Until 1956, what’s now Southlake was known as “the area west of Grapevine,” an unincorporated part of the county that was dotted with small truck farms, churches, schools and even some stills. Businesses included service stations, dairy and egg farms, grocery stores, a few nightclubs and “beer joints,” dude ranches, several small airports and even a track for dog racing. The map to the right, prepared by E.I. “Jack” Wiesman of Southlake with information from old-timers Jack Cook, G.B. Burgess Sr., C.M. McPherson Sr., Jeroll Shivers and W.D. Willhoite, shows where many of those places were located at various times between 1915 and 1950.
Businesses that existed in now-Southlake at some time between 1915 and 1950 included a night club, a beer joint, two dude ranches, a dance hall, stills, airfields, egg and poultry farms, a cattle dipping vat, a cotton gin and a dog race track. Enlarge the map and the list of businesses by clicking on them.
Most people in this area didn’t have much money. “This was the poorest land to try to farm and make a living,” longtime resident R.E. Smith explains. The farmers who planted and pulled peanuts from the area’s sandy soil in the early 1900s were just that – dirt poor. The better farmland – what he calls “the most productive land in all the state of Texas” – was on Grapevine Prairie, the area EAST of Grapevine. In the 1970s, D/FW Airport poured concrete over thousands of those acres of rich blackland soil that had helped make cotton king.
In the area west of Grapevine, families “belonged” to the small community near them: White’s Chapel, Dove, Carroll Hill, Old Union, Jellico. Sometimes a church, a store, a post office or a school stood at the center of the community. The communities’ importance – and people’s identification with them – faded as society became more mobile.
In the 1950s, the rural feel along with opportunities for recreation at the newly built Lake Grapevine began to attract more-affluent families. After the D/FW Airport was built in the 1970s, pilots and their families began buying small acreages. (Until the 1990s, the lack of city water and sewer inhibited the development of subdivisions.)
Borders didn’t exist when now-Southlake was being settled, so to understand Southlake’s past, we encourage you to learn the history of Denton County and also the adjacent cities of Grapevine, Roanoke, Keller, Colleyville and others. Also intertwined across the region are the stories of the Eastern Cross Timbers, the Missouri colonists, Lonesome Dove Baptist Church, the Bob Jones family and more.
We urge you to explore those cities and topics and the history they represent. Most cities have historical societies with online historical information. The Southlake Library has a Local History section (next to the magazines) that includes interesting books and magazines.
Southlake Historical Society member Jack Wiesman, who worked with Jack Cook, G.B. Burgess Sr., C.M. McPherson Sr., Jeroll Shivers and W.D. Willhoite to identify places on the map
Southlake Historical Society member R.E. Smith
Southlake Historical Society archives