Posted courtesy of The Historical News, P.O. Box 1068, Hiram, GA 30141
The history of Gaston County dates back to the 1750's when the area was first settled by people of German and Scotch-Irish descent. These hard working people had come down the Valley of Virginia from Pennsylvania in search of opportunity. Following their heritage each group settled in geographic areas similar to their homelands. The Germanic farmers sought land in river bottoms while the Scotch-Irish spinners and weavers took to the hillier sections of what was then Tryon County and later Lincoln County. Today those settlement patterns still can be seen in the local family surnames and the clusters of Presbyterian and Lutheran churches in Gaston County.
Following the Revolutionary War the population grew quickly with new opportunity seekers looking for gold. Still the economy was primarily farming with industry being small iron foundries and grist mills. Changes came near mid century when people emigrated to the west and southwest looking for more land or gold. Local political change occurred when the independent minds of Lower Lincoln County asked that their county be cut in two forming a separate county, Gaston, below the Southfork River.
Dallas was a planned community. When Gaston County was formed in 1846, no town existed within its bounds. For convenience, the county seat was stipulated to be "no more than two miles from Long Creek Baptist Church" which is about one mile east of the square today. The town name was chosen to honor the U.S. Vice President at that time, George Mifflin Dallas. Dallas supported America's involvement in Texas "fight for freedom from Mexico." Many early settlers in Texas came from this area and local residents appreciated his support of their pioneering relatives. Mr. Dallas was similarly honored by nine other towns and cities that bear his name today.
The land that became Dallas was farm land owned by Jesse Holland, Gaston County purchased seventy-five acres for fifty dollars. The town plan incorporated a "Public Square" for the courthouse site, a jail donated lots for churches, and lots available for commercial and residential use. The parcels began with lot number 1 at the southwest corner of Main Street and Gaston Avenue and continued sequentially around the square in a clockwise manner. Funds received by the private lots were used to construct the county courthouse and jail.
As a business center the Dallas square bustled with extra life when the Court of Pleas and Quarter Sessions were held. Four times a year people would gather to conduct official business at the courthouse. Merchants around the square would be busy with shoppers. Folks from the farm might have fresh produce to sell while in town for court business as well. The taverns did brisk business. Hotels would be filled with overnight guest. Hungry people enjoyed meals in the hotel dining rooms.
Still the square was the primary point of interaction. Talk would center around the current court cases, local politics, or the latest world news. At the time of the Civil War, local troops would muster on the square and then march to Brevard Station (now the town of Stanley) to board the trains which carried them off to battle. While there were some skirmishes in this region, Gaston County was safe from major battles. Union troops were seen on the square, however, during Reconstruction Era when Gaston County, like other Southern counties, experienced the end of one way of life and the beginning of another. Reconstruction spurred much growth in Dallas. Gaston College opened as a private female school in 1876 closing in 1905.
In the late nineteenth century Gaston County experienced rapid growth with the development of the southern textile industry. Much of that growth was concentrated near the railroad intersection called Gastonia Station. As that tiny spot grew into a city, the focus of population and power moved out of Dallas. The courthouse moved a short time later. After three referendums, a vote in September 1909 to change county seats was passed. On January 1, 1911 the courthouse in Gastonia opened and a chapter in the life of Dallas closed. Fortunately the architecture of Dallas Stands to tell us the early years of the town and the development of Gaston County.
Derick S. Hartshorn - ©2008