GAMBLING LONG BEFORE SEVERAL OF THE OTHER
TEXAS CITIES UNDERTOOK
TO DO SO
Town Had Adobe Houses
Places on Prominent Streets --
Old-Timer Tells of Early Days in
Hustling Frontier Town in Which
He Delivered Newspaper
W. S. ADAIR
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.
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  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.
- January 21, 1923,
The Dallas Morning News, p. 6, col. 1.
"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.
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