First Store in
County Was at
C. C. Parks, Born
Lancaster, Tells of
Early Dallas Days.
Gun Plant There
Firearms for Confed-
BY W. S. ADAIR
were few settlers in this part of the county when I was born
on Ten Mile Creek, six miles west of Lancaster, Dec. 29, 1853,
though, that was before Lancaster was started," said Capt.
C. C. Parks.
"My father, Curtis Parks,
had moved from Elliottsville, Ind., to Texas toward the end of
the '40s; I am not sure whether it was in '46 or '48, but whatever
the year, he brought his family and belongings in wagons, and,
getting hold of 640 acres of land, built him a log house and
settled, as I indicated a moment ago, on Ten-Mile Creek.
"The only store in the southern
part of the county when father came, was that of M. M. Miller,
at Pleasant Run, a mile north of the site afterward selected
for Lancaster. Mr. Miller carried no candy, if, indeed,
any country merchant did, in those days, but, not to be behind
his successors, he gave me a small paper of brown sugar the first
time I visited his store, in company with my father, that being
before the chemists had learned how to bleach and granulate sugar,
and thus to ruin it, as I can testify, for I have tasted nothing
since, that at all compared with the peculiar tang and searching
sweetness of that same plain brown sugar.
First Store in Dallas County.
"I can not say when Mr. Miller
established his store at Pleasant Run, but it has always been
my understanding that he was the first man to open a store in
Dallas County. Before there were any stores in the country,
communities of settlers were in the habit of putting their wagons
together and going in parties to Jefferson and Shreveport for
their supplies. It was with a view of saving the settlers
this trouble that Mr. Miller established his store, and it may
be truthfully said, that whether he was the first retailer in
the county or not, he was, at all event, the first jobber in
this section and in North Texas, for he sold goods in such quantities
as to amount to job lots. I am not clear whether there
was a postoffice at Pleasant Run, but as it was on the stage
line, I am inclined to think there was, and, if so, it was, no
doubt, the first postoffice established in the county. However
all this may have been, when Lancaster sprang up with two or
three stores and a postoffice, Mr. Miller went out of business,
and Pleasant Run came to an end.
"During the Civil War, the
family sent me to the postoffice at Lancaster about once a week,
and thus, I familiarized myself with such features of the village
as a small country boy could take in. Paul Henry ran the
postoffice in the back part of his general store. Other
merchants were Groves & Everts and James Lowerery. Ben
Green was the proprietor of a furniture store, and William White
was the first man in the country who had money to lend. Dr.
Moffett conducted a drug store. But, the most important
establishment in the village was Billy Mott's mill. He
ground into flour, the wheat grown within a radius of seventy-five
miles, and the finished product was sent by wagon to Houston
and Shreveport and Jefferson, those towns being the nearest markets.
Confederate Gun Factory.
"But, as an industrial plant,
Mott's mill took second place during the Civil War. Paul
Henry, who had come to the county with the French colonists who
settled Reunion, secured a contract to manufacture guns for the
Confederacy and established his factory at Lancaster. I
know nothing of the details of this, except that he gave employment
to what looked to me like a lot of men.
"Up to the end of the war,
there was not a single brick house in Lancaster. The most
substantial building was Mott's mill, a structure of stone, the
construction of which was stopped for the period of the war by
the Jack of mechanics, but which was resumed at the end of hostilities
and completed about 1865.
"My brother, J. J. Parks,
built and operated on Ten Mile Creek, one of the first gins in
the county and North Texas. In early days, cattle and horses
constituted the wealth of the country. Settlers planted
small patches of corn and oats for home consumption and a little
wheat for exportation, but were slow about growing cotton; on
which, there was little profit after they had hauled it several
hundred miles to market. But, my brother did a good business.
Farmers brought their cotton hundreds of miles to have
it ginned. His gin had a capacity of only about three bales
a day, and the result, was that he got business enough to keep
going the year round. In those days, ginners had trouble
getting rid of the cotton seed, which accumulated in heaps around
the gins and attracted cattle, which fell ravenously on it. After
the ginners had, for years, employed small boys to run the cattle
away, only to have them come right back, the tardy bright idea
occurred to some dreamer, that, after all, cotton seed might
perhaps have a food value. That set the chemists to work.
Village of Possum Trot.
"A village that has disappeared
from the map, as well as from memory, was Possum Trot, situated
one mile southeast of the present town of Red Oak. Owen
Dorsey was the first and largest merchant there, though, there
were two or three other stores, a blacksmith shop, a shoe shop
and some other establishments. Possum Trot, with a fertile
and beautiful country around it, was on the Waxahachie stage
route, and any one who had traversed the State, or, who knew
anything about Texas, could tell you where Possum Trot was. When
the Katy Railroad built south to Waco, it left Possum Trot a
mile to the south and established Red Oak station. All
the business concerns at Possum Trot, at once, moved to Red Oak,
and that was the last of Possum Trot.
"Cedar Hill must be about
as old as Lancaster, for it was a village when I was a small
boy. I remember when Cedar Hill was destroyed by a cyclone,
though I do not recall the year. Several persons were killed
and many injured. At the time, I heard the names of the
dead and injured, but have forgotten them. I think two
members of the Hart family were among the dead. The twister
made a clean sweep of the village, leaving not a single house
standing. I was playing in the yard at home when the cyclone
reached Ten Mile Creek. My sisters, who were returning
from school, came running, and one of them picked me up and carried
me into the house. The wind howled and shook the house,
filling me with fear, but did no damage beyond transporting our
smokehouse to parts unknown.
"In the early '60s, we heard
more of Waxahachie than we heard of Dallas. In fact, my
impression is that Waxahachie was the larger town at the time.
Birdville, the old county seat of Tarrant County, was a
place of some repute in our section. Fort Worth was well
known as an army post, but as a business point, was of much less
importance than Birdville. McKinney, Sherman and Paris
were good towns when Dallas was a village. There was only
an occasional house between Lancaster and Dallas in the '60s,
and Dallas appeared to me to be a village, with little, if any,
edge on Lancaster.
Flourishing Terminal Towns.
- September 19, 1926,
The Dallas Morning News,
"When the construction of
the Houston & Texas Central Railroad was resumed after the
war, some bustling towns sprang up along the route. I was
familiar with many of the terminal towns as they bloomed and
faded, from Calvert, this way. All the wagon trade of Central,
North and Northwest Texas that had once gone to Houston, and
much of it that had gone to Shreveport and Jefferson, was concentrated
at H. & T. C. terminal points as they moved slowly north.
I saw trains of thirty and forty wagons coming and going. There
was plenty of money in circulation, and saloons and gambling
halls flourished. When the railroad established a
new terminal point, everybody moved, leaving the abandoned town
dead as a doornail, and, in many instances, without hope of resurrection.
When the railroad would announce a new terminal, the merchants
would send men ahead to put up shacks for their new quarters,
so as to be ready to move promptly, in order to catch the wagon
trade, and the floating population could be depended on to follow
the town. Corsicana was a flourishing town, and Ennis prospered
for a time, and even Hutchins saw bright days while the railroad
was laboriously under construction across the river bottoms.
But, the larger merchants in the moving towns skipped Ennis
and Hutchins, and moved from Corsicana to Dallas. I think
their combined capital exceeded that of the old merchants here.
"Beginning in the later '70s,
I visited the various mining towns and camps of the country,
starting at Deadwood and including Leadville, Ouray, Aspen, Telluride,
Salt Lake City, Ogden and Cripple Creek, and got as far as Nome,
in Alaska. Both, here in Texas, in early days, and in the
mining regions, later own, people got along peaceably. This
was chiefly due to the fact that a clash over even a small matter
was a serious affair. It meant a shooting, for people did
not settle difficulties with their fists, and they usually thought
a matter over seriously before they started anything."
Sec. III, p. 10, col. 1.
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