Dallas, Texas, like many big cities, is surrounded by suburban cities and towns. One of them is Mesquite.
Mesquite is a suburban city that lies in the eastern part of Dallas. While most of Mesquite belongs to Dallas County, a small but significant portion of it extends into Kaufman County. As of 2019 census, the city’s population was 140,937, making it the 22nd-most populous city in Texas.
A brief history about Mesquite
The area now known as Mesquite was once a vast and open prairie land inhabited by several Native American people, notably the Ionie, Tawakonie, and Caddo tribes, with the Caddo tribe being the farmers in the area. From 1680 to 1790, these three tribes would hold an annual tournament and trading fair after every harvesting of crops.
The history of downtown Mesquite can be traced back to 1873 when A.R. Alcott, an agent working for the Texas and Pacific Railroad, filed for the first plat for the township of Mesquite with Dallas County.
A couple of months later, the new residents got to see a train passing through their community for the first time. The train, which was traveling from Shreveport, Louisiana to Dallas, caused quite a stir among the locals.
Then they named the town after Mesquite Creek. No one really knows why they called it “Mesquite.” But the most probable reason for this is that mesquite trees used to be quite abundant in the area. By the time Mesquite was founded, it only had a saloon, a blacksmith shop, a confectionery, a post office and depot, and a handful of houses.
Mesquite was incorporated on December 3, 1887. In April 1888, Mesquite elected J.E. Russell as the town’s first mayor. The town had a population of 135, according to the first national census in 1890.
Like many towns and cities in the US during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Mesquite thrived as a farming community. The locals grew hay, corn, cotton, and sugar. Thanks to the trains passing through the area, people were able to transport and sell raw goods.
Mesquite remained a predominantly agricultural town until after the Second World War. The post-war suburban boom led to a significant increase in the town’s population. The construction of the LBJ Freeway (I-635) in 1970 connected Mesquite to its neighboring cities Garland and Balch Springs. At this point, the town’s population increased even more.
The 1990 census reported that the city’s population stood at 101,484, a far cry to the 135 people exactly a century ago.
Until 2011, Mesquite was one of the few cities without beer and wine sales in eastern Dallas County.
What’s there in Mesquite?
Since Mesquite is located at the crossroads of the four major highways – Interstates 30, 635, 20, and US Route 80 – chances are you are likely to end up at this point if you’re doing some road trip in Texas.
Mesquite’s biggest tourist draw is the rodeo scene. In fact, the city is dubbed the “Rodeo Capital of Texas,” so you may want to check out its rodeo events if you happen to pass or visit the city. Mesquite’s traditional rodeo season usually takes place from spring through fall.
The Mesquite Rodeo is the place when you want to witness a real Texas rodeo action. Founded in 1946, the Mesquite Rodeo was one of the only rodeos that had a permanent location. The rodeo has changed hands since its establishment, but it now belongs to the Camelot Sports & Entertainment company. Since 1986, the Mesquite Rodeo has been held in its current home, the Mesquite Arena. It is also the most televised rodeo event in the country.
Mesquite has the distinction of being the community with the first enclosed air-conditioned shopping mall in the Southwest. Unfortunately, that mall no longer exists. The Big Town Mall opened in 1959 and served for 42 years until its closure in 2001. It was demolished in 2006, and FedEx opened a local logistics office on the property in 2017.
Another shopping mall, Town East Mall, opened in 1971. It is still operating up to now.
If you’re into sports other than rodeo, you can watch the Dallas Marshals score a touchdown at the Mesquite Arena or catch the car racing action at the Devil Bowl’s Speedway. But if you’re not into adrenaline-focused sports, consider a tee-off at the 18-hole Mesquite Golf Club and enjoy the serene environment.
If you’re an arts and culture buff, Mesquite has several museums, galleries, and places for performing arts, such as the Mesquite Arts Center, Public Art in Mesquite, and Mesquite Community Theatre.
Going to the movies? You should check out the AMC 30 on Lyndon B. Johnson Freeway. It is one of the largest movie theaters in the world.
Fancy a history tour? Mesquite has historical places such as the Florence Ranch Homestead, Opal Lawrence Historical Park, and Spellman Museum of Forney History.
For nature and outdoor lovers, you should go to Mesquite Heritage Trail, the city’s biggest recreational facility. It has over four miles of trails and sidewalks, plus three trailheads, a pedestrian bridge, and an exercise station. It also has a bike trail. The Paschall Park Butterfly Trail is also popular among tourists and is considered one of the city’s natural treasures.
Because of its proximity to Dallas, Mesquite is an excellent place for an easy day trip or a weekend getaway. Its diverse activities, ranging from leisurely to adrenaline-pumping, will satisfy any visitor’s quest for something new.
Check out the article about North Texas for general information.