Where the Metroplex Began

One of the big questions in the history of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex is how did this concentration of people happen? The U.S. Census Bureau identifies the DFW 'Consolidated Metropolitan Statistical Area' to contain about 5 million people. It is the 8th largest CMSA in the U.S., and the largest between the east and west coasts and south of the Great Lakes. Yet, there was absolutely no settlement of any kind here when the Republic of Texas was founded. We can argue about why this concentration of people came to be, but the first thing to settle is where exactly did the metroplex begin?

Historical marker in Craddock Park, enscribed "Cedar Springs - earliest known historic site in Dallas County - Visited in 1840 by Colonel Wm. G. Cooke's preliminary exploration for a route between Austin and Red River. A community also called Cedar Springs, established in this vicinity in 1843 by Dr. John Cole, rivalled Dallas in an election in 1848 for county seat. In 1929, the land was annexed to Dallas. Erected by the State of Texas, 1936"

The oldest map showing any detail around what is now the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex was made by H.L. Upshur in 1841 as a result of Cooke's explorations. Cooke was asked to scout a way a road that the republic of Texas wanted to build, to be called the 'Central Texas National Highway'. This route follows the firm ridge of Austin chalk north from Austin, basically the same route followed by I-35 today. This map shows what was in the region between Austin and the Red River before John Neely Bryan settled on the banks of the Trinity.

Upshur's map of 1841. The map can be seen at UT Austin Center for American History (http://www.lib.utexas.edu/Libs/CAH/). It is on parchment, about 3 feet by 16 inches in size, and doesn't reproduce well. The above jpeg shows the entire map, with some annotation. It covers the region from Austin to the Red River, basically the region around I-35 today. Text from the map is reproduced around the margins in red. Also the approximate position of Dallas is shown, which did not exist at that time. The area of detail around the junction of the West and Elm Forks of the Trinity (modern downtown Dallas) is outlined by the dashed rectangle and shown as the next jpeg.

The area of detail enclosed in the red dashed rectangle in the previous jpeg. This portion is about 40 miles wide, basically the southern portion of Dallas County. The Elm Fork and West Fork of the Trinity meet in the left central portion, so downtown Dallas lies not far to the right Note the location of the Wagon Trail crossing, at what would later become Bryan's ferry. Only two features are marked in the region: 'Cedar Springs', and 'Post on Trinity'. These are the only two features of any note marked anywhere in what would become Dallas County.

A group of Dallas history buffs visited the region around Cedar Springs on a drizzily April 30, and below are a few pictures from this walking tour. Led by the encyclopedic Eliot Greene, we started at the historical marker in Craddock Park (Lemmon and the Tollway) and walked south to Cedar Springs. We crossed over the Tollway and went to King's Road. The site of the old 'Post on Trinity' is presently occupied by ' The Springs' condominiums. The establishment kindly allowed us access. Below are a couple of pictures taken on the condo grounds, near the intersection of Cedar Springs and Kings Road. There is also a historical marker inside the condo fence.

View from just downstream from where the post might have been, on the north bank of Cedar Branch, looking towards Cedar Springs Road. A watermill was built very close to where the bridge is now.

View from the Cedar Springs Road bridge upstream. The post might have been just above the big oak in the center of the jpeg

We continued west on Cedar Springs Road a hundred yards or so to an apartment complex, where there is an open spring. Good water still issues from this spring. The apartment complex has done a great job preserving this wonderful piece of Dallas history. It was springs like this that attracted Cooke and his troops to building their 'Post-On-Trinity' where they did.

View of the area around the spring. Just beyond the table and chairs is a metal fence that encloses the spring. The next jpeg shows this spring. Beyond the spring, the group (Eliot Greene, Ken Holmes, Greg Jaynes, and Barbara Harris) has assembled.

View of the spring. Tom Brikowski, Eliot Greene, and Greg Jaynes lean on the fence.

We returned to Craddock Park along Cedar Branch. At one point we stopped under a bridge, where water flowed into the creek. Eliot assured us that this was pure spring water, so he and Ken Holmes stopped for a sip. Greg Jaynes witnessed the event, as can be seen in the jpeg below. So far, Eliot and Ken have reported no ill effects, but we recommend culvert drinking for only the hardiest of Dallas History buffs!

Caution! These are professional culvert drinkers! Do not do this at home!