A. W. Capy, Born
Dallas in 1863, Tells
Good as Citizens
Most of Population
Was Killing Indians
BY W. S. ADAIR
parents, Charles and Nativa Capy, came to Texas with the French
colonists who settled at Reunion, near the present town of Cement
City, in 1855," A. W. Capy of 4811 Junius street, said.
"The colony, which was an attempt to put into practice
the theory current at the time in France that communism would
bring about the happiest state of society, proved a failure,
but whether because of a defect in the theory, or the absence
of some of the necessary conditions of success, I shall not undertake
"Some of the settlers went
back to France, some remained on the spot, and some found employment
in Dallas. My parents crossed the river and became residents
of Dallas, occupying a house on the ground now occupied by the
Jefferson Hotel, and there I was born in 1863. Of course,
I heard all about the colony when I was a small boy, but I was
heedless, not being interested, and what little of it lodged
in my memory, has become so dim, as to be worthless as history.
My mother, still living in Dallas, is one of the few survivors
of the ill-fated colony. She is 83 years old and quite
"As I understand, the French
colonists were the first to plant gardens and orchards in this
part of the country, which they cultivated according to the intensive
methods that had been worked out to meet the conditions in crowded
Europe. The natives, who were mostly American frontiersmen,
were interested primarily in fighting Indians and chasing buffalo.
Whatever they had done in the way of cultivating gardens
and crops was a secondary affair. The breaking up of the
colony also supplied the country with mechanics who had been
regularly trained in Europe, and were, for that reason, we may
suppose, somewhat more expert than just anyone who may take to
the saw and hatchet. Thus, while the skill of these gardeners,
orchardists and mechanics went for nothing, as far as the colony
was concerned, it was a real contribution to the rising town
Built Homes of Stone.
"Instead of logs, the French
colonists used the native white rock as building material. They
did not know how to build a log cabin, but they did know how
to pound the soft rocks into fragments and dust and then to solidify
again the fragments and dust by means of lime water, making wood
frames to hold the walls up until the mass would harden or set,
in the same way that builders nowadays proceed in getting cement
walls to stand. Rubble was the name by which such buildings
were designated. Several of them stood as monuments to
the French for forty or fifty years. There was one on Cochran
street, about a block east of Lamar; another, on the south side
of Bryan street, at or near the intersection of Harwood, and
a third, a two-story, hexagon shape, that stood back in the yard,
on the south side of Ross avenue, between Lamar and Griffin streets,
and long used as a rooming-house. But, they all have disappeared.
"The Dallas I knew as a small
boy comes back to me as a faded dream, difficult to reconstruct.
I must have been so shy, that the town and its people had
no chance to make an impression in fast colors on me. The
courthouse was a two-story brick, with walls so sagged out of
the perpendicular, that they had to be supported by logs set
endwise against them at various angles. People nowadays
would not venture into such a ramshackle structure, especially
when the winds were up. But, it was before the days of
building inspectors, and before most of us had heard of condemning
buildings. The phrase "to condemn," we thought,
applied exclusively to criminals.
Infested With Fleas.
"What there was of the village
rested, together with the courthouse, on a bed of sand, much
infested and quickened with fleas. All the business houses
and some of the dwellings looked across the street at the courthouse.
The business houses were frames, and most of them with
high fronts. There were naked lots on all four sides, offering
themselves as desirable sites.
"No traces of the great fire
of 1860 were to be seen by the time I became old enough to make
observations, but old-timers were still telling the story of
the fire, and of the hanging of the negro slaves who were supposed
to have started it.
"I have no recollection of
John Neely Bryan. This may be because there was nothing
in those days to make him conspicuous, since almost anybody could
have founded such a town as Dallas was. Nearly every settler
had accepted the gift of a survey of land and built a log cabin
on it. However this may be, I am inclined to think John
Neely Bryan left Dallas before my time. I remember Col.
John C. McCoy, Jerry Brown, Ben Long, Fred Parker, Judge J. M.
Patterson, Jack Smith and Mr. Tenison, a harness maker, whose
sons founded Tenison Bros. wholesale saddle and harness house.
I do not recall Judge Hardin Hart, lawyer and District
Judge, stories of whose eccentricities and originality are still
in circulation, and still have a kick. I think Judge Patterson
and Jack Smith ran a partnership general store; at all events,
they were both merchants. Ash & Wagner conducted a
grocery on the southeast corner of Main and Jefferson streets.
Ash retired from the establishment, which has continued
until this day under the name of L. Wagner Grocery, and which
is, without doubt, the oldest business concern in Dallas.
Stages and Ox Wagons.
"Dense thickets of scrub trees,
held together by vines and penetrated by winding sandy roads,
ran in all directions from the town. In default of a bridge,
the river was crossed when it was up, by swimming, or by ferryboat,
and when down, by fording. Alex Cockrell, I believe, was
the original ferryman.
"Dallas was on the cattle
trail. It was at the Dallas ford that all the herds coming
from the south crossed the river. It was nothing for a
drove of 2,000 or 3,000 wild longhorns to traverse the streets,
and not a rare occurrence for them to put on a stampede. All
merchandise and supplies coming in to the country, and all produce
going out, were transported on wagons drawn by oxen. Teamsters
exercised their fancy in regard to the number of yoke of oxen
they hitched to a wagon, for the oxen subsisted on grass, and
it, therefore, cost nothing to feed them, nor did even the oxen
cost a great deal.
"I well remember the old-time
stages that carried the mail. Every small boy intended
to be a stage driver when he grew up. He could think of
nothing finer than to be a stage driver, handling four to six
horses, and at the same time, blowing blasts on the horn.
"I was never a mighty, or
even a timid, hunter, and can relate no thrilling adventures
with fierce wild animals. But, the country was full of
deer, turkeys and prairie chickens and wild geese, and ducks
came and went by the million, and nothing was cheaper than wild
meat. There was so much buffalo meat on the market, that it sold
for next to nothing.
Schools and Churches.
"The first schools I knew
anything about were kept by Professor Martin and Professor Scales.
Professor Martin taught on Cumberland Hill, not far from
the present Cumberland Hill ward school building, which makes
Cumberland one of the oldest schoolhouse sites in the city. Professor
Scales, who was a noted teacher, had a building of his own on
the north side of Elm street, just west of Griffin. Many
other teachers came and went. We had no organized system
of schools, and itinerant teachers stopped and held forth whenever
and wherever they could get a sufficient number of pupils signed
up to make a three-month school pay. The boy who went to
school three months out of the year, was held to be on the way
to a liberal education. A school teacher was a school teacher,
and nobody dreamed of inquiring into the qualification of any
one who offered his services as such.
"I can not give much of an
account of the churches. There was a church of some sort
at Market street and Ross avenue, which I think was used by more
than one denomination. The Episcopal Church was on the
northwest corner of Elm and Lamar streets, and the Methodist
Church on the northeast corner of Commerce and Lamar streets.
It was not until some years later that the Jewish people
built a synagogue. They placed it on the south side of
Commerce street, at the head of Field street.
Learns Trade of Machinist.
- June 20, 1926, The
Dallas Morning News,
"At the age of 16, I went
to serve my apprenticeship as a machinist in Garside & Bailey's
machine shop, at Poydras and Wood streets. When I had worked
two years, the shop changed hands, and I went to the Trinity
Iron Works, owned and operated by Richard Morgan, Ross avenue
and Magnolia street, and there completed my apprenticeship. For
more than forty years, I have been a stationary engineer, the
greater part of the time connected with ice and refrigerator
plants, working seven days a week. I have had so little
leisure, that it has been impossible for me to keep up with the
growth of the city. I hear of many fine residence sections
which I have never seen.
"It was simple enough to become
a machinist in my day, provided one had a turn for the work.
Everything was done by hand. Now, there is a machine
for every detail, and a man can become an expert at running one
of these machines without being a machinist, and without knowing
anything about any other machine in the shop, or in the world."
Sec. 4, p. 10, col. 1.
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