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BACK IN 1860


Mrs. Martin Came to
Texas in Carriage in
Previous Year.



No Stoves, No Lamps,
None of Modern Day


      Mrs. Eliza Jane Martin, who has been a resident of Dallas County since 1859, celebrated the ninetieth anniversary of her birth at her home, 930 Mount Auburn avenue, Oct. 11.
     Her ancestors, English and Welsh, came to America in Colonial times and moved to Tennessee soon after the Revolutionary War.  Her father, Gen. John Brown, took part in the Indian War, stirred up by Tecumseh at the instigation of the British, in 1813-1814.  When Gen. Jackson called for volunteers to go against the Creek Indians after the massacre at Fort Mimms, Gen. Brown raised and equipped, at his own expense, a regiment which he commanded under Gen. Jackson at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend of the Tallapoosa River, where the power of the Creeks was broken.  When Gen. Jackson became President, he induced the Legislature of Tennessee to indemnify Gen. Brown for his outlay on this regiment.  Sam Houston, hero of San Jacinto, served as Second Lieutenant in Col. Brown's regiment at the Horseshoe Bend fight.

Old Times in the South.
     "A great change has come over the country and over the world in my time," said Mrs. Martin.  "When I was a girl, there were no railroads, and not even any buggies, though, a family here and there had a carriage.  The women, as well as the men, traveled on horseback, but used a saddle of the awkwardest possible contrivance.  Good saddle bags were in request everywhere. Cincinnati was the great horse market; the whole South went there for both saddle and draft horses.
    "There were no stoves for either heating or cooking: the open fireplace, which served for both purposes, was full of hooks, cranes and racks to hold the pots over the coals; and the skillets and ovens were equipped with long handles.  I can remember even before candle molds were introduced, when candles were made by dipping the wick into hot tallow, until enough of the grease adhered to make a candle of the proper thickness.  I was just about grown when I saw the first kerosene lamp.
    "With the exception of a little finery for the well-to-do, the wearing apparel was all homemade.  To be dressed up in those days, a man had to have on a broadcloth suit.  The broadcloth was imported and made up by local tailors.  I think the standard price of a suit of broadcloth was $50.
     "In 1856, I was married to William P. Martin, a veteran of the Mexican War.  In 1859, we set out for Texas.  For the trip, Mr. Martin went to Cincinnati and bought eight draft mares, the best to be had.  We loaded our belongings into three or four new wagons, topped with waterproof canvas, and headed the procession in a new carriage, which we bought at Knoxville, Tenn.  We had ten or eleven negroes.  Mr. Martin left it to them to say whether they would come with us to Texas, or be disposed of to our neighbors.  All but one man voted to come to Texas.  This man had a free wife and, as Texas had a law forbidding free negroes to cross its borders, he could not bring his spouse with him.  We, accordingly, left him behind.
    "We were six weeks on the way to Texas.  The road, or trail, was full of covered wagons bound for this State.  The ferry at Little Rock could not set them across the river as fast as they came and we were delayed there a whole day.  The country was sparsely settled.  We were unable to get milk, eggs or butter after we left Memphis.  We went into camp and rested every Sunday.

Saw Dallas Burn in 1860.
     "We came to Dallas County, stopping with Capt. William McKamey at Renner.  Capt. McKamey was the father of W. C. McKamey, ex-State Senator, who still lives at Renner.
     "In July of the following year, I made my first trip to Dallas, coming in the carriage to do some shopping.  We intended to stop over Sunday at the Crutchfield House, but Dr. Thomas, the druggist, an old friend of our family, would not hear of it, insisting that we put at his house.
     "Next morning, the sun came up hot as a furnace.  I remember the day, yet, as the hottest in my experience.  About noon, an alarm of fire was sounded.  Looking out, we saw several store buildings going up in smoke and blaze.  We all got busy in the effort to save the furniture in Dr. Thomas' house, which seemed to be threatened.  I was not familiar enough with the village to enable to give a circumstantial account of the fire, but I think all the buildings on the public square were burned, including the Crutchfield House.  The courthouse, which was of brick, escaped, as did also Dr. Thomas' dwelling, from which we were at so much pains to remove the furniture.
     "One of our negro girls, Mary, was hired as servant to Capt. Swindells, the editor.  She was in town and knew what was going on among the negroes.  She, afterward, told me the fire was certainly started by discontented slaves, instigated by Northern white men who had been preaching arson to them.  The Dallas News, several times, has printed accounts of the fire from persons in a position to know much more about it than I know.
     "In 1860, Mr. Martin took a fancy to a body of 400 acres of land, part of which, is now occupied by the Mount Auburn addition.  Land all around it was to be had for $3 an acre, but Jack Smith, owner of this tract, asked $12 an acre for it.  Mr. Martin said it was worth $3 an acre more than any other land in this part of the country, and he took it.  We built a dwelling at a point now marked by the intersection of Mount Auburn avenue and Gunter street, and, I may say in passing, that I have lived there ever since -- not always in the same house, but, part of the time in the more modern one on the same site.  Our home was certainly in the midst of a beautiful landscape until the city began to encroach on it.
     "We were so far from the markets as to render farming unprofitable, and the few settlers did not have a great deal of land in cultivation.  The wealth of the country was in cattle and horses, which subsided on the native grass which grew rank on the prairies.  It was not discovered until later that the black-waxy lands were capable of growing the finest cotton in the world.  The country was full of game -- deer, turkeys and prairie were to be seen in any direction you turned your eyes.

Dallas Village Recovers.
     "The village of Dallas soon recovered from the fire.  I have no idea what the loss was, but it could not have been great, as losses are rated today.  There were only a few stores.  The buildings were cheap shacks and the stocks of goods small.  It continued to be a mere village of less importance than Lancaster until after the Civil War.  It was without a church when we settled at Mount Auburn.  The representatives of the various denominations had occasional services, which they held in the courthouse or at private residences, as a room in an ordinary dwelling afforded ample room to seat the largest congregation any denomination could muster.  Later, the Methodists built a church at Commerce and Lamar streets, and the Episcopalians, a church at Elm and Lamar Streets.
     "Mr. Martin was not in favor of starting the Civil War.  He talked against secession, for he thought war could bring disaster to both sides, and to the entire country.  War among our own people, he said, would be very different from a war between Nations, such as that between the United States and Mexico, in which he had served.  But, when he said it had to come, he sided with the South, and to the front in Gen. R. M. Gano's command, and died while in the service in Arkansas, in 1864.  When he was getting ready to go to the war, he asked if any of our negroes were willing to accompany him as his servant, explaining to them that he was going to fight against setting the negroes free.  One of the number, Dick, as faithful a man as ever lived, volunteered to go, promising to stay with him.  True to his word, he remained with him, nursed him during his illness and brought his body home.

How Slaves Were Treated.
    "As far as my observation went, the negro slaves were not mistreated.  It has been said, that where they were worked on large plantations, away from their masters and under overseers, they were subjected to brutal treatment.  But, this was not the case where they were worked in smaller numbers on farms, as in Kentucky and Tennessee, and lived in the same yard with the families of their masters.  They were well fed, warmly clad and loafed and idled away a great deal of time.
     "When we were preparing to move from Tennessee to Texas, Mr. Martin was mindful of our negroes, telling them they could come with us or remain there, as they chose.  After Mr. Martin had gone to the war, our negro men came in a body to me and bade me make myself perfectly easy on their account, assuring me that nothing could happen to me, as long as one of them could stand up to defend me. They remained on the place until they were set free, and after that, became the best tenants we ever had on our lands."

- October 17, 1926, The Dallas Morning News,
Section III, p. 8.
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