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Straw Put on
Early Street
Car Floors


Hugo Arons Tells When
Dallas Had 8,000


Saloons Plentiful

Sale of Land on Elm for
$20,000 Was Talk of
Entire Town.


     "Dallas amounted to very little when I arrived in 1877," said Hugo Arons, 2614 1/2 Elm street.  "I had made a nonstop journey from Germany to join my uncle, Louis Arons, who had already been here so long, that he considered himself an old-timer.  The business houses, mostly twenty-five-foot, one-story structures, were confined to Main and Elm streets, west of Murphy, and to the courthouse square, with no lack of vacant lots among them.  Then, there was a long jump to the Union Depot, where there was a small group of what passed for business houses, but what, in reality, were saloons, with some restaurants and lodging houses.
     "The two bunches of business houses were connected by a street railway line that went up and downhill on Main street.  The cars were pulled by two, tired-looking little mules.  In dry weather, the passengers got as dusty as millers, and in wet weather, the dust condensed to a mud that was as adhesive as if the soil had blown from the cement plants.  The railway company placed straw in the cars to keep the feet of the passengers from sticking fast to the floor, and planks between the rails to prevent the mules from sinking below ground.
     "No attempt had been made to bring any of the streets to grade, much less to pave them, or even to lay permanent sidewalks.  A merchant here and there had had the enterprise to put down a board walk in front of his place of business.  This served not only to keep pedestrians dry shod, but also to provide a harbor for rats, which often ran out as you clattered over the boards.

Picturesque Bandits.
     "The gambling houses were all running in the most open and impudent way: you could hear the dealers crying the keno game as you walked along the street.  Saloons were everywhere, with variety theaters wedged in at intervals.  The streets were poorly lighted by little gas lamps, but that did not prevent the town from being livelier at night -- and all night -- than it was in the day time.  Most of the men carried pistols, which, by the way of bravado and warning to all whom it might concern, they called guns.  There were plenty of bad men, but they had not yet conceived the idea of commercializing their depravity by turning hijackers; they seem to have aspired merely to be killers, for the sake of killing.  The bandit belonged to a different order of outlawry; there was something knightly, Robin Hoody, or, at least picturesque, about him.  The little hijacker, who came on the scene more recently, seeks to combine the occupations of the bad man and the bandit.  The original bandit was inclined to help the little fellow along, rather than to rob him, and tackled nothing less able to stand the loss, than a bank or an express company or the Federal Government, itself.
     "I went to work for Col. George F. Alford, who dealt in buggies and wagons, on the north side of Main street, between Lamar and Austin streets.  He was a gentleman of the old school, whose fortune the Civil War had swept away, and who was trying to retrieve it.  His sons, Ap., Gene and George, settled in Idaho, and, I understand, have done well.  Sanger Bros. had a small store on Elm street in the present Sanger block; Schneider & Davis, wholesale grocers, occupied the southwest corner of Lamar and Elm.  Other wholesale grocers were T. L. Marsalis and Garlington & Underwood.  The Grand Windsor Hotel had just been opened and was considered the finest hostelry in North Texas.  The Field Opera House, on the south side of Main street, near the middle of The News block, and still standing, was where all the great actors of the time appeared.  The hardware merchants were W. A. Rodgers in the Sanger block and Huey & Philp, at Elm and Griffin street.  Ike Israelsky ran a dry goods store on the southeast corner of Elm and Austin street, and C. M. Wheat, a similar establishment, on the north side of Elm, a block west of Austin.  Adam & Leonard's Bank was on the northwest corner of Elm and Austin, with a printing office over it.  The leading restaurant was owned by Mrs. Livingston, on the present site of the North Texas Building.  The most popular beer establishment was Apollo Hall, Leopold Bohny, proprietor, northwest corner Main and Poydras, where an orchestra played till 12 o'clock every night, and where several hundred seats were free.  Bohny had no opposition till S. Mayer opened Mayer's Garden, on the north side of Elm street, at the head of Stone street, in the early '80s.  Mayer imported Meine Brothers' band and orchestra, occasionally introduced a singer or a vaudeville performance, and made the first attempt to establish a zoo in Dallas.  But, Meisterhans' Garden, on Bryan street, near St. Paul Sanitarium, was long in high favor, where there was never any carousing, and where men went for a quiet Sunday.  When I came, the postoffice was on the corner now occupied by the Criminal Courts building, but the business of the town was going east on Main and Elm streets.  Murphy street had just been opened from Main street to Elm.  T. L. Marsalis had moved his wholesale grocery to the northeast corner of Main and Murphy, and Dave Goslin had moved his china hall to the Elm street end of the same building.  These men and their neighbors, wishing to pull the town in that direction, got the postoffice moved to a building on the south side of Main street, two doors east of Linz Brothers' store.  The water supply came from Browder Springs, in the City Park.  The stand pipe, high above everything else in town, towered at Main and Harwood streets, serving as a middle distance for the sky in that direction.

Boys From East Fork.
     "In 1877, there were residences on big lots on both sides of Main street, between Harwood street and the Central Railroad.  Dr. Ewell, a fine old gentleman, had his dwelling in the middle of the block on the north side of Main street, between St. Paul and Harwood, and owned the block.  The Sun Hotel, which looked as if it were trying to get out on the street, was on the northeast corner of the Ewell block.  A big wagonyard occupied the greater part of the block on the north side of Elm, east of Harwood.  Mr. Barr, the owner of the wagon yard, sold the land to Major Caven, and later on, the Major sold it to the Anheuser-Busch Company for $20,000.  The sale was the talk of the town, for it appeared to most of us conservatives that the purchasers were insane.  I imagine $500,000 would not touch the property today.  The land east of the Houston & Texas Central Railroad was full of cattle pens, hog pens, pastures and corn fields; with Carter's stockyards, at Elm and Crowdus, as the highlight.  There, the local butchers and other buyers of cattle and sheep met the producers and made their trades, and there, the boys from Scyene and East Fork rode their horses into the saloon and yelled and fired their pistols, as they galloped up and down the road.  The boys did carry on outrageously and gave the place a bad name, but there was little, if any, bloodshed out that way, except at the butchers' slaughter houses, and I am inclined to think that the boys were like a great many other people, in that they desired credit for qualities which they did not really possess.  They were bad, only in form; at heart, I think they were a very good set of fellows.

Mother McCormick.
    "Jacob Nussbaumer had a pasture and a slaughter house southeast of the stockyards, and a meat market downtown.  Other prominent butchers in 1877, were Louie Lenwey, whose market was on Main street in the Sanger block, and Mr. Oppenheim, whose market occupied the lower floor of the City Hall, at Main and Akard streets. Mother McCormick, a remarkable woman, ran a brickyard on East Elm street and built the stone house still standing at Elm and Crowdus streets.  She was not only a financier, but a mechanic, and full of energy.  She always did more work than any mechanic or laborer she employed, and did it better than they.  She laid, with her own hands, the greater part of the stones in the building.  Another widely known character we had on East Elm for some time, was the feed store man, known as Arkansaw J. J. Osborn.  He had, from an early day, run a feed store on the courthouse square, where he sold to the covered-wagon people.  In the course of a few years, hijackers held him up four or five times, never getting less than $200 or $300 from him.  They seemed to keep an eye on him and to know when he was ripe for a touch.  He finally moved his establishment to Ross and Central avenues, and was one day found dead in his store.  Cook & Holman established a lumber yard near the stockyards in the eighties, and about the same time, Holloway erected the building for his seed store at Elm and Crowdus.  Elliott's lumber yard and planing mill, at Hawkins street and Central avenues, was there at an early day.
     "By 1880, a string of business shacks had appeared on both sides of Elm street, west of the Union Depot.  Barney Brin erected a two-story brick on the present Dysterbach corner and opened in it, the first store in that neighborhood.  Soon afterward, Mrs. Burton put up a two-story brick store, three doors west of the Brin building. Between these buildings and the railroad, there was a lumber yard. Fire, starting in the lumber yard, one day, destroyed the stock of lumber and the row of shacks on the west side of the Union Depot platform, including the Strother Hotel and a dozen saloons.  The Union Depot, in those days, was the busiest spot in Dallas, and the saloon and small restaurant business was brisk.  Mike Rowan's saloon, on the corner, near which, there was a variety theater, was a popular resort.
     "I went into the hardware business for myself in 1885, and have been in it, continuously, ever since.  I am the oldest hardware merchant in town.  There were hardware stores here before my time, but none of the hardware merchants are living.  When I came, there were between 7,000 and 8,000 people in Dallas.  I see, by The News, one day last week, that we now have 225,000.  My private opinion, is that it would be easier to prove that we have 225,000, now, than it would have been to prove that we had 8,000 in 1877."

- August 12, 1928, The Dallas Morning News,
Automobile Section, p. 7, col. 1-3.
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