John Beeman and the first family to settle White Rock Lake

James Beeman, half-brother of John Beeman, was one of the first to settle White Rock Creek in 1842. This undated photo shows him in a canvas apron, likely used to protect his clothes while he butchered the bison he hunted in the area. (Photo courtesy of the MC Toyer Collection)
James Beeman, half-brother of John Beeman, was one of the first to settle White Rock Creek in 1842. This undated photo shows him in a canvas Masonic apron. (Photo courtesy of the MC Toyer Collection)

It’s been 175 years since John Neely Bryan launched the city’s first encampment on the banks of the Trinity River. During that first winter in 1841, he envisioned a town.

Recognizing the land’s economic potential, Bryan laid out the townsite of Dallas and set out to attract families to settle the burgeoning city with permanent residents. He eyed the closest settlement, Bird’s Fort, now in the area of Haltom City. One of the families he befriended there was the Beemans.

John Beeman must have been impressed with what he saw in that Texas settlement. He had moved his family from Illinois to Bowie County in 1840, then to Bird’s Fort the next year.

Bryan then brought the Beemans to what is now Dallas in January 1842 and, seeing its potential, John and his half-brother James moved the family to the area. They first camped at a place they named Turtle Creek, but soon moved on to White Rock Creek.

James hunted buffalo in the vicinity. The family farm was on the southern branch of White Rock, where they built a blockhouse and later a homestead. The Beeman Family Cemetery is the last remnant of the south end of the farm, just south of Haskell Avenue, off Dolphin Road, at the end of Osage Street, north of the Jewish Cemetery Shearith Israel.


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