|Noted Texas historian T.R. Fehrenbach once
said, "We chose the land; we took it; we made it bear fruit."
John Neely Bryan had a vision in 1841 to make a dusty river crossing with
plenty of land, Indians with whom to trade goods and the river to bear
fruit as a thriving inland port called Dallas. He left behind his native
Tennessee, laid claim to over 600 acres and built his one-room cabin,
which stood as a beacon on that lone prairie, much like a lighthouse on
the ocean's edge, calling others to a new home.
Unfortunately, Bryan's dream of navigating the Trinity River for trade from Dallas to the Gulf of Mexico ran aground. Over twenty years later, in 1868, a steamboat reached Dallas from Galveston but, since the voyage took more than a year, there was little cause to celebrate. And few people to celebrate with, for Bryan's dream of a thriving settlement languished until after the Civil War.
But it was John Neely Bryan who first planted the seeds of Dallas' "can do" spirit. He never gave up on his dream and, in 1872'through the sheer force of his personality, his tenacity, and a few strategically given gifts'the Texas Central Railroad diverted its tracks to Dallas. Shortly thereafter, the Texas Pacific Railroad arrived and a railhead was born. Dallas was well on its way to becoming the thriving inland port of Bryan's dream.
The early 1900s brought tremendous growth to Dallas. First, the city became a regional banking center for North Texas cotton farmers who comprised one of the world's largest inland cotton markets. Many insurance companies arrived and established their headquarters in Dallas, enhancing its role in the financial world. Neiman Marcus built its landmark store downtown in 1907, bringing fashion and elegance to the growing metropolis. Although oil was the real catalyst for Dallas' wealth and prestige, Dallas has never had an actual working oil well in the county. But its role as the financial and technical hub for the black gold's drilling industry paved the way for real estate development, cattle, healthcare, commerce and industry to divert their tracks to Dallas as well.
Bryan's "can do" spirit spread like wild fire and infused the hearts and minds of other pioneers who were instrumental in bringing Dallas the Federal Reserve Bank, the Texas Centennial Exposition, and eventually, the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Larger than the entire island of Manhattan, DFW International Airport's opening in 1973, over 130 years after John Neely Bryan "chose the land," is a testament to his dream of making Dallas bear fruit as a thriving inland port.
John Neely Bryan's one-room cabin may now stand in the shadow of towering buildings in the heart of downtown Dallas but it continues to be a beacon calling entrepreneurs, adventurers and other spirited individuals home.