Since its original printing in 1952, the publication of the Handbook of Texas has been made possible through the support of its users. As an independent nonprofit, TSHA relies on your contributions to close the funding gap for the online Handbook and keep it a freely accessible resource for users worldwide. Please make a donation today to preserve the most comprehensive encyclopedic resource on Texas history. Donate Today »


Joan Jenkins Perez

COCKRELL, ALEXANDER (1820–1858). Alexander Cockrell, businessman and city builder, was born in Kentucky on June 8, 1820, to Joseph and Sally (Hunt) Cockrell. In 1824 the family moved to Johnson County, Missouri, where Cockrell's mother died while he was still a boy. When he was fourteen, he left his father and made his home with the Cherokees, learning their culture and language. He also learned the stock business. Cockrell first came to Texas in 1845 following runaway slaves. After service in the Mexican War as a courier under Benjamin McCulloch, Cockrell settled in Dallas, engaged in the stock business, and hauled freight with ox teams from Houston, Jefferson, and Shreveport. He married Sarah H. Horton (see COCKRELL, SARAH HORTON) on September 9, 1847, and established a claim on 640 acres in the Peters colony, situated ten miles west of Dallas on Mountain Creek. On August 7, 1852, he purchased the part of John Neely Bryan's homestead including the Dallas townsite and the Trinity River ferry concession.

The Cockrells moved from their White House Ranch to Dallas on March 21, 1853, the date the purchase became effective, and began operating a brick business, one of the variety of Cockrell enterprises that established the main lines of trade and development in Dallas. Assisted by his wife as bookkeeper (Cockrell was unable to read or write), Cockrell operated a sawmill, lumberyard, gristmill, and freighting business. He replaced the toll ferry with the first bridge across the Trinity River, which was authorized in 1854. The bridge and causeway gave the inhabitants of Hord's Ridge (now the Oak Cliff section of Dallas) better access to Dallas. To protect his toll bridge, Cockrell acquired hundreds of acres of land on the river. He built and rented several houses and store buildings and in 1857 began building a large and fine hotel, the St. Nicholas. On April 3, 1858, Cockrell was killed in a gunfight with a city marshal, Andrew M. Moore, leaving his widow with four children. Another child had earlier died in infancy. Cockrell was buried in his wife's private cemetery and later was moved to Greenwood Cemetery in Dallas.

Frank M. Cockrell, History of Early Dallas (1944). Monroe F. Cockrell, Destiny in Dallas (1958). Monroe F. Cockrell, The Early Cockrells in Missouri (1966). Monroe F. Cockrell, Sarah Horton Cockrell in Early Dallas (1961). Dallas Morning News, November 24, 1991. Memorial and Biographical History of Dallas County (Chicago: Lewis, 1892; rpt., Dallas: Walsworth, 1976). John William Rogers, The Lusty Texans of Dallas (New York: Dutton, 1951; enlarged ed. 1960; expanded ed., Dallas: Cokesbury Book Store, 1965).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to:

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Joan Jenkins Perez, "COCKRELL, ALEXANDER," accessed August 24, 2019,

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

Get this week's most popular Handbook of Texas articles delivered straight to your inbox