Exall, Henry (1848–1913)

By: Joan J. Perez

Type: Biography

Published: 1952

Updated: October 16, 2020

Henry Exall, businessman and agriculturist, was born on August 30, 1848, in Richmond, Virginia, to Rev. George G. and Angeline (Pierce) Exall. His education at his father's academy was interrupted by the Civil War; Exall served in the Tenth Virginia Cavalry from the spring of 1863 until the end of the war. Thereafter he studied law, then switched to business. He moved to Kentucky in 1867 to work in merchandising and the manufacture of woolen goods. In 1869 he married Emma Warner. She and their three children had died by 1875. A business trip to Texas in 1877 informed Exall of the area's commercial potential, and he decided to make his home there.

After starting a cattle business near Fort Worth in 1876, Exall went to Lampasas in 1881 and worked in real estate. In Dallas on November 9, 1887, he married May Dickson (see EXALL, MAY DICKSON); they had one son. Exall soon became a leader in Dallas development, especially in real estate and banking. He helped organize the North Texas National Bank of Dallas in 1887 and served as its vice president. He was president of the State Fair of Texas and Dallas Exposition in 1889, built one of the city's first skyscrapers, and was instrumental in the development of Highland Park. In 1890 he constructed a dam on Turtle Creek to make Exall Lake, a popular resort spot of the time.

He represented Texas at numerous business and political conventions. In 1885 he was appointed vice president for Texas of the Cotton Centennial in New Orleans and colonel and quartermaster general of the Texas Volunteer Troops. He was elected vice president for Texas at the 1887 meeting of the American Bankers Association in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. President Benjamin Harrison appointed him one of the commissioners at large for the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893, and Exall served in a similar capacity at the Chicago Exposition that year. As president of the Texas Industrial Congress in 1910 he encouraged soil conservation and the study and application of farming methods that increased acreage yield by awarding $10,000 cash prizes to Texas farmers who achieved these ends. He was a member of the Democratic convention that nominated Grover Cleveland for president in 1884, and in the late 1880s he served as chairman of the state Democratic executive committee.

On his farms north of Dallas Exall pursued his agricultural interests and bred racehorses, one of which made him a fortune as a sire of trotting and harness racers. He was a member of the Sterling Price Camp, the United Confederate Veterans of Dallas, and the Dallas Chamber of Commerce; he was serving as president of the National Corn Exposition at his death. He was seriously ill for several weeks due to complications following an operation and died on December 29, 1913. The city of Dallas named Exall Park in his honor.

Dallas Morning News, December 30, 1913. Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans (5 vols., ed. E. C. Barker and E. W. Winkler [Chicago and New York: American Historical Society, 1914; rpt. 1916]). Memorial and Biographical History of Dallas County (Chicago: Lewis, 1892; rpt., Dallas: Walsworth, 1976).


  • North Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth Region
  • Dallas
  • Fort Worth

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Joan J. Perez, “Exall, Henry,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed December 02, 2021, https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/entries/exall-henry.

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

October 16, 2020

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