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Town Had Adobe Houses in Some
Places on Prominent Streets --
Old-Timer Tells of Early Days in
Hustling Frontier Town in Which
He Delivered Newspaper


    "Dallas is certainly growing," said W. H. (Wood) Ramsey of the purchasing department of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, who spent the holidays with his daughter, Mrs. Ben Warder, 1633 Peabody avenue.  "Quite a development during the last year and an amazing transformation since I first saw the town in 1875.  I was born in Mobile, but brought up at Meridian, Miss.  From the latter place, I came to Dallas in 1875, when I was 14 years old.  My first job was as clerk, or rather, roustabout, in Keeton's book store on Main street, about the middle of the Sanger block.

Cuts Cold Drinks.
    "At that time there was not an inch of paved street in town and during the season of winter rains, the streets were knee-deep in mud, with which the teams splashed and bespattered pedestrians on what passed for the sidewalks.  Practically all there was of the business part of the town was on Main and Elm streets, between the courthouse and, say, Poydras street.  The block now known as the Sanger block was up to that time, and for some years afterward, anybody's block.  Sanger Bros. occupied fifty feet on Elm street and twenty-five feet on Main.  The southwest corner of Elm and Lamar was occupied by Schneider & Davis wholesale grocery.  Sanger Bros.' store adjoined it on the west.  In the rear of Schneider & Davis' store was the Marble Hall Saloon.  Mr. Hawkins, the proprietor of this saloon was the first man in Dallas to reduce the price of lemonade and other cold drinks from 25¢ to 15¢.  Ice retailed, when there was any of it to retail, at 10¢ and 15¢ a pound, and you may well believe ice water was a luxury.  Between the saloon and Main street, there was an adobe house, occupied by Hereford & Kerfoot, as an insurance office.  On the corner, was another saloon, on the second floor of which was the only billiard hall in town.

Sanger Block in 1875.
    "Next door on the west to the corner saloon was Dave Goslin's china hall, and, by the way, Mr. Goslin was one of the finest men we have ever had in Dallas; everybody liked him.  Sanger Bros.' shoe department came next after the china hall and then Tom Keeton's book store.  Then, Lyle's book store and printing office.  Strange to say, there were more book stores in town than there are now, though they were small affairs.  The Lafayette Restaurant, run by Mrs. Hoffstadt, later Mrs. Livingston, proprietor of the Livingston Restaurant, where the North Texas Building now stands, adjoined Lyle's place on the west.  A little later, Purdy & Randle, who moved to Dallas from Galveston, opened the White House saloon and restaurant on the corner now occupied by the Trust Building.
    "The south side of Main street, opposite the Sanger block, was equally well built up.  On the west corner was Connor & Walker's drug store, wholesale and retail.  Ben Loeb's variety theater came next and then the Field Opera House, on the first floor of which, was J. C. Bogel's saloon.  Next door to the opera house was C. M. Wheat's store.  For a sign, Mr. Wheat had a bundle of wheat suspended from a wire over the middle of the street.  After that, came a vacant space, and then Plattas' tobacco and cigar store, and, last, on the corner, Charles Kahn's bakery.

Old-Time Hotels.
    The leading hotel was the LeGrande, on the southwest corner of Main and Austin street, Tom Wood, proprietor.  The Windsor, northwest corner of Commerce and Austin, was next best.  A few years later, the two hotels were combined and were physically connected by an overhead bridge across Austin street, and the name of the combination became the Grand Windsor.  The Lamar Hotel, now the St. George, was the third in point of popularity and reputation.
    "On the southeast corner of Main and Lamar streets, was the First National Bank, J. C. Kerr, president.  Then, there were no buildings to amount to anything west of the corner, on which was Hirah & Silberstein's livery and sales stables, and next to the stable was Dick Laffiton's barber shop.  Laffiton is still in the barber business, running a shop on Houston street, two blocks north of the Union Passenger Station.  On the south side of Main street there was nothing in the block east of Poydras street until you came to the St. George Hotel.  Next [to] the hotel, in a shack, A. E. Bouche ran a grocery and fruit store.  Later, E. H. Gruber opened a private bank on the south side of Main street, between Lamar and Poydras streets.  At noon, one fine day, three masked men, hitching their horses in a grove of trees in the rear of the bank, stepped into the bank, one from the front and two from the rear, gathered up what money they could find and made a getaway with it.  The officers gave chase, but according to my recollection, they did not overtake the robbers.

Square Gambling Town.
    "In 1875, there was a big gambling house on Main street.  After 1880, several much larger gambling houses were opened and they flourished until Charles F. Clint, County Attorney, got after them and put them out of business, long before gambling was suppressed in the rest of the cities of the State.  Throughout the wild and woolly period, Dallas enjoyed the reputation of being a square gambling town.  Killers and bad men, generally, either steered clear of Dallas, or behaved themselves when they were here.  While June Peak, W. F. Morton and James C. Arnold held the office of City Marshall, there was no man too big to be arrested or too wild to be dealt with.  The result was, that when a bad man felt a call to shoot up a town, or otherwise go on the rampage, he selected some other town for the scene of his exploits.  When I came to Dallas, Judge George N. Aldredge was County Attorney and Col. Robert E. Cowart was his assistant.

First Mounted Carrier.
    "I worked only a few months in Keeton's book store.  My next job was unloading lumber from cars at Elliott's lumber yard.  This was heavy work, but it was good for me.  Sometime later, I found employment as chain carrier with W. M. Johnson, City Engineer.  From that, I advanced to the position of mounted carrier for the Morning Herald.  With the money I had saved from preceding jobs, I bought a sorry nag from a horse trader, getting the worst end of the bargain, of course.  With a bundle of eighty-five papers, I left the Herald office at [3] a.m. and delivered papers to all the subscribers in the Cedars, North Dallas and East Dallas, covering the territory in about an hour and a half, as I recollect.  I made it a business to solicit, and in the course of a short time, I ran the outside circulation up to 135 papers, which was the largest the paper had every enjoyed.  The subscription was 25¢ a week, $1 a month, or $2.50 for three months, all in advance.  For this service, the Herald paid me $5 a week. This, I thought during bad weather in winter, was little enough, especially when I had to keep my own horse.  I quit several times, and more than once or twice, the Herald fired me outright.  But, the circulator never failed to send for me and put me to work again.

Ed Cornwell Starts Him.
    "In September 1879, I became night watchman in the Sanger block, succeeding Ed Cornwell, who recommended me for the place and who procured for me a special police commission.  The following year, when James C. Arnold was appointed chief of police to fill the unexpired term of W. F. Morton, resigned, I became a member of the police force.  Two years later, E. P. Turner made me depot master at the old Union Depot.  I worked there two years, and then went back on the police force on mounted duty and continued on the force till Ben Brandenburg was appointed chief of police in 1907.
    "After leaving the police force, I became special officer on the San Antonio & Arkansas Pass Railroad.  I held that office eighteen months and resigned to accept a similar position on the Trinity & Brazos Valley Railroad.  Two years later, I went in a like capacity with the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, with headquarters at Chicago.  I have been with the latter road ever since.  At present, I am the representative of the purchasing department of the road."
    Mr. Ramsey comes to Dallas about once a year to visit his daughter, Mrs. Ben Warder, and his brother-in-law, Eugene Alexander.  This year, he arrived in town Christmas Eve and remained until New Year's Day.

- January 21, 1923, The Dallas Morning News, p. 6, col. 1.
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