VISITOR TO DALLAS
YEARS AGO RECOUNTS REMINISCENCES OF
Out of the "prairie
primeval," Dallas has developed in the span of eighty-eight
years. And, "these eyes have seen it," J. L.
Williams, of Dallas, might say. At least, for sixty-three
years since, he was journeying in his father's covered wagon
toward Missouri from Caldwell County, Texas, when he first visited
Dallas. As he relates:
"At length, we reached a hilltop
west of Dallas, overlooking the city and a vast expanse of the
Trinity River, that, at this time, reached from the town to the
foothills, on top of which, we were camped. We stayed on
that hilltop for most of a week, waiting for the water to get
back into the channel, that we might reach the ferry boat."
"That ferry docked where the foot
of Commerce street now is. Within the channel, the ferry
reached more than halfway across the river and was propelled
but a very few feet, until Mr. Williams and his father's party
landed on the muddy shore of the town, Dallas. Their four
oxen stuck in the mud when about halfway up the bank, and the
party made its entry into Dallas with the aid of another yoke
of oxen, borrowed from fellow-travelers who had preceded them
in reaching the town square."
And this is how Dallas, now the accepted
metropolis of the Southwest, looked in those days, according
to Mr. Williams.
"As I now recall, there was a square
surrounding the courthouse, consisting mostly of one-story frame
buildings and the Crutchfield Hotel, which was a two-story affair,
painted cream or yellow. We remained there an hour or so,
posted some letters to friends, bought some navy beans and a
pot to cook them in and, if my memory serves me right, we bought
the articles mentioned, some postage stamps and mailed the letters
all under the same roof."
They continued on their journey through
Richardson and visited there for several days with relatives,
then their oxen plodded on through Sherman over the old Preston
road to Denison, into Indian Territory and Arkansas to Springfield,
Mo., their destination.
"This was a very slow, tedious journey,"
Mr. Williams says now, "and required almost two months with
our oxen-propelled prairie schooner in 1866. By way of
comparison, we covered the distance from Dallas to Springfield
recently in an automobile, in twenty hours."
His favorite story of his boyhood days
in Lockhart, Caldwell County, where he was born in 1858, concerns
the trip his father made to Bastrop County to obtain lime for
mortar in building a chimney.
"It was some time in June[?],"
he relates, "and my father had left home with the team of
oxen and the wagon early in the morning, in order to return before
the hottest hours of the day. He was to bring a load of
burned, but unslaked, lime rock.
Story of Hairless Oxen.
- October 13, 1929,
The Dallas Morning News, p. 21.
"As he neared home, something like
a mile away, he had to cross a creek, which, at this time, stood
in pools. The road curved around the tank to the bed of
the creek. The oxen were exceedingly warm, so much so,
they were lolling their tongues about. When in such a condition,
with a pool of water just ahead, they recognize no curves or
the height of the bank above the creek bed, but will go directly
to the water off a ten-foot perpendicular bank.
"This they did, drawing the wagon
load of unslaked lime after them. It is needless to say,
they did not tarry long in the pool. Instantly, the lime
began to slake and the pool was soon bubbling like a soap kettle
with a fire of pine knots burning under it. As the oxen
came ashore, dragging the wagon gear, minus the boards and lime,
the show had just started. All around the pool, running
in every direction to get away from the seething cauldron, were
alligators of all sizes, from little ones just out of the shell,
"And, was this the end? Oh,
no. In about ten days, the old oxen, which were of a deep
red color, began to turn to a very ashen red and their hair curled
forward toward their heads and finally sheared off, leaving their
backs as bare as the hippo's, and their tails resembled two broomsticks,
and just about as devoid of hair."
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