OLD FRENCH SETTLEMENT
By WM. S. ADAIR
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Ettein; Louis and William Van Grinderbeck; Rose, wife and son;
Dr. Desmet; Goudsill, wife, son and three daughters; Vreidag.
Marriages in the Colony.
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.
Gustav Santerre; Emil Cretien, Alfred Guillemet, Mathilda Coiret.
Survivors of the Original Colonists.
- March 22, 1926, The
Dallas Morning News,
Ouirin, Mrs. Cesarin Remond, Mrs. Nativa Capy, German Santerre,
and Emanuel Santerre, all of whom live in, or near, Dallas.
Magazine Section, p. ?
- o o o -