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Centuries before American settlers moved into the area, Mesquite was an open prairie land and a key trading ground for indigenous peoples. The Ionies were a western tribe located close to present-day Fort Worth. The Tawakonies were in present-day Dallas. Finally, the Caddo were the native farmers of the Mesquite land. From 1680 to 1790, after harvest was over, these three tribes held an annual tournament and trading fair.
The city of Mesquite was founded on March 14, 1878, on land along the Texas & Pacific Railway, which ran from Dallas to Shreveport, Louisiana. The locals then named the town after Mesquite Creek. The city was officially incorporated on December 3, 1887, after electing Mayor J.E. Russell.
In the city's earliest years, it was known for many outlaws residing in the area. A prominent outlaw was Sam Bass, historically known for his train robberies in Texas. In 1878, he robbed a train in downtown Mesquite, escaping with $30,000.The Mesquiter, established in 1882 by R.S. Kimbrough, was Dallas County's longest-running newspaper.
Mesquite prospered through the late 19th and early 20th centuries as a farming community, growing cotton, hay, corn, and sugar, and using the railroad to ship raw goods. The town remained predominantly agrarian until after World War II, when the suburban boom took root in Mesquite.
In 1946, the Mesquite Rodeo was founded by Charlie Columbus McNally, and was one of the only rodeos that had a permanent location. By the mid-1980s, the events were being broadcast by ESPN.
In 1959, Big Town Mall opened as the first air-conditioned shopping mall in the United States. The mall was demolished in the summer of 2006, and FedEx opened a logistics center on the property in 2017.
By 1970, the LBJ Freeway (I-635) was constructed, connecting Mesquite to its neighbors, Garland to the north and Balch Springs to the south. Also, in 1971, Town East Mall was constructed. The mall was used by director Ron Howard to film portions of the movie Cotton Candy in 1978. The mall's associated traffic and shops would continue to grow the town.
In 1986, the Mesquite Arena opened its doors as the new home for the Mesquite ProRodeo. By 1998, the facility was expanded to include a convention center, exhibition hall, and a Hampton Inn and Suites.
By the 1990 census, the city had grown to 101,484 people, up from 1,696 residents in 1950.
In 2011, Mesquite passed a law allowing beer and wine sales in the city. The measure had been considered several times for many years, but was always blocked by strong protest against the proposed sales. It was one of the few cities without beer and wine sales in eastern Dallas County before the law came into effect.
In June 2015, the Mesquite Arts Center added a Freedom Park exhibit, in memorial of September 11. The park displays a 15-foot (4.6 m) beam that was recovered from the remains of Ground Zero. The Mesquite Fire Department received the beam in 2011.
At the 2010 United States census, Mesquite had a population of 139,824. In July 2018, the population was estimated at 142,816. Per the American Community Survey in 2017, the median age was 32.8.
According to the 2010 census, 64.9% of Mesquite was White (31.5% non-Hispanic white), 25.0% was Black or African American, 0.6% American Indian or Alaska Native, 2.8% Asian, 38.9% of Hispanic or Latino origin, and 3.2% from two or more races. In 2018, 28.6% were non-Hispanic white, 26% Black or African American, 0.8% American Indian or Alaska Native, 2.9% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 3.4% two or more races, and 40.4% Hispanic or Latino of any race.
At the American Community Survey estimates of 2017, 0.1% of the American Indian population was Cherokee. 1.1% of the city's Asian community was Indian, 0.1% Chinese, 0.6% Filipino, 0.0% Japanese, 0.0% Korean, 0.6% Vietnamese, and 0.3% of other Asian origin. 56 residents were estimated to be Guamanian or Chamorro. The multiracial population of Mesquite was majority White and Black or African American (1.1%), followed by White and American Indian or Alaska Native (0.5%), White and Asian (0.3%), and Black or African American and American Indian and Alaska Native (0.2%). Among the Hispanic or Latino demographic 33.9% were Mexican, 0.7% Puerto Rican, 0.4% Cuban, and 4.0% from other Hispanic or Latin American origins.
Of the 51,578 households at the 2010 census, 39.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 48.3% were headed by married couples living together, 18.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 26.8% were notfamilies. About 22.4% of all households were made up of individuals, and 6.4% were someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.88, and the average family size was 3.38. From 2013 to 2017, an estimated 46,876 households had an estimated 3.06 persons per household. About 57.7% of residents owned houses in Mesquite. The median gross rent was $1,018.
In 2000, the median income for a household was $30,424, and the median income for a family was $36,357. Male full-time workers had a median income of $37,756 versus $29,905 for females. In 2017, the estimated median household income was $52,167.
In 2010, about 29.8% of the population were under the age of 18, 10.1% were 18 to 24 years old, 27.9% were 25 to 44, 23.7% were 45 to 64, and 8.6% were 65 years of age or older in 2010. The median age was 32.3 years. For every 100 females, there were 91.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 86.4 males.
According to information gathered by Sperling's BestPlaces, 62.7% claim religious affiliation.Christianity is the most prevalent religion in Mesquite. The largest Christian body in the city is the Catholic Church, served by the Diocese of Dallas (19.6%), followed by Baptists (13.2%), Methodists (4.8%), Pentecostals (3.1%), Presbyterians (1.6%), Episcopalians (1.0%), Latter-Day Saints (1.0%), Lutherans (0.7%), and 12.4% from another Christian faith including the Oriental Orthodox and Eastern-rite Catholic churches. Mesquite is a center for Indian Christians from the Indian state of Kerala. Their settlement, one of the earliest of the Indian Americans in the DFW area, was influenced by proximity to Dallas-based hospitals such as Baylor University Medical Center at Dallas and Parkland Hospital, as well as having initial low income and difficulties moving to mostly white northern suburbs. The second-largest religion in Mesquite is Islam (3.6%) followed by Judaism (0.7%), and eastern faiths including Hinduism, Sikhism, and Buddhism (0.9%).
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