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