The origin of Duncanville can be traced as far back as 1840, with the community’s beginning as a small settlement.
It was not until some forty years later, with the construction of the Chicago, Texas and Mexican Central Railroad connecting Dallas and Cleburne that Duncanville began to emerge as a town. The coming of the railroad to Duncanville changed the community. The railroad line connecting Dallas to Cleburne was to be completed not later than April 15, 1881.
With time running short to complete the railroad on time, a shortened method of railroad construction was adopted at an open field owned by James R. Horne and G.H. Finley. Doing this allowed the railroad to arrive in Cleburne two hours ahead of the deadline and a switching station was later built in the open field. It was called Duncan Switch.
In 1881, Charles Nance arrived by train at Duncan Switch to visit his sister, Mrs. William Horne. Finding the area much to his liking and envisioning a bright future for this part of Dallas County, Mr. Nance made the decision to stay in this area. He formed a partnership with Chris Horne, for fifty dollars purchased a lot from G.H. Finely, and built the first building, Nance Brothers, at Duncan Switch.
In August of 1881, Nance forwarded a petition to the Post Office Department in Washington, D.C. to establish a post office. Residents at that time were receiving their mail at post offices in Cedar Hill, Wheatland, or Jim Town.
His application was returned with a notation to choose a different name because there was already a post office in Jasper County, Texas with the name of Duncan. There had been individuals in the community who had refused to sign Nance’s original petition and many others who were hard to convince, so he simply added “ville” to Duncan, so it now read Duncanville. The petition was returned to Washington and, in early October 1881, he received the order to open the new post office under the name Duncanville.
Today’s Main Street monthly street-market known as “DuncanSwitch”, which takes place every third Saturday of every month, was named after the old railroad switching station of the 1800s.
- Spring of 1881
- Early 1940s
- 1950s to 1964
- 1970 to Today
Spring of 1881
In the spring of 1881, the Chicago, Texas & Mexican Central Railroad was completed, connecting Dallas with Cleburne. In the summer of that same year, Charles P. Nance, the community’s first postmaster, stepped off the train into a field of sunflowers at a place known as Duncan Switch.
In October 1881, the U.S. Postal Service gave Nance authorization to create a post office, and he called it “Duncanville.” Within a few months, mail would begin to arrive by rail.
During the early 1940s, World War II came to Duncanville, and began a new period of change and growth in the area. The Army Air Corps leased land in southwest Dallas County for use as a landing field for flight training. In 1943, the federal government constructed a military complex. Fearing annexation by neighboring Dallas, Duncanville residents incorporated a 225-acre city on August 2, 1947.
In 2013, Duncanville ISD employee Horace “Sonny” Kemble (pictured at left above and below) was honored for service to his country during World War II as a B17 tail gunner in the Unites States Army Air Corps.
1950s to 1964
During the 1950s, Duncanville had grown to 3,000 residents. A new subdivision, Fairmeadows, was built, and it featured reasonably priced homes that adjoined two shopping centers. When the town’s population reached 5,000 in 1962, citizens adopted a home-rule charter with council-manager city government. Duncanville has developed as a Dallas suburb. By 1964, Fairmeadows helped the population of Duncanville grow to 10,000 residents.
1970 to Today
Duncanville’s population increased from about 13,000 in 1970 to more than 31,000 in 1988. Local commerce, which formerly centered on Main Street, had by that time expanded to other sites in the town, most notably to shopping centers on the city’s west side and along U.S. Highway 67 between Duncanville and Cedar Hill. Duncanville had a population of 35,748 in 1990 and reported 773 rated businesses in the early 1990s. In 2000 the population was 36,081 with 1,307 businesses. The 2010 US Census shows the population at 38,524 and the Projected 2020 number is 40,552.
With Mr. Nance as the first postmaster, the post office opened in the general store and the first mail bags were received October 1, 1882. The growth and development of Duncanville occurred along the railroad tracks. In 1883, a large two-room depot was constructed immediately adjacent to the railroad tracks. Over time, businesses began emerging along the east side of the tracks. The first businesses to be established were the cotton gin, two general stores, and a doctor’s office.
Today Duncanville is one of four founding partner communities collectively known as “Best of the Southwest Cities”.