Historical Narrative

The City of Coppell, Texas is located in the northwest corner of Dallas County and accessible from Interstate Highway 635, U.S.  Highway 121, and Interstate Highway 35.  The Elm Fork of the Trinity River reaches Coppell's borders on the far eastern portion of the city, while Cotton- wood Creek and Denton Creek flow through the northern part.  Grapevine Creek is also located within the city near the Cotton Belt Railroad tracks.  These topographic features made the area a desirable settlement place for early colonists of North Texas (Nail 2008).

As part of Dallas County, the area is relatively flat terrain and within the blacklands belt, which is a transitional area between the eastern forests and the grasslands and rich with lime- based soils.  Native to the county are post oak, mesquite hackberry, elm, cottonwood, and pecan trees.  The settlement of Dallas County area began after the Mexican government passed colonization laws that included an empresario grant in 1836.  However, it was not until after the Republic of Texas established a contract with English and American investors, led by William S. Peters, in 1841 that settlers immigrated to the area (Wade 2008, Webb 1952).  

This agreement allowed the Republic of Texas to sell the investors a land grant that included the area of present day Coppell and was named Peters Colony after W.  S.  Peters, who operated the colony as a business from Louisville, Kentucky.  The Peters Colony empresario grant began at the Big Mineral Creek on the Red River and ran 60 miles south and 22 miles west.  Peters Colony encouraged immigration into North Texas and the early settlers of the area eventually formed Dallas and Tarrant Counties including the city of Coppell.  In November of 1841, the Agricultural, Commercial, and Manufacturing Company formed in Louisville, Kentucky to provide financing for the Peters Colony with the recent absence of the English investors (Wade 2008).

A legal controversy within the colony began in 1842, when the English investors sold their interests to a new group of investors, which included Sherman Converse.  Converse obtained the rights to the Peters Colony from the Louisville group and received a new contract from the Republic of Texas.  After Converse and his investors failed to attract immigrants and fulfill the terms of the contract, the Louisville group reorganized as the Texas Emigration and Land Company in 1844 and sought to regain control of the colony.  The discrepancy over the ownership of the colony deterred immigration and eventually old settlers began to dispute the Louisville Company’s legal claim to the land.  John H. Reagan, who was later appointed the state's first rail-road commissioner, became involved in the colonists' protest and a legal battle ensued with the stockholder's of the Texas Emigration and Land Company.  In 1852, a compromise was created that allowed the Louisville Company to receive 1700 tracts of land for certificates and gave the colonists a specific date to establish their own claims to the land.  Final settlement was not reached until later and after 20 years of disputes and legislative enactments.  While Peters Colony was integral in the settlement of North Texas, it resulted in relatively no profit for the investors and incurred disagreements among the colonists and investors (Nell 2008, Wade 2008).

Before Peters Colony developed into an established town, Republic of Texas President Sam Houston chose the site of Grapevine Springs, near present day Coppell, as their camping grounds.  In August of 1843, Houston waited at Grapevine Springs, referred to as Tahwah-karro Creek by the Native Americans, to negotiate a treaty with the tribal chiefs to enlist their support against the Mexican troops.  Before the treaty could be signed, Houston left the area and the meeting was relocated to Bird's Fort, which was located on the Trinity River near present day Euless.  Representatives of the Republic of Texas, including Commissioners Thomas I.  Smith, J. C. Neil, and E. Morehouse, met with the Native American chiefs of the Comanche, Keechi Waco, Caddo, Ada- da-hah, Delaware Shawnee, Cherokee, Lipan, and Tahwah-karro tribes.  The treaty outlined 22 articles that defined the relationship between the two groups and was only one of many treaty meetings that occurred in 1884.  Even though the meeting failed to take place at Grapevine Springs, colonists continued to settle near Grapevine Springs (NaIl 2008, Young 1979, Green 1994).

As the Peters Colony continued to attract settlers, the area developed into cohesive communities that erected schools and churches and eventually grew into established towns.  In 1848, James Parrish arrived from Goliad, Texas and acquired a land grant from Mexico on present day Moore Road in CoppeIl, Texas.  The 640 acres owned by Parrish were incorporated into the Peters Colony and referred to as the Parrish Neighborhood.  A community developed around the Parrish land and settlers soon established the Bethel Community, which included the Bethel School, Bethel Cemetery, and a Baptist Church (CoppeIl Historical Society, Nail 2008).

The Gentry Community was established in the southern part of present day Coppell and named for the Gentry Family that settled in the area.  The Gentry family were local landowners and established the Gentry School (Coppell Historical Society, NaIl 2008).  In 1879, the first church was established in the Coppell area and was known as the Grapevine Springs Chapel Methodist Church, later becoming the Coppell Methodist Church (Nail 2008, Young 1979).  Organized in 1896, the First Baptist Church, the second church established in Coppell, included the Harrisons and the Gentry families as its charter members.  The church building was erected in 1901 and opened its doors with a dedication speech by Dallas minister, Dr.  George W.  Truitt (NaIl 2008, Young 1979).

The area that is now known as Old Town CoppeIl, located along Bethel and South Coppell Roads, was once called the Gibbs settlement.  Gibbs was named for Barnett Gibbs, who was a prominent political figure and later became the Texas Lieutenant Governor.  Gibbs was not a settler of the Coppell area, but owned a ranch south of the region.  In 1887, the first post office of the area was built in the Gibbs Community in the Harrison family’s general store and a Methodist Church was erected in the community in 1897 (Coppell Historical Society, Nall 2008).  

In 1888, the St.  Louis, Arkansas, and Texas Railway constructed the first depot in Gibbs, known as Gibbs Station, and brought the CoppeII area convenience and connected it with other communities.  As the railroad continued to run trains throughout the Gibbs community, a second depot was built in 1890 and known as the Coppell depot.  On January 9, 1891, The St. Louis,Arkansas, and Texas Railway was incorporated into the St. Louis Southwestern Railroad system.The St. Louis Southwestern Railway Company of Texas was chartered on January 12,1891 to operate the Texas section of the St. Louis Southwestern Railway system and was commonly referred to as the Cotton Belt (Cravens 2008, Nail 2008, Werner 2008, Wilson 2009).  After the introduction of the Cotton Belt railroad, the Gibbs community was renamed Coppell in honor of George A. Coppell, who was a railroad investor.  The name was officially changed by the post office in 1892, two years after the railroad constructed the new Coppell depot.  George A. Coppell also served as an executive on the board of several railroad companies and the bankruptcy committee, which oversaw the opening of the railroad in Coppell (NaIl 2008, Wilson 2009,Young 1979)

Settlers continued to stake claims in the Peters Colony and the surrounding lands throughout the 1860's, and prominent families such as W. H. Stark, Furneaux, Rice, and Russell encouraged the development of Dallas County by purchasing these lands.  The area experienced a steady growth during the close of the 19th century.  New businesses began to open in the early 1900's, including a drug store opened by Dr. Jess Bennett in 1905 and a local lumberyard in 1909.  By 1914, Coppell also saw the establishment of a bank, two general stores, telephone service, and a hardware store and the growth of the poultry, livestock, and lumber industries.  The introduction of the railroad became an incentive for Coppell to engage in trade with other regions across Texas.  The areas surrounding Coppell produced cotton as their major crop and also cultivated wheat, oats, sweet potatoes, peanuts, and melons (NaIl 2008).  Early community activities in Coppell were centered on agriculture and church life (Murph: Coppell: Up From The Farm).

In the 1920s, CoppeII was quickly becoming a more accessible city with the introduction of new roads between Denton and Dallas, which brought the community into a new era.  Coppell was among the towns that voted in favor of prohibition and the cotton industry of the area saw prosperity and growth.  The three communities, Bethel, Gibbs, and Gentry, eventually decided to consolidate their schools and renamed their school, Coppell School.  A new school building was constructed after the city passed a $ 20,000 bond issue and the new school district was named, Coppell Consolidated School District #5.  The new school building, which included 6 rooms and a large auditorium, was built of brick and opened on September 17, 1928, located in southeast Coppell.  The growth trend of the "Roaring Twenties" was halted by 1926, when the population began to steadily decrease until well after World War II and the Great Depression began to affect every aspect of daily life (Duggan, NaIl 2008, Young 1979).  

Despite the lack of growth in the community, support began to spread for the establishment of a public park at Grapevine Springs.  The spring was part of the east-west trail system that connected Fort Inglish and Bird’s Fort and crossed the Elm Fork of the Trinity River.  

Grapevine Creek was converted into a pool for children and a shaded pathway was cleared alongside the creek bank that led to the covered well of Grapevine Springs.  The WPA project provided employment for many during the Great Depression and ensured the preservation of the surrounding natural environment (" Grapevine Springs Beauty Spot", Green 1994).

The Dallas Historical Society supported making Grapevine Springs into a state park and after an agreement with Dallas County was reached, the spring became a county park.  The contract stipulated that the land be returned to the original owners if it was no longer used as a park.  Following World War II, Dallas County eventually closed the park when funds were halted and the land could not be maintained.  The parklands reverted back to the original owners, Thweatt and Miller, who then utilized the land for agricultural purposes.  The property was purchased by A. Webb Roberts, who allowed grazing on the land and built a stock tank at the point where the spring empties into the canal.  Roberts kept the land as a private park and entailed it to the Baptist Foundation upon his death in the 1970s.  In 1991, the Baptist Foundation gave 15 acres of the site to Dallas County.  The county and the city of Coppell agreed that the city would lease the land for 99 years and would regulate and maintain the Grapevine Springs site ("Grapevine Springs Park," Green 1994).

In the I940s, the town expanded to include a cotton gin and more local businesses, and in 1958, Coppell established a fire department.  After the first school building was destroyed by a fire in 1949, a new building was erected, which later became the Pinkerton Elementary School (NaIl 2008, Wilson 2008).  Before the construction of State Highway 35, which joined Lewisville and Dallas, the main road between Dallas and Denton was Old Denton Road.  The roadway ran through Coppell and included present day streets Sandy Lake Road and Denton Tap Road (Wilson 2008).  

During the 1970's, Coppell saw further expansion northward towards Denton County and the opening of the Dallas- Fort Worth Regional Airport, which brought more commerce into the area.  By 1984, the population of Coppell had reached 3,826 and 31 new businesses had opened to serve those residents.  The same year, Coppell approved a $ 16.3 million bond program to improve city services, which included a new civic center, new fire stations, and expansion of the park system.  By 1987, the city secured a bulk mail-sorting facility for the federal post service.  Presently, the city's population has grown to over 35,000 residents, which contrasts greatly with the origins as a sleepy town of the early twentieth century.  (Nall 2008).


Coppell Historical Society ◊ P.O. Box 1871, Coppell, TX 75019 ◊ info@coppellhistoricalsociety.org