Carrollton is on Interstate Highway 35 East fourteen miles north of downtown Dallas in Dallas, Denton, and Collin counties. The site was in the Peters colony grant. The first settlers in the area were William and Mary Larner, who came in 1842. The A. W. Perry family followed two years later and claimed their headright in the Trinity Mills area. In partnership with Wade H. Witt, Perry established a mill there. Over time he acquired extensive landholdings, which probably included the site of Carrollton. Many early settlers were related by blood or marriage. In the northeastern area of settlement, which extended into Denton County, was the English colony, where many of the large landowners, including the Jackson, Furneaux, Morgan, and Rowe families, were English immigrants. It is most likely that the settlement was named for Carrollton, Illinois, the hometown of many of the early settlers.
In the early days Carrollton was an exclusively agricultural community. In 1846 David Myers, from Illinois, established the first Baptist church in Dallas County near the site of present Carrollton. Around 1856 the Union Baptist Church became the site of the first community school. In 1878 an agent for the unfinished Dallas and Wichita rail line filed an early plat of Carrollton at the Dallas County Courthouse. In the same year the Carrollton post office was established. The unfinished railway was bought and extended to Denton in 1880 by Jay Gould, who subsequently sold it to the Missouri, Kansas and Texas in 1881. By 1885 Carrollton had cotton gins, flour mills, a school, and two churches serving its population of 150. When the Cotton Belt line crossed the Katy at Carrollton in 1888 the town developed as a shipping center for livestock, grain, cotton, and cottonseed; it eventually surpassed Trinity Mills, an older settlement to the north. In 1913 the city was incorporated, and W. F. Vinson was elected the first mayor. A gravel industry began in 1912 and grew, so that by the late 1940s Carrollton was a "grain and gravel" town that also supported a dairy industry. A brick plant furnished brick for Dallas. During the postwar era the city worked to attract major industries. National Metal Products, a manufacturer of metal utility cabinets and shelving, established itself there in 1946.
With the Sun Belt boom, especially as it affected the Dallas area, Carrollton grew rapidly. The population was 1,610 in 1950, to 4,242 in 1960, and 13,855 by 1970. Between 1970 and 1980 it increased 193 percent, to 40,595; almost three-quarters of the year-round housing units in the city were built during that decade. In 1983, when the population was 52,000, the major area industries included auto-parts distribution, food packing, light manufacturing, and manufacturing of computers, semiconductors, and electronic components. Nevertheless, Carrollton retained a remnant of frontier living; in 1983 it still had a working cattle ranch within its city limits. Carrollton is part of the area called Metrocrest, a group of four northwest Dallas County cities (including Addison, Coppell, and Farmers Branch) served by a single chamber of commerce.
Four railroads—the Katy, St. Louis-Southwestern, St. Louis-San Francisco, and Burlington-Northern—provide service to the city, which has access to the airports of the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area. Carrollton is served by the daily Carrollton Chronicle and the weekly Metrocrest News. The Peters Colony Historical Society researches and records area history and publishes its Elm Fork Echoes semiannually. In 1990 the population of Carrollton was 82,169, and in 2000 it had grown to 109,576.