Character Spotlight: Gone to Dallas by Laurie Moore-Moore


1856 – 1861

Genre: Historical Fiction / Texas Pioneers / Civil War
Publisher: Goat Mountain Press
Date of Publication: October 4, 2021
Number of Pages: 348 pages 

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Sara’s husband was a disappointment in life, but she had to admit he was a handsome corpse.

Climb aboard an 1856 Dallas-bound wagon train and join a plucky female protagonist for the journey of a lifetime in Laurie Moore-Moore’s richly entertaining new book, Gone to Dallas, The Storekeeper 1856-1861. Far from your average historical novel or western, Gone to Dallas is a compelling tale of migration, betrayal, death and dreams—peppered with real people, places, and events. With a cast of interesting characters and more bumps and hazards than a wagon trail, Gone to Dallas tells the unforgettable story of a formidable frontier woman in the context of true Texas history. 

It had seemed so romantic when Morgan Darnell courted Sara in Tennessee, finally convincing her they should marry and join an 1856 “Gone to Texas” wagon train traveling along the “Trail of Tears,” through Indian territory, and across the Red River into Texas. 

In a twist of fate, Sara arrives in Dallas a 19-year-old widow, armed with plenty of pluck, and determined to open a general store in the tiny settlement of log cabins on the Trinity River. Standing in her way as a young woman alone are a host of challenges. Can Sara (with the help of her friends) pull herself up by the bootstraps and overcome uncertainty, vandalism, threats, and even being shot?

Follow Sara as she strives to create her store while living Dallas’ true history — from the beginnings of La Réunion (the European colony across the Trinity) to a mud and muck circus, a grand ball and the mighty fire that burns Dallas to the ground. Dallas is a challenging place, especially with the Civil War looming.  

Even with the friendship of a retired Texas Ranger and Dallas’ most important citizen — another woman — is Sara strong enough to meet the challenge? The risks are high. Failure means being destitute in Dallas!

In Gone to Dallas, The Storekeeper 1856-1861, author Laurie Moore-Moore spins a page-turner of a tale salted with historically accurate Texas events and populated with real characters. It’s Portis’ True Grit meets Texas history.

“Creative and captivating…five stars!”
“An unforgettable journey…superb writing.”
“I was hooked at the very first sentence.”
“Lovely work of historical fiction…can’t wait for the sequel.”


Meet Mrs. Sarah Cockrell from

Gone to Dallas

The Storekeeper 1856-1861

By Laurie Moore-Moore

Sarah, the wife of Alexander Cockrell, was a real person, and very involved in helping her husband coordinate their numerous activities—from Dallas land grants to managing their numerous business enterprises. He was brilliant, but illiterate. She could read and write. Together they were a dynamic team.

Although Gone to Dallas, The Storekeeper 1856-1861 is fictional, my goal was to represent the real people in the story as accurately as I could—based on available research. By all accounts, Sarah Cockrell was major force in the development of Dallas. When she died in 1892, she owned an estimated 25% of downtown Dallas as well as properties in numerous other Texas towns.

Why did I name my strong female protagonist Sara (note the different spelling)? I tried to change her name, I swear. Sarah and Sara wouldn’t let me. The two strong women overruled me!

Here are some insights on Sarah Cockrell from Gone to Dallas.

Her appearance: “Sarah Cockrell was a slender woman with shiny, mahogany-colored hair parted in the middle, pulled back, and turned under into a bun at the nape of her neck. Heavy brows arched above deep-set gray eyes. She wore a white cotton blouse with long, full sleeves and a rounded collar. Her skirt was black cotton embroidered with white flowers and very full. A solid black sash was tied in a bow at the front of her waist. She looks as fashionable as if she’s stepped out of Godey’s Ladyʼs Book.

Her philosophy:  “I’m guided by just a few rules: Work quietly behind the scenes—there are some in town who resent a successful woman. Smile, speak softly, don’t be afraid to say no, and never back down. Be an iron fist in a velvet glove. And keep a pistol in your drawer, just in case.”

Her strength upon the death of her husband: “I never imagined anything like this. I loved him.” She took a deep breath. “Thought we’d grow old together. My task now is to keep his legacy alive and be sure his children remember him for the fine man he was.”

Her business savvy:  “. . .Sara was invited to Sarah Cockrell’s office for tea. When Sara arrived, Mrs. Cockrell was concluding a meeting with two men who were challenging the terms of a contract they had signed with the Cockrell lumber company. “Do come in, Sara, we’re almost through here.”

“We’re not happy with the contract terms,” one man said forcefully.

“Yet you agreed to them before and signed the contract,” Mrs. Cockrell said in a calm, matter-of-fact voice.

“Well things have changed,” the other man said.

“I understand things have changed.” Mrs. Cockrell paused and looked at each of them, holding her gaze for several seconds. “My husband is dead, and you thought you’d see if the widow would agree to better terms for you, to her disadvantage. Please understand that I will not.”

The first man began to bluster. “Well, well . . . ”

“Well,” Mrs. Cockrell said, “if you can show me how we would both benefit from a change in price and terms, I’ll be happy to meet to discuss it. Until then, good day, gentlemen.” She rose from her chair. Mrs. Cockrell’s young, male assistant appeared from nowhere with their hats and ushered them out.

From the author: “My husband, Roger, and I have been blessed with many adventures in life—from trekking across India’s Thar desert on a camel (and sleeping in the sand on our camel blankets) to repeating marriage vows in a remote Maasi village in Kenya (my dowery was one cow and one goat). My favorite adventure? As a fifth generation Texan, it is discovering more and more Texas history and writing about it!  

We live in Dallas, Texas but sneak away when possible, to a mountain-top cabin overlooking a lake in former Indian Territory (the Oklahoma Ozark Mountains) The cabin is unique—there is a nine foot chainsaw bear in our entry hall. The house was built around it. Never thought I’d own a piece of chainsaw art, much less a nine-foot bear. Life is full of surprises. . . just like a good historical novel.”  
Laurie Moore-Moore is a retired entrepreneur who has built and sold multiple businesses and served on the Board of Directors of an international corporation.


 Three autographed copies of
 Gone to Dallas
(US only, ends midnight, CDT, 11/5/21)

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One thought on “Character Spotlight: Gone to Dallas by Laurie Moore-Moore”

  1. Hi, Katie,
    Thanks so much for featuring Mrs. Sarah Cockrell from Gone to Dallas, The Storekeeper 1856-1861 as a Character Spotlight on Book Bustle! Just like you, I enjoy reading pretty much all things fiction (excluding horror).
    Writing Gone to Dallas was great fun and I especially enjoyed adding a few real characters to the story. Mrs. Sarah Cockrell was fascinating to research. She was THE major force in building early Dallas–yet today, most Dallas residents have no idea she even existed. She was a strong woman who worked quietly behind the scenes and accomplished a great deal–she ran numerous businesses, was responsible for Dallas’ first iron bridge across the Trinity and built the town’s first grand hotel. A great lady to whom Dallas owes recognition and thanks.
    Thanks again for featuring her!
    Laurie Moore-Moore


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