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“All-America City” DeSoto Nestled in the Dallas Suburbs Crossroads

October 26, 2021 Texas, Member Spotlight

DeSoto is an “All-America City” with small-town values nestled along historic crossroads in the Dallas suburbs.

Incorporated in 1949 with about 400 people in a city that was less than one square mile, DeSoto has grown to almost 53,000 residents and 21 square miles.

DeSoto became one of just 30 Texas cities to earn the All-America City Award from the National Civic League in 2006. The award recognizes communities that leverage civic engagement, collaboration, inclusiveness, and innovation to successfully address local issues.

Small Town Spirit Tackles Pandemic

DeSoto’s small town spirit that helped earn it the All-America City status has shown through during the COVID-19 pandemic with the Texas Municipal League (TML) recognizing the city for its vaccine outreach.

The City of DeSoto was presented with a TML Risk Pool Partnership Award on Oct. 7, 2021, during the TML’s 109th Annual Conference and Exhibition in Houston.

“City of DeSoto, Texas, staff stepped up to help elderly and other residents navigate the COVID-19 vaccination process. The TML IRP Partnership Award was presented to the city for exhibiting exemplary service to the community, strengthening the bond between risk pool partners, and espousing the core values of integrity, public service, fiscal responsibility, and operational excellence,” said the TML.

DeSoto mayor Rachel L. Proctor, on accepting the award: “Showing personal initiative and caring deeply about our residents are two traits that are common among the DeSoto workforce, so I am proud but not surprised by those who did so much during the pandemic to help protect our high-risk residents. When adversity is at its worst, DeSoto is at its best and that’s why DeSoto rises!”

DeSoto on the Crossroads: From Wagon Trail to Interstate

DeSoto, one of the oldest settlements in North Texas, has always been situated at a crossroads, from 19th century wagon trails to current interstates.

The first settlers set up camp in 1847 near a crossroads where two wagon trails intersected – one running north/south from Dallas down to the Shiloh community in Ellis County, and the other an east/west artery that connected Lancaster and Cedar Hill.

While that crossroads is still almost dead center in DeSoto, at the current intersection of Belt Line and Hampton roads, DeSoto is roughly bordered today on two sides by the modern crossroads of I-35 and I-20.

DeSoto Grew Slowly Until Post World War II

Indiana native Curtis Parks, along with wife Amelia, is credited with building one of the first homes in DeSoto in 1847.

By the next year Tennessean T.J. Johnson opened a tiny general store near the crossroads.

The town, 30 miles south of the heart of Dallas, gained a post office in 1881 and the settlement was named in the honor of beloved local country doctor, Thomas Hernando DeSoto Stewart.

The sleepy farming community grew slowly until the post-World War II years with the population at less than 100 in 1930. When the incorporation vote was taken in 1949, 52 total votes were cast with 50 in favor!

Even with recent growth, DeSoto maintains small-town character with DeSoto Town Center anchoring a downtown area that features:

  • City hall
  • Public library
  • Civic center
  • Recreation center
  • Auditorium
  • Outdoor amphitheater
  • Walking trails

Outdoor Activities Abound in DeSoto

DeSoto has plenty to do outdoors from the Windmill Hill Nature Preserve to BMX racing.

The city has more acres of parks (491) than miles of streets (431) with local parks such as Grimes Park and Ernie Roberts Park and 3.6 miles of hiking along the Roy Orr Trail.

The three biggest outdoor attractions in DeSoto are:

  • Historic Nance Farm: Texas Historical Landmark was once the home of the Otway Bird Nance family who built their home in 1851 and once worked 1,200+ acres in the area. You can visit the home which still stands along with a windmill, wells, curing shed, milking barn, and tank house.
  • Windmill Hill Nature Preserve: 75 acres of woods with hiking trails, some steep, that cross the 10 Mile Creek over a bridge named in honor of Texan musician Stevie Ray Vaughn. The Dallas Observer called the preserve the Best Urban Hiking Trail: “Though just a few blocks south of Highway 67, it’s called a ‘quiet place’ for good reason. Wind along its foot trails, viewing the well-preserved flowers and fauna of the region, and soon you’re lost in another world. This is no quick step hiking place. Unless you’re looking for a leisurely walk and literally prepared to stop and smell the flowers, don’t bother.”
  • DeSoto BMX: DeSoto is home to America’s first covered facility exclusively built for BMX racing. The 60,000-square foot lighted track is host to local, regional, and national events year-round. The track, which contains 1,000 yards of hand-packed dirt with massive berms and jumps, opened in 1999.

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