Denton is a city in and the county seat of Denton County, Texas, United States. In 2019, the US Census Bureau estimated its population was 138,541, making it the 24th-most populous city in Texas, the 196th-most populous city in the United States, and the 12th-most populous city in the Dallas?Fort Worth metroplex.
A Texas land grant led to the formation of Denton County in 1846, and the city was incorporated in 1866. Both were named after pioneer and Texas militia captain John B. Denton. The arrival of a railroad line in the city in 1881 spurred population, and the establishment of the University of North Texas in 1890 and Texas Woman’s University in 1901 distinguished the city from neighboring regions. After the construction of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport finished in 1974, the city had more rapid growth; as of 2011, Denton was the seventh-fastest growing city with a population over 100,000 in the country.
Located on the far north end of the Dallas?Fort Worth metroplex in North Texas on Interstate 35, Denton is known for its active music life; the North Texas State Fair and Rodeo, Denton Arts and Jazz Festival, and 35 Denton Music Festival attract over 300,000 people to the city each year. The city experiences hot, humid summers and relatively few extreme weather events. Its diverse citizenry is represented by a nonpartisan city council, and numerous county and state departments have offices in the city. With over 45,000 students enrolled at the two universities located within its city limits, Denton is often characterized as a college town. As a result of the universities’ growth, educational services play a large role in the city’s economy. Residents are served by the Denton County Transportation Authority, which provides commuter rail and bus service to the area.
The formation of Denton is closely tied with that of Denton County. White settlement of the area began in the middle of the 1800s when William S. Peters of Kentucky obtained a land grant from the Texas Congress and named it Peters Colony. After initial settlement in the southeast part of the county in 1843, the Texas Legislature voted to form Denton County in 1846. Both the county and the town were named for John B. Denton, a preacher and lawyer who was killed in 1841 during a skirmish with Kichai people in what is now Tarrant County. Pickneyville and Alton were selected as the county seat before Denton was named for that position in 1857. That year, a commission laid out the city and named the first streets.
Denton incorporated in 1866; its first mayor was J.B. Sawyer. As the city expanded beyond its original boundaries (which extended half of a mile in every direction from center of the public square), it became an agricultural trade center for the mill and cottage industries. The arrival of the Texas and Pacific Railway in 1881 gave Denton its first rail connection and brought an influx of people to the area. North Texas Normal College, now the University of North Texas, was established in 1890, and the Girls’ Industrial College, now Texas Woman’s University, was founded in 1901. As the universities increased in size, their impact on Denton’s economy and culture increased. A middle-class African-American community, Quakertown, thrived just south of what is now Texas Woman’s University until around 1920.