A remarkable set of women, the Hughes sisters, had much to do with the development of Dallas. Numerous descendants still reside in the area. Nancy Jane and her husband, William M. Cochran, helped found Farmers Branch. William named it that because he objected to its original name, Mustang Branch. He then homesteaded around Northwest Highway and Midway Road in 1843.
Nancy Jane Cochran (1817 – 1877) was born in North Carolina. She was one of thirteen children of William and Aicy Hughes. The Hughes family, originally from Virginia, moved from North Carolina to Columbia, Tennessee when Naney was a young girl. It was there in Maury County, Tennessee that she met William M. Cochran (1807 – 1853). The Cochran family had come to Columbia from Abbeville, South Carolina about the time the Hughes family had settled there. William and Nancy were married September 21, 1837.
Four years later tales of rich farm land lured the young couple westward to Missouri. There they remained a couple of years but in January, 1843, they set out with their three babies in a wagon drawn by ox team for that “promised land” TEXAS. They arrived in Peters Colony, on Mustang Branch (later renamed Farmers Branch) in March 1843, when Texas was still a Republic. Their family of five increased the population on Mustang Branch to 21. The Cochrans lived with the Pulliam brothers until Mr-. Cochran, with the help of the other men of the colony, was able to build a long cabin for his family.
The Cochrans owned two sections of land, one on Mustang Branch and the other across the Trinity, but William decided to move his family closer to the city of Dallas. They located some land on Bachman Creek (present Cochran Chapel); there they established their permanent home. Nancy Jane and William had nine children; the six who lived to adulthood were: John, Archelaus, William (Bill), James, Martha Alice, and G.W. (George Washington). Mr. Cochran was not only a farmer and business man, but served as the first County Clerk of newly created Dallas County from 1846-1848 and was representative to the legislature of Texas in 1848-49.
Tragedy hit the family in 1853 when typhoid fever took the life of William, leaving Naney Jane at age thirty-six a widow with six children to rear. She, with the help of her teen-age sons, kept the farm and cotton gin going.
In 1856, three years after the death of William, Nancy Jane realized she owned an ideal location in this sparsely settled county for the permanent location of a church. The Cochrans had moved seven miles closer to Dallas on the Baker Survey, Browning Branch, near Bachman Creek in 1850. On July 11, 1856 she gave the first land on which to build a church in Dallas County.
In the deed records of Dallas County, Vol. H, p. 545, you will find a copy of the quaint old deed. This deed was handwritten by Mrs. Cochran, who surveyed the property herself.
Cochran Chapel Church was dedicated on the land given by Nancy Jane as a memorial to her husband who, along with one of their children, was buried in the nearby cemetery.
She insisted that her children get an education and in spite of circumstances sent her boys to McKenzie College, located in East Texas. When the Civil War started, the older boys enlisted (G. W. was too young), and Naney again carried on alone.
Six of Nancy’s sisters and one brother followed the family to Dallas County. They were Mary Webb (Isaac Be); Serena Knight (Obadiah); Amanda Record (George); Sarah Williams (T.C.); Margaret Bachman (John B.); and Martha Dennis (Levi); their brother, Rev. W.H. Hughes, later a well known Methodist preacher and presiding elder of the North Texas Conference.
Nancy Jane died October 15, 1877 and rests near her beloved husband, William M. Cochran and her son, George Washington Cochran. Two other sons, William P. and James M. Cochran, their wives, some of their children and grandchildren are buried nearby as is their daughter, Martha Alice Cochran Harris, her husband and some of their family.
Nancy Jane established Cochran Chapel Church and Cemetery and there is an elementary school in Dallas which is named for her. Some of the original Cochran farm is now part of Love Field. The four sons of William and Nancy Jane Cochran were: John H. Cochran, early Dallas County representative to the state Legislature and historian of Dallas; Arch M. Cochran, first physician to practice medicine in Dallas; William P. Cochran; and James Monroe Cochran. The oldest one of the daughters, Martha Alice, married Will Harris. Their children included Will R. Harris, a leading Dallas attorney; John
C. Harris, City Finance Commissioner in the 1920’s, and Arch Harris. The other daughters of William and Nancy Jane Cochran were Sarah Jane and Margaret.
By Betty Meletio, Gail Meietio Madden, John Meletio & Carole Meletio Lee for Dallas County Pioneer Association‘s Proud Heritage.