Bear Creek Community
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Settlers began arriving in this area of western Dallas County in the 1850s. Early families included the Casters, Borahs, Sowers and Haleys. Following the Civil War, freedmen moved to the area, and friends and families once separated by slavery were reconnected. Jim Green, the first African-American landowner in what became known as the Bear Creek community, bought his acreage in 1878. Others soon followed: Jim Chivers, Ben and Rose Dilworth, Alex King, Elizabeth Lawson, Collins and Rachel Patton. D. W. Ellison (Ellerson), Sam Sweat, the Trigg family and Minnie Sheldon (Shelton), who later donated land for Shelton’s Bear Creek Cemetery.
These families organized the Shady Grove Christian Methodist Episcopal Church in 1884, erecting a one-room church and a school building on land donated by Jim Green. The congregation, which built a larger structure in 1897, continued to grow throughout the 20th century.
The Bear Creek community school, known as Freedom School, began as a community supported facility. Later, the area became part of the Dallas County Common School District and the Sowers School #2 was created for the African-American children of the community. High School age students attended segregated schools in Grand Prairie or Dallas. In 1955, the Irving Independent School District annexed the schools in the Bear Creek and Sowers communities. Early teachers in the Bear Creek settlement included Josie Davis and Earlie Mae Wheeler.
Approximately 150 years after the first settlers came to the area, the once rural Bear Creek settlement is experiencing rapid growth from the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex and related highway and airport expansion. Shelton’s Bear Creek Cemetery is one of few links to the settlement and the lives of the families who contributed over the years to their community.