 1989, serving classic American dishes and milkshakes. I used to dine at this establishment with my teammates after weekend swim practices; I have since introduced my wife to the legendary diner.
Photo courtesy Joshua V. Chanin

© Joshua V. Chanin July 1, 2022 Guest Column

Coppell, Texas - Coppell  Water Tower
Coppell Water Tower
Photo courtesy Clint Skinner, October 2021
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