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Enterprising Woman

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For National Women
Modern-day tycoons might envy the industry and business acumen of Texas pioneer Sarah Cockrell. Married in 1847 to Alexander Cockrell, who couldn't read or write, the former Sarah Horton kept all the books and records for her husband's ranch, freighting company, and other ventures.

In 1852, after Alexander bought John Neely Bryan's interest in the young town of Dallas for $7,000, Sarah packed up the family and moved them to a new house in town. When Alexander's death in 1858 (in a shootout with a town marshal) left Sarah a widow with four young children to raise, she took over all of her late husband's business projects and expanded them to suit her own interests.

After the Cockrells' toll bridge over the Trinity River washed out in 1859, Sarah renewed a franchise to operate a ferry. She chartered the Dallas Iron and Bridge Company, intending to build an iron toll bridge to replace the one washed away. Though a number of citizens petitioned the Texas government to allow construction of a free bridge, Mrs. Cockrell's personal appearance before the state legislature apparently swayed the lawmakers her way, and they granted the charter. With construction slowed by the Civil War, the bridge didn't open until 1872. According to a 1942 article in The Dallas Morning News, the ferry played a significant role in the development of early Dallas, "since it was essential that livestock and vehicles be able to cross the river."

Sarah Cockrell also built the first steam flour mill in Dallas, ran the town's first sawmill, erected the three-story St. Nicholas Hotel on the corner of Broadway and Commerce streets, and donated land for the First Methodist Church. When she died in 1892, she owned about one quarter of downtown Dallas and was the town's richest citizen. Her will was so long that it had to be printed in pamphlet form.

Read 1476 times Last modified on Friday, 13 July 2012 13:06

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