Sarah Cockrell was a businesswoman who built the first iron bridge over the Trinity River at Dallas in 1872. She also built Dallas' first three-story hotel and owned most of what is now Dallas' central business district. Left a widow with small children in 1858, all she had was a stack of debts and her husband's ferry business. She thought big and invested wisely. She set up her own corporations, the Dallas Bridge Company, and the S. H. Cockrell Co., which owned a flour mill. When she died in 1892, her properties were so extensive that her will had to be published in pamphlet form.
Written by Cynthia J. Beeman
Read by Teresa Palomo Acosta
Considered by many to be Dallas’ first businesswoman, entrepreneur, and capitalist, Sarah Horton Cockrell moved to Texas from her native Virginia when she was in her early twenties. She married Alexander Cockrell in 1847, and along with him ran family businesses including a sawmill, gristmill, and construction company. After Alexander’s death in 1858, she expanded her business interests by opening a hotel. In 1872, under a charter granted by the Texas Legislature, her Dallas Bridge Company built the first iron bridge over the Trinity River. The bridge provided a link for major roads from the south and west leading into Dallas, and led to a major economic boost.
In 1875, Cockrell founded S.H. Cockrell and Company and operated a commercial flour mill, taking part in what was at the time a major industry in Dallas. She also began to amass large real estate holdings, and in her many land transactions dealt with railroads, businesses, churches, and civic leaders. As her prominence in Dallas grew, she developed a residential subdivision called the Sarah Cockrell Addition in the 1880s, and by the early 1890s she owned an estimated one-fourth of downtown Dallas.
In addition to her business activities, Sarah Cockrell contributed generously to many charities, including First Methodist Church in Dallas, which memorialized her with a stained glass window. When she died in 1892, a local writer called her "one of the founders of our city."
Sarah Cockrell historical marker file (Dallas County), Texas Historical Commission, Austin.
Elizabeth York Enstam, "COCKRELL, SARAH HORTON," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fco88)
Biography Source Information
Biographies are reprinted from the Foundation for Women’s Resources (now Women’s Resources), Dallas, Texas. They originally appeared in "From Gutsy Mavericks to Quiet Heroes: True Tales of Texas Women," video study guide, Austin: The Foundation for Women's Resources, 1997. Death dates have been added where needed.
Audio Source Information
Our project, "Texas Women's History Moments," received the 2012 National Council on Public History Outstanding Public History Award and the American Association for State and Local History Leadership in History Award. The audio clips were broadcast on KUT radio from 2011-2016 during Women’s History Month.