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Carried Mail Across
Muddy Fields Where
Skyscrapers Now Rise

BY W. S. ADAIR

     "After a connection of forty-five years with the Dallas postoffice, I was retired on the first day of this month," said J. H. Jackson, 1909 Latimer street.  "I came to Texas from the old home of the family in Wilson County, Tennessee, in 1880.  My cousin, Tom Dally, had come and settled in Dallas County a short time before that.  His sisters, Kate and Sallie, came with me, and joined him here.  Later on, Kate became the wife of John Chenault, who had a ranch of 1,000 acres, which took in the present White Rock reservoir.  At that time, there was some doubt as to whether this land would produce anything except the hardy native grasses.  But, it soon was demonstrated that it was excellent farm land.  Now, the greater part of it is high-class city property.
     "I got work as a farmhand with Beverly Hart, near the present town of Reinhardt, though that was before the Santa Fe had been surveyed out that way, and, of course, before there was any call for Reinhardt station.  Good farm land in that locality was valued at about $2 an acre, which seemed to me a rattling good price for it, measured by current cotton quotations.  I plowed and chopped and hauled cotton for Mr. Hart for two years.  Seeing no future in the line of work I had taken up, I concluded to seek something more promising in Dallas.  I got board with Nathan Yeargan, father of the late John Yeargan, who lived on Cedar Springs road, where Maple avenue now crosses that highway, then some distance from town.

Getting a Start.
     "In looking about, I met Joe Carson, who had no difficulty in persuading me that there was all kinds of money in the restaurant business, and added that he could speedily show me, if I would merge my savings with his, and take a vacant stand he knew of on North Lamar street, between Elm street and Pacific avenue.  That was in the fall of 1883, when Dallas seemed as dead as a doornail, and, moreover, was before the restaurant business had been commercialized, and when nobody expected to pay more than 25¢ for a feed in a restaurant of the rank of ours.  In fact, most of our customers got off with 10¢ or 15¢.  The town was full of private and public boarding houses which charged only $3.50 a week for meals.  It took us only about three weeks to accumulate proof sufficient to convince us that we could not make a go of the restaurant business.
     "In purchasing supplies for our ill-starred venture, I made the acquaintance of M. D. Garlington, who ran a produce house on the south side of Elm street, next block west of the Sanger block, and, who gave me a job.  Mr. Garlington took an interest in me, and he and the late Judge R. B. Seay, who had been my neighbor in Tennessee, got me a place in the postoffice, under Postmaster L. S. Garrrison.  Mr. Garrison was also agent for the Pacific Express Company and had no difficulty, so far as I ever heard, of making a go of both jobs.  The postoffice had been recently moved from the Linz block, on Main street, to the southeast corner of Elm and Akard street.  I began as general delivery clerk.  In July or August , 1885, John H. Cochran, appointed by Grover Cleveland, succeeded Mr. Harrison as postmaster.  When Mr. Cochran took charge, the postoffice had a total of fifteen employes, including seven carriers.  Mr. Cochran put on three additional carriers.
     "As one of the three, I took what we called the North Dallas route.  I went all the way from the river, out Ross avenue to Pearl street, thence across to McKinney avenue and out McKinney to Fairmount avenue, and thence to Long's Lake, Clifton stock farm, and back, by way of the Turtle Creek pumping station and the Max Hahn packing plant.  My route was a circle.  Beginning on the periphery of it, I narrowed it down, as the Indians did in making an attack, until I reached the center.  The town was not much built up out that way in those days.  There were corn and cotton fields, gardens and orchards, pastures and waste places -- it was really a rural route.  But, such as it was, I made two trips over it every day for twenty years, and no doubt carried a mixture of joy and sorrow, good news and bad, to the people who looked to me to bring them news from the outside world.
     "You can have no idea, how much like homefolks the people on my route became to me, and how familiar every natural object and every turn in the road, and how much like a traitor I felt when I left them to become collector on Main, Elm and Commerce streets, from Central avenue to the river.  But, shorter hours and a little better pay are capable of working wonders.  On this job, I worked from 4 o'clock in the afternoon until midnight, and held it until January, 1913, when the postoffice began to handle parcel post packages.  I took charge of this department of the office and I delivered all the packages the office received for the first week.  The first parcel post package that came to Dallas was for the Dallas Gas Company.
     "I continued with the parcel post department until the office put on the big trucks after the World War, when I took a position as carrier on the Mount Auburn route.  From that, I was transferred to a South Dallas route.  Five years ago, I was changed to the Praetorian Building block, and I had everything in the block except the Wilson Building, which is a route itself.  Here again, I made two deliveries a day.  When the occupants of the Praetorian Building heard that I was retiring from the service, they framed a letter praising me for the good service I had rendered them, and all signed it.

Under Thirteen Postmasters.
     "I was connected with the postoffice forty-five years, seven months and seventeen days; serving under thirteen postmasters: L. S. Garrison, John H. Cochran, John S. Witwer, W. M. C. Hill, Major William M. O'Leary, Albert Joyce, acting postmaster for Major O'Leary's unexpired term; D. A. Robinson, Sloan Simpson, George Rockholds, B. M. Burgher, John W. Philp, Bruce Luna, acting postmaster, and George C. Young.  From one angle, it does not seem so long since I was a boy taking orders from Mr. Garlington or Mr. Garrison, but when I glance at the plate glass of a street window where I have just seen a flapper take a look at herself, and notice how I have changed since that time, and when I reflect that most of the postmasters under whom I have worked and most of the men with whom I have been associated in the service, are dead, or as good as dead, I am startled and moved to wonder what it is all about anyhow.
     "I was among the bystanders who, encouraged by their presence and moral support, the laborers, who put down the first bois d'arc pavement in Dallas.  Before that, and for some time later, it was nothing to see abandoned wagons stuck in the mud around the Sanger block, or pedestrians wading from street to street, in search of the shallowest place in the mud to effect a crossing.  At night, the streets were illuminated by an occasional gas lamp, which did not shed much more light than an old-time tallow-dip candle.  There were several prosperous gambling places, with rows of saloons on the way from one to another, and here and there, a variety theater, headed by that which bore the name of Johnny Thompson, next door to the St. George Hotel.  All these were good places for a man or boy to get quick action on his wages or salary.  The patrons of these places, in company with many others, kept an eye on the Louisiana lottery, which had a drawing every month, and a dollar ticket which gave the holder a chance to draw $15,000.  Who would not take a chance?  The dreams such a chance induced were worth the money.  The law has not stopped drinking and gambling -- it has merely put them out of the reach of the man of small means.

The News Starts Something.
     "The Herald was the morning newspaper, and the Times had the evening field in the days of muddy streets and gas lamps.  The population was so thin, that neither publication had much of a circulation, and advertising was so ill understood, that a few columns carried all that the merchants had to say in display type.  It is all wrong to say that the old-time merchant did not advertise, because he could not conscientiously recommend the goods he had for sale, for, in those days, men often wore the same suit of clothes and the same hat and shoes for a period of several years.
     "But, there was a big change in the newspaper business when The Morning News began in the fall of 1885.  By way of clearing the field for action, The News bought the Herald outright, and employed the late Col. W. G. Sterrett, who was all there ever was of the Times.  The town immediately began to show signs of renewed life.  By the next year, the business men thought it safe to start the State Fair.  This turned the eyes of the whole country on Dallas, and the growth of the metropolis has, ever since, been the wonder of the Southwest.  Since I went to work at the postoffice, the number of carriers has been increased from 7 to 206, with 40 subcarriers, and the total number of people connected with the office, from 15 to around 800, and the population of the city has jumped from 12,000 or 15,000, to more than 300,000."

- September 14, 1930, The Dallas Morning News,
p. 1; cont. on p. 4.
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