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Great Road of
Republic of Texas,
Started From Cabin of
John Neely Bryan.

By W. S. ADAIR

     Ed F. Bates, who has been a resident of Denton County for more than seventy years, has a fund of first-hand information in regard to the development of North Texas, that is, perhaps, second to that of no other individual.  In 1916, he wrote for the Old Settlers' Association of Denton County, a volume entitled "The History and Reminiscences of Denton County," which will, no doubt, prove valuable to the future historian of pioneer times.  With his parents, he settled in Denton County in 1851.  Their first home was in the old Tom West log cabin, one and a half miles west of Hebron, and one mile east of Stewartsville, and he has continued to live in the county to this day.
     "At that time, the office of the Peters Colony was at Stewartsville, which was near the center of the lands of the colony," said Mr. Bates.  "The district of the colony was about 100 miles square.  Oliver Hedgecoke was the agent of the colony, and the Hon. S. A. Venters was the secretary.  They were engaged in sectionizing the lands.  The Republic reserved the odd or alternate sections.  In them, the settler rebelled against the manner in which they were treated by the colony, and in a body, marched on the office, but failed to find the papers, which had been removed, a courier having apprised Mr. Hedgecoke of the approach of the settlers.
     "The field notes, however, were delivered to the State when the colony withdrew, and the settlers had their way, after all.  William Nash (Pegleg Willie, as they called him), Commissioner of the General Land Office, visited, in person, every county seat in the colony, and wrote up the applications of the settlers, permitting them to select their lands wherever they pleased, and issuing them patents for the land.  Hence, from Cedar Hill, north to Red River, the farms are in all sorts of shapes, to the confusion of the builders of good straight roads."
     Mr. Bates, who has been familiar with Dallas from a time ante-dating the great flood of 1866, said: "Dallas has always seen visions, and, why not?  Vision must always precede attainment, and, therefore, the more visions, provided they be coupled with intelligent planning, the better and the faster the development.  Dallas has had many slogans to spur the people on to victory, such as 'Dallas Needs It,' 'Dallas Must Have it,' 'Dallas Will get It,' and to cap the climax, 'It's in Dallas.'  I have always watched Dallas grow, and helped her, in a way.  Is it wrong to say that the spirit of Dallas' first descended on John Neely Bryan?  The Republic of Texas, being badly in need of population, sought to encourage immigration by opening a highway.  Accordingly, on Oct. 4, 1844, the Congress of the Republic passed an act providing for the establishment of a highway, to be known as the central national highway of the Republic of Texas, to begin within fifteen miles below the mouth of Big Elm, and to run north to Red River, at a point opposite the mouth of Kiomatia River.  James Wilson and William M. Williams, of Lamar County, John Terry of Fannin County, Roland Bax, of Harrison County, and James Shaw of Nacogdoches County, were appointed commissioners to survey and locate the highway.

John Neely Bryan as a Boomer.
     "We may be confident that John Neely Bryan went after this road for the village, afterward, called Dallas.  We can picture him before the commissioners, and hear him say: 'Gentlemen, I occupy the bank of the river, five miles below Big Elm.  Make that the starting point of your highway.  I will provide a public ferry across the river.  Whatever the facts may be, the road started from John Neely Bryan's cabin, with the result that the entire incoming traffic over the highway fell into the lap of the future great.
     "Through the advertising of the Peters Colony, Preston road soon became known throughout the North and East.  The road was along the high ridge that transverses the territory, with no stream more formidable than Turtle Creek to cross, and, therefore, with no bridges to build, through the whole length of the ninety miles between Dallas and Preston.  The road threaded, or rather, overlooked, a region of indescribable primitive beauty and grandeur, peopled by millions of buffaloes, deer and antelope, and by turkeys and prairie chickens, as the sands of the sea for multitude.  All this has since been subdued to the uses of civilization and made tributary to the city of Dallas.

First Methodist Missionary.
     "The East Texas Conference of the Methodist Church, in 1847, made this appointment: 'Bonham and Dallas Mission -- Daniel Payne (P. E.), Joab Biggs and M. F. Call (P. C.),' and, in 1848, made this appointment, 'Dallas Mission -- Joab Biggs, preacher in charge).' The Rev. Joab Biggs, at Dallas, sowed the seeds of righteousness, which fell on good ground and which brought forth fruits a hundredfold, as witness the Southern Methodist University, which is 'in Dallas,' and which sends bishops to China, Korea and Japan.  Let me predict that S. M. U. will soon erect on its campus, a monument to Joab Brigg, the first Methodist missionary to Dallas.  The Rev. Joab Biggs was not a great theologian.  He was a missionary sent to preach to the common people, and he preached with an unction from on high.  Often, I saw and heard him weep, and heard him shout for joy in his pulpit, and this is part of what they mean when they sing nowadays, 'Tis the Old Time Religion.'
     "I have often visited Dallas.  I have seen it develop from a village on the banks of the Trinity into the great metropolis, extending miles from the river.  I have seen it wet, and seen it dry, and there found much to amuse and entertain me, for Dallas has always been long on diversions.  In June, 1866, it fell into my lot to journey South to bring home a wounded soldier boy.  On the way, I stopped overnight at Dallas, putting up with Captain William Patillo, a refugee of John Morgan's regiment.  He lived on the bank of the river, just north of the courthouse, by the village graveyard, among the blackjack saplings. The next morning, we crossed the river just below the ferry, the water being about knee deep to our horses.  The stream did not look much like it would ever float Commodore, S. W. S. Duncan's steamer Harvey.  No more were there any evidences within the rim of the horizon of the future great metropolis.

Biggest Flood.
     "I was in Dallas the following year, just after the great flood of 1866.  That was probably the greatest freshet the Trinity has ever put on.  Out on Dallas branch, on McKinney road, there was a wool roll factory in a concrete building.  The water rose to a depth of two feet on the second floor of this building.  I saw the water mark in the building afterward.  During this flood, the steamer Harvey could have floated above the O. K. Harry's iron foundry.
     "In early days, Elm Flats were covered with the bleached bones of buffaloes, and with their rusty, stump horns, showing clearly that the bison had migrated to and fro across the country for ages.  I have repeatedly seen the statement in print that the Indians never killed any more buffaloes than were necessary to supply them with food. This statement is hardly reconcilable with the existence of so many bones.  Like the geese and the ducks, which came and went in such countless numbers, the buffaloes went north in the spring and came south in the fall.  The Indians followed in their wake, taking their meat; the squaws, with their ponies, papooses and wigwams, bringing up the rear of the ceaseless migration, north to south, and south to north, as the seasons and the movement of the buffaloes dictated."

- September 10, 1922, The Dallas Morning News,
Fiction, Fact, Literary & Society Section, p. 6, col. 5-8.
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