When Dallas Was
BY W. S. ADAIR
was little more than a crude big town when I arrived here in
October, 1880," said Dean S. Arnold, captain of the police
The business district of Dallas
was confined to Main and Elm streets, west of Akard, while the
business part of East Dallas consisted of a group of stores and
shops on Elm street and Central avenue at the Union Depot. Main
and Elm streets, between Ervay street and East Dallas, were residence
streets. On Commerce street, dwellings extended as far
west as Akard street. Akard street (then Sycamore), was
a residence street from Pacific avenue north, and from Commerce,
south. There were still unoccupied lots in almost every
block. The streets were simply roads, which became next
to impassable in rainy weather. There were not even crossings
for pedestrians, with the result that one often had to walk several
blocks before one could find a place where the mud was shallow
enough to be forded.
Dallas in 1880.
"People rode horses in those
days, instead of automobiles, as now, and hitched their horses
to racks, or rings, along the sidewalk, thus, giving the streets
the appearance of livery stables or wagon yards. Small
gas lamps had been put up in the business district, but the illumination
was darkness, compared with what we think of as street illumination
now. There were three street railway lines on Main street,
from the courthouse to the Central Railroad crossing; on Ervay
street, from Main to St. Louis street, and on San Jacinto street,
to Shadyview Park, three or four blocks east of the Central Railroad.
Shadyview was a new park, which was taking precedence [over]
Long's Lake, the popular pleasure resort, in its day. There
were, however, several notable gatherings and events at Long's
Lake after I came, among them the Confederate reunion, in 1882
or 1883. The reunion continued several days and was attended
by thousands. Forty years ago, Civil War veterans were more numerous
than they are now.
Early Day Parks.
"One of the great gatherings
at Shadyview in the early '80s was the reunion of the Mexican
War veterans, who were still living in large numbers, and who
liked to assemble and rehearse the events of the war of Texas'
independence. I imagine there are few of those old soldiers
Bois d'Arc Pavement.
"In early days, Dallas was
not only without drainage, but was also without window and door
screens as protection against the clouds of mosquitoes which
had such exceptional opportunities for multiplying. It must be
a fact that mosquitoes carry malaria, for almost everybody had
malaria before the days of window and door screens, whereas,
almost all seemed to be immune against it after screens came
into general use. There was not a foot of paving in Dallas
until the time of the administration of Mayor W. L. Cabell, in
1884, when Elm street was paved with bois d'arc blocks from Lamar
street to the Union Depot. Bois d'arc proved unsatisfactory
as paving material, but I think this was because the blocks were
not given a fair chance. The pavement was scarcely completed,
before the city began to tear it up here and there in order to
put down water, sewer and gas pipes and the workmen always replaced
the blocks so carelessly, as to leave a rough place. I
believe, that if the blocks had been left as they were at first
places, we should have had a smooth pavement till the end of
time. Up to 1884, the city was little better off in sidewalks,
than in streets. But, after the city began to pave the
streets, the people began to put down sidewalks.
In May, 1882, came the great hailstorm
which broke the window panes on the north side of houses in the
business district, caused horses to snap their hitch reins and
to stampede, knocked people down, and, in the country, damaged
orchards and crops and killed birds, rabbits and chickens. Some
of the hailstones were large as a baseball. Another early
day disaster that impressed me was the fire, which, starting
in the big compress on the north side of Pacific avenue, between
Lamar and Austin, destroyed that structure, together with a great
quantity of cotton on the platform, and, spreading to houses
on the north side, burned the electric light and power plant
on the northwest corner of Ross avenue and Lamar street and the
dwellings and outhouses on the same block, and on the block beyond.
A high wind from the southeast prevented the firemen from
stopping the conflagration. This fire occurred in 1883
or 1884. The compress was never rebuilt.
Old Generation Passes Away.
"It does not seem to me that
I have been in Dallas very long, but most of the people I associated
with, or saw about town for several years after my arrival, are
no longer here. Of the score or more of doctors then in
the practice, Dr. Graham is the only one, so far as I know, who
is still alive. Of the numerous company of lawyers, Judge
C. F. Clint and Judge Robert B. Seay, alone, are still active
members of the bar. The houses established by many of the
pioneer merchants are still growing, but of the individual merchants,
only two -- Alex Sanger and Leon Kahn, are left. E. G.
(Ed) Cornwell, who was born in the city sixty-eight years ago,
and who has continuously lived here, is, so far as I can find
out, the oldest inhabitant, though, there are perhaps older natives
of the county living in the city. According to my experience
and observation in Dallas, the active life of business and professional
men falls somewhat short of forty years.
Old County Jail.
"I was born at Social Circle,
Ga., and spent my boyhood days near Madison, in that State. My
father, William B. Arnold, had fourteen children, the last seven
of whom were, by the war, deprived of the opportunity of even
an elementary education. In 1881, Sheriff Ben Jones made
me a deputy and set me to guarding prisoners. The jail
at that time was a little two-story brick structure, on the west
side of Houston street, at the north end of the Union Passenger
Station. There were, in it, two cells with soft brick walls,
through which, a prisoner could easily cut a passage in a few
minutes with an ordinary pocketknife. To prevent them from
doing this, it was necessary to keep three guards on watch all
the time. The new jail, on the same lot, was completed
in 1882. This was equipped with chilled-steel cages, the
manufacturers of which, offered a reward of $1,000, to any prisoner
who could actually cut his way out of one of these cages [there appears to be some missing text
here] in the Waxahachie jail, but
failed to make his escape. He was brought to Dallas for
safekeeping and here he was making good headway toward liberty
when he was discovered and manacled.
Convicts at Road Work.
"I had charge of the first
gang of county convicts that worked a public road in the county.
They were used to cut a road though the timber of the river bottom,
from the west end of the Commerce street bridge, to a connection
with the Lancaster road, now Lancaster avenue, a distance of
about one mile. Col. E. G. Bower was County Judge at the
time (1885) and W. H. W. Smith, Sheriff. After leaving
the sheriff's department, I served as special officer for the
Houston & Texas Central and Texas & Pacific Railroads
at Dallas, until I joined the police force (Dec. 31, 1886). James
C. Arnold was chief of police and E. G. Cornwell, assistant chief.
The force consisted of twenty-two men, not one of whom
is now connected with the department. The City Hall was
then on the second floor of the building on the northwest corner
of Commerce and Lamar streets, now included in the News Building,
and the fire station was on the ground floor. The city
jail, or calaboose, as we then called it, was on a lot facing
Commerce street, at the west end of the original Adolphus Hotel
Building. It was a little frame building, with three wooden
cells, with an office and place for the station keeper's cot
in front. The stock pound was between the jail and Akard
- February 10, 1924,
The Dallas Morning News,
"I was assigned to duty on
the police force as jailer, and I was supposed to be on duty
twenty-four hours out of the day, for I [had] no assistant until
1888. The city bought the first patrol wagon in 1888. It
was open-top vehicle, and for that reason, it was unpopular,
since it made a public exhibition of every person arrested, no
matter how slight the offense. Two teams, a driver and
two guards went with the wagon, which was generally known as
the 'hoodlum' wagon."
Without the loss of a single day,
Capt. Arnold has been connected with the police force since Dec.
31, 1886. He has served as patrolman, mounted officer,
in the detective department, acting clerk of the City Court and
as captain of the force, in which latter capacity, he, for three
or four years, ranked next to the chief. He is still captain,
in charge of the courtroom, the jail, warrant officers, station
keepers, wagon drivers, and of the books and finances of the
Magazine Section, p. 6
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