Author celebrates Dallas anniversary with a book on founder

Dallas is the ninth-largest city in the U.S. and home to more than 1 million people. The month of November is its 175th anniversary, yet its history is still unknown to many.

The origin of the name Dallas is uncertain. There are lots of theories about how the name was chosen, but nothing official. John Neely Bryan, an Indian trader, lawyer and farmer, is credited with founding the city in 1841.

Richland adjunct history professor Steven R. Butler has been researching, writing and lecturing about the city of Dallas for 25 years. His recently published book, “John Neely Bryan: The Father of Dallas,” tells the story of the city’s founder.

Butler first became interested in Bryan’s life story in 1991 when Dallas celebrated its 150-year anniversary. Butler has worked on the book for more25 years. Previous biographies about Bryan are incomplete, so Butler decided to gather information from other books including “Destiny in Dallas” by Shirley Seifert, “Founding Father” by Jimmy Clay and “Neely Brown: Founder of Dallas” by Lucy C. Trent.

“No one has done a complete book about him. The book is as much about the people who wrote about him as about him,” said Butler

From 1985 to 1991 Butler portrayed Bryan in the “Lone Star Adventures” live history series for schools and libraries. He wrote a book back in 1991 that, in his opinion, he could have done better. So in 2006 he restarted his research about the subject and rewrote it. 

In of the theories he encountered Dallas was founded by six men. Butler said, “I certainly wouldn’t even classify them as founders, because these are guys who came here. Maybe they helped build a log cabin and then they moved on.  The difference between them and Bryan is, he stayed. He came and stayed and helped get the town established.”

Bryan’s past is definitely full of mystery and unconfirmed facts. Some may even surprise people. According to Butler’s book, it’s very likely that the log cabin in downtown never belonged to Bryan. That and many other details of Bryan’s life are still open for discussion.

For those who want to learn more about the founder of Dallas and its history, a copy of the book is available in the Richland library, or it’s available for purchase at: