Cement City was not even a thought when the Horton family came from Missouri in 1844, and received several Peters Colony land grants. They settled near the West Fork of the Trinity River, Eagle Mountain Lake, Chalk Hill, and Eagle Ford. There James Horton farmed and had a grist mill. Sarah Horton married Alexander Cockrell, and farmed before moving to the village called Dallas. In 1852, they bought the unsold lots of John Neely Bryan’s original town.
The Coombes family also came, and lived near the Hords. Sam Street’s map of Dallas County shows these original land grants, and who occupied them by 1900. By 1855, the LaReunion Colony arrived from Europe, some 300 persons eager to try a new socialistic agricultural way of life. They bought land from the original families, but by 1858, the colony had failed and its people scattered.
After the Civil War, the railroads began coming toward Dallas County. In 1872, the Houston & Texas Central arrived from the south, and in 1873, the Texas & Pacific from the east. This crossing of iron rails brought unprecedented growth, and cattle herds were driven from the west to be shipped out by rail. Soon the Trinity River was bridged and the tracks extended west to the Eagle Ford community. It grew rapidly, but after several years, Fort Worth raised the money and the labor to extend the rails there, and soon Eagle Ford was down to 70 residents.
In the meantime, Grand Prairie, originally called Dechman, grew along the rail lines, and Estelle, Kit, Sowers, and Union Bower were nearby. By 1902, the Rock Island Railroad was buying right-of-way, and the town of Irving grew along these tracks.
By 1907, the Southwestern States Cement Company came to Dallas County, and started buying property in the vicinity of the old LaReunion Colony. Some of the deeds reflected the names of these original pioneers who had left the area, but descendants had retained title to parts of the original land grants. By 1909, the company constructed housing for its employees. There were no gas nor electricity, only cold water piped in. The company charged $2.00 a room per month and the village consisted mostly of Mexicans and a few blacks. The work was hard and not necessarily steady, but the company furnished a doctor and distributed food stamps at the company store to be redeemed when work started up again. The company also furnished the material and labor for a new concrete school after the small frame structure, that had been built in 1887 to serve the Eagle Ford area, proved to be inadequate.
This concrete structure is the only building still standing and is now being used by an electronics company. This small village was predominantly Mexicans, who had heard the plant was opening and needed workers. They were eager to leave Mexico to find work, as the revolution was killing one out of every five men. When the last house was moved from the company property in 1959, traces of human occupation again disappeared—all except the small cemetery on the side of a hill where a few stones remained to identify the families that came from so far away.
Trinity Portland Cement Company (name changed in 1915) extracted millions of tons of materials from this land. Among other construction projects, cement produced by this plant was used locally to build the Houston Street Viaduct in 1910-12, the longest reinforced concrete bridge in the world when completed. This same plant is where the packaging of ready mix cement originated. The company was very proud of this plant because of the raw materials, good transportation, good drainage to the river, and willing workers. Some retired with 50 years service.
The company headquarters moved away in 1987. In the near future, the remaining remnants of the cement plant will be gone and only smokestacks, silos, cliffs and hills will be seen. Soon the weeds and brush will take over again and nature will try to reclaim the, land.
Someday, perhaps new housing will utilize these several hundred abandoned acres on the west side of the county. When new residents till their gardens, or plant shrubs in flower beds, they will discover the buried artifacts left from their predecessors, the early settlers, the Europeans, the cowboys, the Mexican plant workers, all on this same site.
Written by Frances James for Proud Heritage, Vol. II by Dallas County Pioneer Association. Photo courtesy George W. Cook Collection at SMU’s DeGolyer Library.