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OLD FRENCH SETTLEMENT
NEAR DALLAS
HAD MANY
SPLENDID CITIZENS

By WM. S. ADAIR

     There are at least two ways of looking at life -- both, for the individual, and the community.  One view, is that the start must be made from nothing, and the way slowly won from one sure step to the next, by the dim lantern of experience.  The other, is that man is already perfect, and that in order to be propserous and happy, it is only necessary for him to get rid of the errors and prejudices of the past which oppress him.  Both ways have been tried out at the Forks of the Trinity.  Dallas took the plodding way; Reunion, the French colony, the other.
     Practically every object that marked the site of Reunion has been absorbed by the earth, most of the records have perished, and even the memory of the place is greatly faded in the minds of the few survivors.
     Victor Considerant, with Victor Hugo and others, was an exile in Belgium, for opposing the coup d'etat of Napoleon III.  France had been full of Utopian dreams since the time of Rousseau, and Fourier had more recently made these dreams still more plausible and popular.  Considerant, by way of escape from the endless wars of Europe, concieved the idea of a Fourier settlement, or phalanx, in America, for Frenchmen.  With that view, he came to the United States in 1854.
     Fourierism had already secured a foothold in this country.  Brook Farm, in Massachusetts, supported by such thinkers as Hawthorne and Margaret Fuller, is the best known test of the idea, though there was a settlement on a much more extended scale in Monmouth County, N. J.  Albert Brisbane, in a series of articles in the New York Tribune in 1843, set forth for American readers, the science of society as taught by Fourier; providing for "the public ownership of land and public utilities, co-operation of labor, the equal distribution of the products of labor, the association of families, integral education, mutual guaranties of life, accident, sick and old age insurance, unity of interest, and the distribution of honors, according to usefulness." Horace Greely was, himself, one of the supporters of the New Jersey settlement.
     In New York, Considerant was met by Albert Brisbane, who, among other favors, gave him a letter of introduction to Major Lewis (?) Merrill, commandant at Fort Worth, which was then an army post. Making his way to Cincinnati, Considerant, by steamer, went down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and up the Arkansas River to Little Rock; thence to Fort Smith, and from there, he traversed the Indian Territory and Texas on horseback, striking the old Preston Trail at Preston, on Red River, in Grayson County, and following the trail across Texas.  Preston street, in Dallas, is a vestige of the old trail.  In Texas, Considerant explored the Trinity, Brazos and Colorado Rivers, and finally selected as the site of his colony, a tract of land lying between West Dallas and Eagle Ford.

Writes of His Travels.
     Following the example of Chateu-Briand, who, in 1792, traversed the Mississippi River from source to mouth, Considerant wrote a book of something like 300 pages, entitled "Texas," giving an account of his travels, and setting forth his impressions, with all the eloquence of Rousseau, combined with the picturing power of the German romanticists.  He utters exclamation after exclamation at the vast reaches of savage forest along the great rivers, becomes enthusiastic over the simple life of the Indians, and speaks of the Choctaws taking lessons on the violin from a negro.
     But, what seems to impress him most of all, is the marvelous fertility and depth of the soil of Texas.  Rising on the broad wings of his theme, he tells those of his propsective readers who may be seeking a solution of the problems of every-day life, that they have only to settle on this willing soil and stay on it, and the thing is done. He speaks of meeting at Dallas, his countryman, Maxim Guillot, from whom he derived much valuable information about the country. "Texas" is more readable than Chateaubriand's "Ataia."  George Cretien has a copy of it, and E. M. Browder, the lawyer, has a copy, and perhaps there are other copies in Dallas.
     Upon his return to Belgium the following year, Considerant organized the American-European Society of Colonization, with Swiss, French and Belgian capital amounting to 500,000 francs.  The society sent F. Cantagrel to Texas to buy the land and make arrangements to receive the colonists.  He bought 320 acres in the Enoch Horton survey, 640 acres in the G. Coombes survey, 640 acres in the Anson McCracken survey, 320 acres in the Thackery V. Griffin survey, and 160 acres in the J. C. Read survey, making a body of 2,080 acres, which included the land now occupied by Cement City, the cement plants, the oil plants and several additions to West Dallas.  The purchases included the bottoms north of the Eagle Ford road and some land on the north side of West Fork, and the mountains or hills south of the pike.  The top of the first spur of the mountain east of the cement plant was selected for the town site.  The bottom lands were divided into farms or gardens of 6.4 acres each.
     The first party of colonists, accompanied by Considerant himself, arrived in Dallas in 1855.  They crossed the Atlantic in a sailing vessel and were sixty days out.  Landing at New Orleans, they re-embarked for Galveston.  From Houston, they continued their journey in ox wagons, consuming twenty-six days on their way to Dallas.  Under Phillip Goetsel, the first director, the colonists began to build houses, either of wood or of rubble stone, and to clear the land for cultivation.  A community store and a community restaurant were opened, and a school started.  They brought with them, the implements and machinery for spinning and weaving, the tools of the various handicrafts, and stocked the land with cattle, sheep and horses, and chickens, ducks and geese and turkeys; provided everything, in fact, to make the colony self-supporting.

Built a Brewery.
     Mr. Monduel built a brewery and turned out the first beer brewed in Dallas County.  The elder Reverchon, scientific farmer, preached dry farming fully fifty years before that method was again taken up, and advocated it in this part of the county.  He told the colonists, that if they would plow the land deep in the fall and plant early in the spring, they could produce good crops of corn every year, and he showed them how to do it in the midst of one of the most distressing drouths of which tradition speaks.  He also gave lessons in horticulture.  He planted an extensive orchard near what is now Stop 27 on the interurban, and was the pioneer of the county in grafting and budding fruit trees.  His orchard long outlasted the colony.

Adverse Winds Blow.
      Recruits for the colony were selected by the directors in Europe, without much regard to their fitness for pioneer life.  They came in small detachments during the first eighteen months, until there were between 350 and 400 of them.  The survivors of the colony are not agreed as to the number.  The recruits were chiefly from the artisan classes.  The result was that they became discouraged before they could adjust themselves to an agricultural and pastoral life.  To aggravate the situation, a dreadful drouth prevailed throughout this section, and with the exception of the few who followed Mr. Reverchon's method of dry farming, the colonists made very poor crops the first year, and for what they did make, there was no market.  There was no money in the colony, and the store and the restaurant found themselves doing a credit business.
     When it began to appear early in the summer of the second year that the drouth was likely to continue, the artisans, already weary of a new role in work, began to seek employment at their trades outside the colony, and the end of the second year, found most of them at work at their various trades in Dallas and other surrounding settlements.  The interest on the stock of the colony, which was 6 per cent, was not forthcoming for the first year, and the shareholders in Europe were beginning to inquire into the investment.  At the end of the second year, they asked for a receiver.  Messrs. Thevenet and Bessard were appointed administrators of the affairs of the colony. The colonists continued to leave the settlement as they became accumstomed to the ways of the new country, and only a few remained on the land.
     The Civil War came on, during which, the colony was at a standstill, except for a flurry occasioned by an attempt of some ill-advised Confederate recruiting agents to press the colonists into the service.  The colonists had left Europe partly to get away from eternal wars, the only effect of which, it seemed to them, was to breed other wars.  They were in position to take a disinterested view of the institution of negro slavery, and had come to about the same conclusions in regard to it that the mass of Americans hold today.  Their position was one of strict neutrality.  After one of their number, Francois Girard, had been shot in the hip by a member of the Confederate recruiting squad, the colonists armed themselves, and, sending the women and children to a place of safety, took up a position in the dwelling of Mr. Bureau, declaring that if they had to fight, they would have it out then and there.  Dr. Arch M. Cochran, captain of the squad, asked for a parley, which resulted in a peaceful settlement and the securing from the way Governor of Texas, of exemptions for the colonists, who had not, in fact, become citizens of the United States.
     During the war, the directors of the colony gave it up as a failure, and instructed the administrators to close it up.  They sold the cattle and sheep and some of the land, taking in payment, Confederate money, it appearing to the administrators that the Confederacy was going to win.  But, by the time Mr. Bessard reached Europe with the money, the Confederacy was already on the wane, and the stockholders refused to accept the money, and in casting about to recoup themselves, they discovered that Mr. Thevenet had property in France, which they seized.  The administrators were exonerated from any wrong doing in the matter, but for all that, Mr. Thevenet was never able to recover his property.
     Victor Considerant, born at Salins[?], France, Oct. 12, 1808, was a Captain of engineers in the French Army, and served in the campaign against the Algerian pirates in 1830.  He became a Socialist and a disciple of Fourier about 1831, and on the death of the latter, in 1837, was recognized as the chief apostle of Fourierism.  In 1845, he began to issue at Paris, the Democratic Pacifique, a daily political journal. After the revolution in 1848, he was elected to the Assembly, in which he acted with the "Mountain" party.  Upon the failure of Reunion, he became a citizen of the United States, and settled at San Antonio, where he remained, till in 1868, when he returned to France.  He was the author of many books, the most important of which was "Destinie Sociale," in three volumes.  He died at Paris, Dec. 25, 1895[?].
     Julien Reverchon, botanist of international reputation, made a large collection of Texas plants, including many which, up to that time, had been unknown to botanists.  Asa Gray, American botanist, honored Mr. Reverchon by naming some of the plants for him, and thus perpetuated his memory in the permanent classification.  Mr. Reverchon's collection of Texas plants is now in the Shaw Garden of St. Louis.  Dallas has recently named a public park for the botanist.
     Francois Cantagrel returned to France, and there represented the Thirteenth Paris District in the Chamber of Deputies for ten years.  He also was the author of many readable books.  Dallas sought to honor him by naming a street for him, but spelled the name wrong.
     Alyre Bureau was a musical composer of note.  One of his pieces is in the music book used in the public schools.  His daughter, Alice, an accomplished musician, owned the first piano that was heard in Dallas County.
     Mr. Bureau, on his way from the colony to France, was stricken with yellow fever at Houston, and there died.  Dr. Savardan was not only the best doctor in this part of the country, but a representative of French culture, what, in fact, the French call a savant.  He was the author of numerous learned works.  Pierre Girard was a soldier in the Crimean War, and witnessed the charge of the Light Brigade.  Francois Santerre, scientific farmer, who did much to instruct the colonists in agriculture, was a soldier in the siege of Antwerp in 1830.  La Pere Lagogue, a very old man when he embarked with the colonists, was a soldier under the First Napoleon.
     Emile Remond told the settlers, that if they would only hold on to their lands, the rocks under them would make their descendants wealthy.  He was so far correct, that the cement companies have already made many fortunes out of these same rocks, and without reducing the size of the mountains, to say nothing of the returns for the gravel that has been sold off the grounds by the trainload for many years, and for the gravel yet to be mined.  Ben Long settled in Dallas, served as deputy sheriff, as Mayor, and as United States Commissioner.  Mrs. Clarice Vigoureaux, mother-in-law of Considerant, was a musician, author and poet.  Vreidag, architect, builder and author, settled in Terre Haute, Ind., and achieved a national reputation as an architect.  He visited Dallas years afterward and attended the State Fair.  Enginard was an engineer of note, and a man of varied accomplishments.  Joseph Brunet established an ice factory in Austin, and his brother Eugene, an ice factory in Belton.

Their Influence on the Community.
     Most of the educated members of the colony could speak English, and they exercised a great influence on the Americans in this part of the country.  Men like Col. John C. McCoy appreciated them from the start, welcomed them, and had them in their homes.  The artisans who settled in Dallas and other Texas towns, were thorough in their respective lines, and there were no more skilled workmen than those Ameicans who learned their trades under them.  Some of the colonists were the early music teachers and school teachers in Dallas.  In fact, much of what the colonists brought with them, in the way of culture and skill in the handcrafts, was absorbed by the community, and it has been of lasting value.
     George Cretien, who was born in the colony, is the oldest barber in Dallas.  He began as an apprentice on the courthouse square in 1870.  He says that he can well remember when it was held that cotton could not be profitably cultivated in Dallas County, and that the first cotton he saw in the county was in a field on Bryan street, just east of Ervay, in 1869.  When he was born, the population of Reunion was greater than that of Dallas.  He remembers the burning of Dallas by the negroes, sixty-two years ago.
     In connection with the French settlers, it may not be out of place to say that Maxim Guillot and his brother, Ellie Guillot, were the first. They started from New Orleans to go to California during the gold rush in 1849, and stopped at Dallas to rest.  Maxim, who was a wagon and carriage maker, and an exceptionally fine workman, found so much work here, that he concluded to locate.  He was the father of Aug. S. Guillot, and the late Mrs. George Potter of Dallas, and of E. E. Guillot of Ardmore.  Maxim Guillot's wagon and carriage factory, which was on Elm street, near Houston street, is believed to have been the first factory of any kind established in Dallas.  Ellie Guillot settled in Denton and died there.  Maxim and Ellie Guillot were not related to the Guillots who came with the colonists.
     Following is as complete a list of the names of the colonists as can be secured at this late day.  It will be seen that the initials of many of them are wanting:
     Francois Considerant, wife, three sons and a daughter and mother-in-law, Mrs. Clarice Vigoureaux; Alyre Bureau, wife, three sons and daughter, Alice; Bessand, wife, son and daughter; Julian Thevenet, wife and daughter; Alexander Lanotte,; Farine, and wife; Francois Santerre, wife, four sons and two daughters; P. Frichot, wife and son; Deiser Frichot; Vincent Cousin; Re Dutaya; Pierre Girard; Luc Bourgeois; Bellinger; Boulay, wife and son; Charles Capy and wife; Emil Remond; Miss Leontine Frishot; Dr. Wilmet; Dellesseaux, wife, son, and daughter; Petit, wife, son and daughter; Chamboard, wife and daughter; Bouge and wife; Dellard, wife, son and two daughters; Derigny, wife and son; Miss Adele Besseron; Tourneville; Bonnerville; Regnoir; Duterall; Maryus; Sellier; Drevet; Le Lecrenier; Blot; Valentin; J. B. Louckx, wife, two sons, and three daughters; John P. Priot; Athanase Cretien; Denis Colin; Ferdinand Michel and wife; A. Brochier and wife; O. Brochier; Julien Halze; Protat, wife and two daughters; Monduel; Aymard; Pierre Girard, and three sons, Pierre, Joseph and Francois; Mansion; Joseph and Eugene Brunet; R. Tuillot, wife and son; August Guillot, and wife; Alexandre Barbier, wife and two sons; Paul Henri, wife and two sons; Raizen; Dominique Boulet, wife and daughter; Gordio; Dr. Nicholas; Dr. Savardan; Julien Reverchon, two sons and a daughter; Christopher; Savarant; A. J. Gouffe, wife and son; John Moulard, wife, son and daughter; Dusseau and daughter; Poldevin and wife; A. Colret and wife; Frique; Pierson; Doderet; Alexander Lonet; Come; L. Louis; Miss Henrietta Louis; Peloux, wife and daughter; Candie and daughter; Miss Godelle, Vilmain; E. Achard; Julius Royer, wife and son; Joseph Brunet; Forette; Monpate, two sons and a daughter; Remy Guillot; Lassagnac; Nativa Charpentier.

Swiss Colonists.
     Emil Burkl; Jacob Nussbaumer; Henry Boll, wife, son Henry, and two daughters; Droxel; Stiffel; Yeuch; J. Peler; Schaerer; J. Knepfly and family; Reinhardt; Willis, wife, two sons and daughter; Bucher; Bar, wife and son; Witiker; Frick and family.

Belgian Colonists.
     Van Derbosh; Ettein; Louis and William Van Grinderbeck; Rose, wife and son; Dr. Desmet; Goudsill, wife, son and three daughters; Vreidag.

Marriages in the Colony.
     Jacob Nussbaumer and Dorothy Boll; Henry Boll and Miss J. Griset; A. Lounetta and Miss Pimparef; Boulay and Miss Pimparet; Mr. Dailly and Miss Besseveau; L. Louis and Miss Henrietta -------.

Births in Colony.
     George Cretien; Gustav Santerre; Emil Cretien, Alfred Guillemet, Mathilda Coiret.

Survivors of the Original Colonists.
     Mrs. Lucie Ouirin, Mrs. Cesarin Remond, Mrs. Nativa Capy, German Santerre, and Emanuel Santerre, all of whom live in, or near, Dallas.

- March 22, 1926, The Dallas Morning News,
Magazine Section, p. ?
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