The Texas & Pacific Railroad, committed through its charter to complete a railroad line between Texarkana and Fort Worth, effectively turned the wild grasses of the blackland prairie into a small yet active township known as Mesquite. Arguments are made for reasons the town was named as it was, from the creek which winds through the area, to the rugged trees that lined the creek’s banks. But, for whatever reason, A.R. Alcott, railroad agent and engineer, filed a plat at the Dallas County Courthouse on May 22, 1873, giving the newly acquired land its permanent moniker.
L to R: Joe Adams, UP vice president-Public Affairs; Mesquite Mayor John Monaco; Clint Schelbitzki UP director-Public Affairs
Almost three months later, the opening ceremonies of the railroad line were held in Dallas, while in Mesquite, Railroad Agent Major William Bradfield was completing his house at the southwest corner of what is now West Davis and Ebrite Streets. The Texas & Pacific had acquired 50 acres for the town -- 40 of which were platted for commercial buildings and homes -- all south of the track. Agent Alcott, who also platted the depot towns of Forney and Terrell, had laid out his vision for the township, and, slowly, businesses developed along the line, as he had planned 55 lots facing the railroad.
In the later 1870s, the town consisted of the rough-sawn East Texas Pine depot and its accompanying platforms and livestock pens, a blacksmith shop, the post office, a confectionery and two saloons, all in wooden structures. Because they all faced the railroad, the first lane or street in Mesquite was formed. Front Street became the first thoroughfare in the central business district and still is active today.
The wooden structures were replaced by brick at the turn of the century, but they were still oriented toward the railroad. Although Mesquite’s depot was destroyed by fire and its downtown sidings removed decades ago, the City of Mesquite still considers itself to be a "railroad town," as it is home to two major Union Pacific Railroad operations, the first being an intermodal facility handling containers, and the second being an automobile facility supporting several major automobile manufacturers, including the General Motors plant in Arlington. Combined, these two facilities occupy 91.5 acres on the city’s western edge. In addition, the Union Pacific Railroad’s main east-west line still runs through the heart of Mesquite, and although the trains no longer stop, the freight trains can be heard and seen passing through Mesquite’s old downtown hourly.