Grand Prairie celebrated its 150th birthday on Wednesday.
The Grand Prairie Historical Association rang the liberty bell and Mayor Pro Tem Ruthe Jackson read a proclamation declaring Jan. 2, 2013, Dechman Day during a small celebration outside City Hall.
Alexander Dechman originally received a deed 150 years ago on Jan. 2 for a town that grew to become the city of Grand Prairie.
"He was up in the upper end of Canada, came down the East Coast, landed in Galveston and became one of the suppliers that brought a wagon train of supplies to this place that he called Dechman," Jackson said.
"It was just land. You know, it was land, and it was raw, raw land. And it was his vision that people settle here," said Janette Skrasek, Grand Prairie Historical Association president.
Over the years, people relocated to what became Grand Prairie.
The historical association has been working with the city to track the changes. The city published a book that documents Grand Prairie's first 100 years. City officials are now working on the second edition, which focuses on the past 50 years.
"I graduated from high school 48 years ago, and there were 20,000 people in Grand Prairie," Skrasek said. "We have 170,000 now, so you can imagine the growth that has happened to this city in the past 50 years."
Keepsakes of the city's founder, including Dechman's family Bible and silverware, are preserved in a permanent display inside City Hall.
"It's hard to imagine," Skrasek said. "I just saw the movie 'Lincoln,' and to think that this happened during that time -- the Civil War was going on."
Longtime residents said it warms their hearts to take a few minutes to remember and appreciate such an important milestone for their city.
"I'm just glad to see that we still acknowledge our roots and our existence. It was such a beautiful prairie," said Angela Giessner, Grand Prairie Historical Association former president.