History of Cedar Hill, Texas

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The area, now known as Cedar Hill, in its mostly undeveloped stage

Situated in both Dallas and Ellis counties in Texas, Cedar Hill is a city also located along Joe Pool Lake’s eastern shore and Cedar Hill State Park. Cedar Hill is a growing and vibrant southwest Dallas suburb which offers ample opportunities for business and economy as well as a pleasant place amenable for family living and relaxation.

Cedar Hill used had an underwater terrain, which left an abundance of fossils, mother of pearls, as well as shark’s teeth lodged into the limestones that ran along the edge of the area.

The area was lushly covered area which was actually a haven for criminals. For folks from as far as Oklahoma, the place of what is now known as Cedar Hill provided them with cedar trees (hence the name) which they converted into fencing posts.

Long before 1835, there was not any sign of civilized humans in the Trinity River Valley before the arrival of the Texas Rangers. In 1840, Texas broke from Mexican rule and became an independent republic. From Austin, there emerged a northward road that was in construction, very much following the similar path of the future I-35.

Several different Native American (or American Indian) tribes came to live in the area. It was mostly temporary, as they would stay in the area only throughout the winter season. Eventually, a battle took place between the two particular tribes near the current High Pointe neighborhood, leaving several Indian artifacts on the expanse of the area of what is known as Cedar Hill.

Cedar Hill Bank Robbery

The First State Bank of Cedar Hill was robbed on October 8, 1932, by Raymond Hamilton, an accomplice of bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde. He stole the money, locked the workers in the vault, and then fled. The subsequent robberies took a toll on the bank, causing it to fall into financial ruin and eventually close its doors for good. When Hamilton learned that part of the cash had been buried after the first robbery, he returned to plunder the bank once more.

Cedar Hill’s early settlers, and its growth as a town

Cedar Hill's early settlers, and its growth as a town

Advertisements about Texas posted in Kentucky, Alabama and other nearby states are what drove people to come and settle in North Texas, which was billed as the “France of the New World.” In 1844, pioneers permeated into the area what is known now as Peters Colony, with hundreds of families and single mean making the region their permanent settlement, with Cedar Hill being the second biggest one in the area.

More new settlers seeking to build new lives arrived in Dallas on the Trinity River before they journeyed into the south on a trail that ran through Hord’s Ridge which is the present-day Oak Cliff.

In 1845 Dallas County became a part of Robertson County. One of the most notable early settlers in Cedar Hill was Crawford Trees, whose marriage in 1846 was the very first one registered in the Dallas County. Trees profited very much from the California Gold Rush so he used the money to purchase several thousand acres of land in Cedar Hill. He also took part in the battle during the Civil War.

Another early settler, Arthur Penn, was attracted by the place when he first visited there with Trees. So Penn came back, married and raised a family, and built a home on the edge of the prairie. A rancher, he sent his cattle to graze at the mountains which were lush with cedar trees. Penn also used the bottomland of the mountain creek for farming. Like Trees, Penn also took part on the Civil War.

Cedar Hill opened its first post office in 1852, and this was followed by a school building which accommodated only sixteen students. Penn also hired a schoolteacher and built a cabin around his property. Major Penn’s cabin still exists insidea a barn at Penn Farm, and is very much preserved as a historical site.

The town lay along a branch of the Chisholm Trail and served as a temporary seat of the Dallas County.

Education

The Cedar Hill Independent School District covers much of the city. Midlothian Independent School District and Duncanville Independent School District both serve portions of it.

Cedar Hill High School and Cedar Hill Collegiate High School are the schools that serve the Cedar Hill ISD area. Duncanville High School is in charge of the Duncanville ISD section. Midlothian High School is in charge of the Midlothian ISD component. The K–4 Cedar Hill campus is run by Life School, an open-enrollment charter school. The region is also served by Trinity Christian School – Cedar Hill, which is connected to a nearby Assemblies of God church.

Residents of Dallas County are assigned to Dallas College (formerly known as Dallas County Community College or DCCCD). Ellis County has certain areas allocated for Navarro College.

The tornado in 1856; Cedar Hill rising from the tragedy

In 1856 a violent tornado swept through the thriving town, with a total of nine people perished from the disaster and several properties — including the post office, blacksmith shop, and mercantile — being demolished by the tornado. Only one house and one business establishment remained unscathed. More than 300 people from the surrounding communities gave a helping hand to rebuild Cedar Hill. The town rose again to become a trade and shipping hub.

Cedar Hill is still “visited” by tornadoes every now and then.

Railroad boon

Like many American towns during the early years, Cedar Hill also benefited from the railroads that were built through the area, as well as nearby towns Duncanville and Midlothian. In 1880 the Cedar Hill Institute for Girls was opened. The 1890s provided a new face for Cedar Hill as a farming community, with emphasis on cotton gin industry; in 1892 Cedar Hill’s directory listed a couple of druggists, two confectioners, two blacksmiths, and a barber who entered the town to do business there.

Cedar Hill in the 20th century – improvements in electricity, communication, farming industry and law enforcement

Cedar Hill prospered further at the beginning of the 20th century. In 1920 electricity came to serve the homes and business establishments in Cedar Hill. The fascinating thing there is that the electric plant would send a warning “blink” to its customers at exactly 10:30 pm before shutting the services down completely at 11 pm. As you may expect, not many people did not get to enjoy the benefits of electricity and many of them still did cooking on woodfire. Many farms didn’t have any electricity until the Second World War.

As isolated as it was once, Cedar Hill used to have only one telephone, and that was situated at Well’s General Store at the northwest corner of Cedar and Main Sts, with a phone exchanged established inside a house. Despite the fast-paced technology that allows present-day Cedar Hill residents to connect with the outside world, the house still currenty stands at the southeast corner of Main and Belt Line streets, and is almost perfectly preserved.

Formerly a cotton gin hub, by the 1940s Cedar Hill emphasis had shifted to dairy and cattle.

A member of the notorious Barrow Gang member Raymond Hamilton also happened to be resident of Cedar Hill. Surely, he terrorized the city by robbing the First State Bank, where he took the money (though he discovered that he wasn’t unable to take all of them) and locked the employees inside the huge vault. The bank, which was robbed once again, eventually became insolvent and closed down.

To restore and enforce lawfulness in the city, Dallas County hired local citizens to become deputy sheriffs, and continued to do so until the mid-20th century when the city began to select eligible people to become official lawmen.

Arts and Culture

Nature

20% of Cedar Hill’s land has been set aside for parks and other open areas. In Cedar Hill, there are 3,000 acres of nature parks and reserves, including Dogwood Canyon and Cedar Hill State Park.

Dogwood Canyon

The Blackland Prairie, which makes up the majority of Dallas County, and the white rock of the Austin Chalk deposits came together to produce Dogwood Canyon.

The canyon is home to a variety of wildlife, including endangered birds like the painted bunting, black-capped vireo, and golden-cheeked warbler. Snakes, lizards, bobcats, and coyotes are examples of wildlife species.

The blossoming Dogwood trees that may be found all along the cliff gave the canyon its name. In addition, there are three species of Hexalectris orchids, one of only a few hundred in the nation, and the White trout-lily in Dogwood Canyon.

Cedar Hill State Park

The northeastern corner of Joe Pool Lake is where Cedar Hill State Park, which was established in 1991, is situated. There are miles of seashore and 1,826 acres of land in the park. The region is a transition zone between the rough stone escarpment and the rolling tallgrass grasslands with its black clay soil.

The remnants of the native tallgrass grassland are regarded as the park’s most significant natural feature. From Texas to Canada, large tallgrass grassland was present in the early 1800s. Less than 1% of people are still alive today. Indian grass, tiny bluestem, big bluestem, sideoats grama, and switchgrass are some of these endangered remnants. In a few locations, the park has restored meadow pinks and Eastern gamma grass.

The park’s forested hills are home to a variety of creatures, such as bobcats, coyotes, foxes, squirrels, armadillos, and raccoons. Fishing in lakes is productive for catfish, white bass, crappie, and largemouth bass.

Numerous more Neotropical migrants reside at the Cedar Hill State Park, which is home to almost 200 different bird species. The painted bunting, which is widespread from May through August, is the park’s most sought-after bird.

Joe Pool Lake

Joe Pool Lake is bounded by Cedar Hill. The lake, which has a surface size of 6,469 acres and a maximum depth of 75 feet, was impounded in 1986. Any of the three parks along its borders, including Cedar Hill State Park, provide access to Joe Pool Lake.

Sports

Local, regional, and international sporting competitions are held at Cedar Hill. Twenty-one baseball and softball grounds, eighteen soccer fields, seven basketball courts, six tennis courts, four football fields, and a 36-hole disc golf course are all part of Cedar Hill’s sports complexes.

Point of Interest 

Towers

What was then known as Hill Tower moved to Cedar Hill in the 1950s. The elevation of Cedar Hill, at 880 feet above sea level, made it an ideal site for the construction of television and FM broadcast transmitting towers that would equally serve Fort Worth and Dallas. The first tower that two television stations simultaneously owned and operated was Hill Tower.

The top television stations in Dallas at the time were the then-CBS affiliate KRLD-TV and the then-ABC affiliate WFAA-TV. The idea for Hill Tower originated as a result of the competition between the two stations for the same location. The tower would be more than 1,500 feet high and include an 80-foot-tall triangular platform on top that would hold two antennas, one for each station. Both antennas, collectively known as “the candelabra,” had centers of radiation that were the same height. Even though Fort Worth civic booster and Star-Telegram publisher Amon G. Carter and his descendants sought to argue against a single Dallas-Fort Worth media market despite the realities of broadcasting, NBC affiliate WBAP-TV eventually moved to Cedar Hill.

Numerous more regional television and radio stations, as well as mobile communications technology service providers, have established themselves here since Hill Tower was built. With 14 towers, Cedar Hill now has the highest number of radio and television communication antennas in the county.

The towers have become a landmark for tourists because they can be seen from 20 miles away on a clear night. In addition, they act as a landmark for aircraft pilots who utilize the towers as a reference.

Penn Farm Agricultural History Center

John Wesley Penn and other farmers built farms using the land’s natural resources, feeding and housing their families. For more than a century, the Penn family resided on the native prairie grasses and pastured livestock there. Most of Dallas County’s tallgrass prairie was plowed under and replanted with wheat or cotton crops during that time. The grassland remnants of Penn Farm survived and are still present today, maybe as a result of the rocky surface and mountainous terrain of the Cedar Hill region.

The remains of Penn Farm, which date back to the 1850s, were used to establish the Penn Farm Agricultural History Center. Within Cedar Hill State Park is where the center is situated. It was intended to inform viewers about the early history of Cedar Hill and to show how human creation had the biggest influence on the tallgrass prairie that previously predominated this region. Many of the original buildings are still surviving today, demonstrating how the Penn family developed and modified machinery as demands evolved and contemporary conveniences were added.

Dogwood Canyon Audobon Center

The National Audubon Society and Cedar Hill collaborated to create the Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center. The National Audubon Society’s previous president, John Flicker, presided over the groundbreaking ceremony for the Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center on April 23, 2008. In 2011, the Center made its formal debut.

The U.S.-established Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification has been given to the visitor center. Energy use, lighting, water use, material use, and the incorporation of a range of other sustainable measures are all monitored by the Green Building Council and certified by the Green Building Certification Institute (GBCI).

Dogwood Canyon Audubon Center and the Cedar Hill Independent School District collaborated on a study in 2015 that examined the relationship between academic achievement and outdoor science education. The study featured 500 Cedar Hill ISD fifth graders who engaged once a week in Eco Investigations activities created by the Audubon Center. On pertinent STAAR questions, participants outperformed nonparticipants by 20%. In Texas, this is the first research of its kind.

Cedar Hill today

Like other cities and suburbs, Cedar Hill grew progressively. The city boasts several retail outlets (and there are so much more retail outlets actually), as well as restaurants and bars, and its upscale shopping and lifestyle hub Uptown Village which opened in 2008. As of 2010 census, the city’s population is numbered at 45,028. Cedar Hill is definitely different today than it was many centuries ago, but it still maintains some of the wholesome qualities and its homespun, folksy charm. It may be about 30 minutes away from Dallas and Fort Worth, but Cedar Hill’s natural beauty — as mostly exemplified by the Cedar Hill State Park — is definitely a world away.

Conclusion

The history of Cedar Hill, Texas is extensive and includes Native American settlements, Anglo-American colonization, the effects of the Civil War, and the development of infrastructure, manufacturing, and agriculture. Today, Cedar Hill is a thriving neighborhood with a diversified population and a robust economy, which bears witness to the tenacity and tenacity of its citizens throughout its history.

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