|City of Lancaster
As the first settlement in south Dallas County, no other community possesses as rich a history as Lancaster. From its earliest days, the residents reflected ethnic diversity, and the descendants still enjoy the rural character of the city.
In December 1844, 30 settlers arrived at Peter’s Colony in Robertson County, in what was then the Republic of Texas. Led by Elder Roderick Rawlins, the settlers chose a high, defendable space on the open prairie near water, grazing and wild game. At that time, the community was called Hardscrabble (hard: bitter, severe or harsh; and scrabble: to struggle). Indians hunting the area were no danger, as the settlers had befriended them.
Rawlins was the first man to hold church services near the waters of Ten Mile Creek and is honored as founder of the First Christian Church in Lancaster, whose history is more than 150 years old. In 1846, the family of A. Bledsoe moved from Missouri and settled here. His daughter married the youngest son of Rawlins and this marriage was Lancaster’s beginning. Bledsoe purchased land from the Widow Rawlins and staked off the original town, laying out a town square and adjacent streets.
The historic Town Square was physically patterned after his hometown of Lancaster, Kentucky, with streets entering the center from all four sides. This same design was used for Independence Square in Philadelphia. In 1852, Lancaster was founded as a trading post, and folks from around the area came to shop. A stagecoach stopped regularly, and mail arrived bi-weekly. The Texas Central Highway, which ran from Mexico to Dallas, ran through Lancaster and brought Hispanic merchants and rovers to town. African-American citizens are heavily featured in early stories about Lancaster.
The first bank officially was the R.P. Henry Bank, founded in 1899. It existed on the same plot of land in Town Square for 34 years. Historians report that in 1933, Clyde Barrow, of Bonnie and Clyde fame, robbed the Henry Bank with the help of Floyd Hamilton, while Bonnie Parker waited outside the city.
In May 1898, White and Company opened a bank on the west side of the square. The White Building was destroyed in the 1994 tornado that ripped through historic Town Square, destroying 250 homes, making headlines across the nation. The White Building has been restored, and in 1998 reopened as headquarters for the Lancaster Economic Development Corporation. The Town Square continues to rebuild and reestablish itself as a historic jewel of Dallas County.
The times of past generations have strengthened the spirit of Lancaster. The community celebrates the progress it has achieved with strength and pride in the bygone generations, and the progress achieved by all.