Saw Herds of
and Lives of Citizens
Reunion Was Settled
May, 1856, Close to
BY W. S. ADAIR
parents, Athanaso and Augustine Cretien, came to Texas with the
French colonists, who settled Reunion, near Cement City, arriving
here May 10, 1856, seventy years ago this year," said George
Cretien, 647 North Tyler street. "The colonists left
France in January or February of that year, were sixty days on
the ocean and thirty days making the trip in ox wagons from Houston
to Dallas. Three months after their arrival, that is, on
Aug. 11, I was born. My mother, who had been reading Uncle
Tom's Cabin, the object of which, being in line with the sentiment
that had moved the colonists to seek a home in the wilderness
of Texas, made such a profound impression on her, that she named
me for Old George, the kindly negro character in that book. The
French people at that time were without any of the prejudice
that prevailed in this country against the negroes as a race.
They viewed them as enslaved human beings, with freedom
justly coming to them.
End of Reunion.
"It is unnecessary to go into
the history of the colony, since The News has already given a
circumstantial account of its rise and fall. The horizon of my
childhood must have inclosed a very beautiful country. I
can still see the hills and prairies covered with greenery, gemmed
with bright flowers and animated with cattle, horses, deer, turkeys
and prairie chickens, and can see the people leaving the settlement,
family after family. Some of them, upon realizing that
they could not make a living in the colony, returned to France,
but the majority of them secured employment in Dallas or Texas.
Father, who was a carpenter, found plenty of work in Dallas
after the great fire, which destroyed the town in 1860. I
have no recollection of the fire, further than that it was supposed
to have been started by negro slaves, and I suspect that that
theory of it reached me long after the event. While still
retaining his home at Reunion, father moved temporarily to Dallas
in the fall of 1861, renting a room from Maxime Guillot on the
northwest corner of Elm and Houston streets. We lived there
during the winter of 1861-1862, and moved back to Reunion in
the spring of 1862. I recall only a few trifling incidents
of our first winter in Dallas, such as the flight of a redbird
across the river at the foot of Elm street and a dead calf, which
seemed to me to be repose itself. We occupied our old home
at Reunion until 1863, when we were the only remaining family,
and the colony may be said to have ended when we moved to Dallas
that year and took part of the dwelling of A. J. Gouffe, a Frenchman,
on the northwest corner of Main and Lamar streets, the site of
which, is now included in the Sanger Building.
Original Village of Dallas.
"We lived with Mr. Gouffe
until father could build him a dwelling on the south side of
Main street, between Market and Austin, which we occupied six
or seven years. In 1868, the village of Dallas was confined
to the courthouse square, with a number of dwellings irregularly
scattered through the post oaks on the three sides of it. There
were four streets, one on each side of the courthouse, each just
one block in length. Footpaths and roads wound away in
all directions from the town through the woods. The ground
was a fine sand, light enough in dry weather to be tossed aloft
by the slightest breeze, and sticky enough in wet weather to
bog man, beast or wagon. It must have been infected with
the qualities of the famous black waxy soil, a little farther
out. There were ponds here and there through the woods,
which were full of ducks and geese in winter. I played
on the margin of the pond at Main and Austin streets, and, since
it was just across the road from our house, it has a conspicuous
place in my memory. The movement of great herds of cattle
began about 1870. On their passage from the south, they
were converged at Dallas, as being the best place to cross the
river, which they waded or swam, according to the requirements
of the stage of the stream. Herds of 2,000 or 3,000 wild longhorns
were driven right through the village, without protest, so far
as I know, from the people. Sometimes, they would stampede,
tearing down fences and overrunning yards and gardens, to say
nothing of endangering the lives of the inhabitants.
Prisoner Burns Way Out.
"I do not remember a great
deal about the early merchants. Judge J. M. Patterson and
Jack Smith were partners in a general store on the northwest
corner of Main and Houston streets. William Murphy was
among the early merchants, but at this distance, I am unable
to locate his store. Wallace Peak, elder brother of June,
Victor and Worth Peak, conducted a queensware store on the north
side of Main street, between Jefferson and Market, and it was
the only store in town that did not face the courthouse. I
remember I was puzzled to know exactly what was meant by queensware,
being too timid to ask anyone. The hotels were the Crutchfield
House on Main street, and the City Hotel, a two-story, on the
southeast corner of Commerce and Jefferson streets, afterward
called the St. Charles. Jerry Brown was one of the early
Sheriffs, but I can not recall the years he was in office, or
who preceded or succeeded him. Judge Nat M. Burford and
Judge Hardin Hart were Judges of the District Court, I think.
Many anecdotes, in regard to the humor and eccentricities
of Judge Hart, went the rounds. Judge Z. E. Coombes was
on the bench, County Judge, I suspect. Col. John C. McCoy
was a prominent lawyer and greatly beloved citizen. The
county jail was a 20x20-foot log structure, with a heavy door,
studded with nails, on the east side of Houston street, between
Jackson and Wood. It was destroyed by fire in 1868 or 1869.
There was but one prisoner in it at the time, who, oppressed
by solitary confinement, undertook to burn his way to liberty.
But, the flames grew so hot around him, that he was the
first to give the alarm by bawling for help. He was rescued,
but failed to get away. I think his offense amounted to
no more than a misdemeanor. In those days, the people were
apprised of a fire by the ringing of all the bells in town, and
by the discharge of firearms. My parents did not permit me to
go to the fire, and I had to content myself with looking at the
red sky above the burning building.
Prof. Hanna's School.
"Prof. John Hanna was one
of the pioneer school teachers. I was one of his pupils
for two years, in the Christian Church, the site of which was,
in more recent years, occupied by the old Katy freight depot
on Pacific avenue. Prof. Hanna was a noted educator, and
I am satisfied he deserved all the fame he acquired, though,
I did not appreciate him at the time. Many of the boys
and girls who were my schoolmates at this school are still living,
among them: Tom Scott, Victor Peak, H. H. Smith, Mrs. H. H. Smith,
Juliet Harwood (now Mrs. J. J. Collins), J. W. Burton, Judge
W. N. Coombes, Fayette Smith, Will Ferguson of Dallas, and Mrs.
Kanaday of Denton. The late Ripley Harwood, of Dallas,
and the late Dr. Bacon Sanders, a surgeon of Fort Worth, also
attended Prof. Hanna's school. I have no distinct recollection
of the churches in Dallas in the '60s. I remember when
the Episcopal Church, on the northwest corner of Elm and Lamar
streets, was built, and when the Rev. Mr. Davenport became rector
of it. My impression is that the Methodist Church, at Commerce
and Lamar streets, was erected after we came to Dallas, but am
Two Old-Time Tragedies.
"As a small boy, I was horrified
by two tragedies. In the summer of 1869, a man charged
with horse theft, broke and ran as Deputy Sheriff Ben Long was
taking him from the jail to the courthouse for trial. The
officer fired, and the fugitive fell face down in the tall Bermuda
grass that made the courthouse yard green. I saw the relatives
or friends of the man haul his body away in a spring wagon. I
never heard his name, if indeed anybody knew it. I was
working as apprentice in a barber shop on the east side of the
courthouse square when Charles Webb killed Charles Johnson, a
merchant, in front of the Crutchfield House in 1871. I
heard two shots, almost together, and that was all. Johnson
fell, shot through the groin, and died a few hours later. Johnson's
bullet had taken away part of Webb's chin. Johnson was
the partner of Dr. Keaton in a general store on the east side
of the courthouse. Webb's lawyers managed to keep him from
coming to trial for some time, and finally got a change of venue,
and on the way to the other county seat, his friends rescued
him from the officers, and he never more was heard of in this
part of the country.
Village Gets Wild and Woolly.
- September 12, 1926,
The Dallas Morning News,
"Dallas was as quiet, law-abiding
a community, as could be desired, until outsiders began to pour
in in anticipation of the railroads, which were heading this
way. Then, it began to fill up with saloons, gamblers and dance
halls, wild men and wilder women. But even then, it was
no worse, and no better than any other boom frontier settlement.
It seems that it takes all that sort of extravagance and
waste of exuberance, properly, to launch a metropolis."
Section 3, p. 14.
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