Sarah Cockrell is lauded as one of the founders of pioneer Dallas and is considered to be the city’s first capitalist. Courtesy of DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University, Cockrell Family Papers

Dallas History

Early Influencer: Sarah Horton Cockrell

The founding mother of Dallas was one of the city's first millionaires.

Sarah Horton Cockrell January 13, 1819—April 26, 1892

Sarah Horton Cockrell was born in Virginia in 1819. She moved to Texas with her family when she was 25 and married Alexander Cockrell three years later. The couple purchased one of the final land grants in the settlement of Dallas and went on to launch a construction business, sawmill, and gristmill.

Along with the requisite homemaking duties of the era, Sarah Cockrell managed the records, handled the money, and maintained a correspondence for the family’s various enterprises. She took over all operations after her husband died in 1858, and opened the St. Nicholas Hotel a year later.

After it burned in a fire that took out most of Dallas in 1860, Cockrell rebounded by opening the Dallas Hotel, which became the St. Charles. She also founded the Dallas Bridge Co., which in 1872 built the first iron suspension bridge across the Trinity River, linking Dallas with roadways south and west.

Later in life, Cockrell expanded into real estate, doing both residential and office development. At one point, she owned a fourth of downtown Dallas and thousands of acres in Dallas County. 

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