WONDERED, WHEN HE
TO DALLAS AND SAW THINGS
BY W. S. ADAIR
we arrived in Dallas, all the way from Kalamazoo, Mich., May
15, 1877, I saw several things that I had never seen before,"
said Charles. H. Potter, Victory Boulevard. "Among
these was the street railway on Main street. I could not
rest until I had acquired a nickel and taken a ride. The
thrills of anticipation and the jolts of the actual going are
still part of my conscious existence. It was to me what
I imagine the first trip in an airplane is to a boy in these
more favored days. I rode from the courthouse to the end
of the line at Central avenue, and walked back.
"Scarcely less to wonder at,
was a plant on Broadway street, near Main, where ice was made,
in spite of the weather. My father, William Potter, wrote
his friend, Mike Finley, an Irishman, at Kalamazoo, about this,
and Mike, in reply, told him to "come off." People
in the lake regions in those days, where there are mountains
or ice for a good part of the year, believed there was a time
for all things, and that winter was the time for ice, and they
wondered, even supposing it possible to produce ice artificially,
where was the necessity?
Lost Buffalo Hides.
"A third wonder to me was
a wagon loaded with buffalo hides, drawn by six yoke of oxen.
I carefully counted the oxen; there were an even twelve
of them. That one man, merely with a whip, could handle
such a herd of cattle, was a case of control that captivated
me. For a long time, I wanted to be an ox driver. The
hides, which came from somewhere in the far West, were done up
in bundles, and the bundles piled to the bulk of a load of hay
and secured by poles and ropes. That must have been about
the last batch of buffalo hides that came to Dallas; at least,
I never saw any after that. The postoffice was on the north
side of the courthouse, and I think Billie Jones was postmaster.
W. M. C. (Billie) Hill, afterward, County Clerk, and still
later postmaster, ran a grocery in a rock building on the northwest
corner of Main and Jefferson streets. On the diagonal corner,
was L. Wagner's grocery. On the west side of the courthouse,
Riley Bell and C. J. Moore, father of Jennings Moore, secretary
of the city water department, had grocery stores. B. M.
Bond & Bros.' grocery was on the south side of Elm street,
near the middle of the block, west of Austin street, and Adams
and Leonard's Bank occupied the northwest corner of Elm and Austin,
with a big printing office over it. The City National Bank,
J. C. O'Connor, president, and E. J. Gannon, cashier, was on
the northwest corner of Main and Lamar, and the Exchange National,
Capt. W. H. Gaston, president, on the southeast corner of Main
and Lamar. Apollo Hall, a beer saloon, was the big thing
in those days, on the nortwest corner of Main and Poydras. The
hotel now known as the St. George was then a three-story and
called the Lamar House. The second floors of several buildings
between the hotel and Poydras street had been converted into
a single big hall.
Recollections of Lively Hall.
"Lively Hall, on the second
floor of a livery stable on the north side of Main street, nearly
opposite the Linz building, was the town auditorium. It
was the place for dances, amateur shows, church-less congregations,
and all sorts of social functions. It was at a Catholic
bazaar there I met my wife. Prof. J. T. Tooley kept a school
in a little frame house between Jackson and Young streets, just
south of Padgitt Bros' present plant. Prof. W. H. Scales
had a school on Elm street near Griffin. Other noted teachers
of the time were Prof. Waldemar Malcomson and Prof. Aldehoff.
Ursuline Convent was on Bryan street, next door to St.
Patrick's Church, on the northwest corner of Bryan and Masten
streets. That was before the public school system of the
State was organized, when teachers had to negotiate directly
with parents for pupils. The Jewish Synagogue, which maintained
a school, was on the south side of Commerce street, just east
of the old Santa Fe passenger station, and St. Matthew's Episcopal
Church occupied the adjoining lot. The city market house
was on the southwest corner of Main and Akard streets, and Charlie
Rowan's grocery and market across the street. Capt. W.
F. Morton was City Marshall. The Mardi Gras parade, in
1878, was the biggest thing in the way of a pageant I had ever
seen or dreamed of; the weird beauty of it haunted me for months,
and at intervals, still breaks in on me as a joy forever. I
was here when the Sam Bass gang hijacked the Texas & Pacific
train at Mesquite, shared the public excitement caused by the
exploit, and saw Capt. June Peak prepare for, and start in pursuit
of, the bandits, and watched the newspapers for the outcome of
Dallas a Cotton Market.
"In those days, Dallas was
a famous cotton market. The staple produced within a radius
of fifty miles was wagoned to Dallas, and most of it sold on
Elm street, west of Poydras. In rainy weather, it was nothing
to see one wagon after another hopelessly bogged to the hubs
in the mud, for the soil on Elm street seemed bottomless. Carter
& White were the big cotton buyers. F. C. Callier was
their buyer, and afterward succeeded to the business of the firm,
and later was prominently connected with the manufacture of cottonseed
oil. For long after, I began to notice things; cotton seed
were considered worthless, and planters piled them in heaps and
burned them to get rid of them. The Houston & Texas
Central Railroad built a compress near the tracks on South Lamar
street, and the Texas & Pacific, a compress on the north
side of Pacific avenue, between Lamar and Austin streets. The
latter was destroyed by fire in the early '80s, and along with
it, a number of dwellings north of Ross avenue, a strong wind
from the south blowing the flames out of reach of the firemen.
First Job He Had.
"The first job I had was that
of cashier in the Famous Dry Goods Store, on the north side of
Elm street at the head of Poydras. A. Adler, who made himself
well known, was manager of the store. Tiny Beard was a
clerk in the store. I next turned up as shipping clerk
in Schneider & Davis' wholesale grocery, which had just gone
into the new building on the northwest corner of Elm and Austin.
It was the first building in town to have a driveway in
the rear, which all the people had to look and wonder at. W.
D. Belt, salesman of the firm in the West, traveled in a buggy
or on horseback, and sent in carload orders. Often, he
was out two or three months at a time. J. S. Van Slyke
was sales manager; Wales J. Townsend was bookkeeper; Joe Cougnard,
shipping clerk, and Tom S. Holden, city salesman.
Other Pioneer Grocers.
"T. L. Marsalis' wholesale
grocery, previously on Camp street, had been moved to the southeast
corner of Murphy and Elm, and Murphy street had been opened through
Pink Thomas' wagon yard from Main street to Elm. In a short
time, Mr. Marsalis extended the building through the block to
Main street, making it the largest wholesale grocery store in
town. I left Schneider & Davis to become shipping clerk
for Mr. Marsalis in 1883. Two years later, Mr. Marsalis
moved to his new building on Commerce and Murphy, next door to
Armstrong Bros.' wholeslale grocery, and was burned in 1886.
D. T. Rainwater, Tom Davie and Lucius A. Longley were city
salesmen for our house, and Ed Mitchell was city salesman for
Armstrong Bros. Our largest local retail customers were
John E. Meyer, on the north side of Elm street, near Scollard
Court, and John Potts, on the same side of Elm street, just east
of Lamar. Mr. Rainwater afterward established a retail
grocery on Commerce street, opposite [the] courthouse.
First Business Telephone.
"In the early '80s, T. F.
Loughlin ran the Live Oak Grocery, in the angle made by the coming
together of Elm and Live Oak streets at Ervay street, then known
as the Five Points. The first business transacted over
the telephone in Dallas was between Mr. Loughlin and Schneider
& Davis. Mr. Loughlin ordered a barrel of sugar, and
we got it to him in six minutes. It was a triumph of science
and invention, by the side of which, the airplane, wireless telegraphy,
moving pictures and even radio, pale into insignificance. The
newspapers used their largest type in broadcasting the sensation,
and D. M. Clower, manager of the telephone company, was regarded
as a wizard.
"Another outstanding event
of early days was the turning on of the electric lights when
Mayer's Garden was opened on the north side of Elm street at
the head of Stone street. Everybody in town went to see
what illumination by electricity was like. It was after
11 o'clock when I got home that night. About the same time,
the first phonographs, or talking machines, as they were called,
were exhibited in Dallas. Many persons were unwilling to
believe that the voices they heard when they placed the tubes
in their ears really came from the machine. They suspected
some sort of a trick, and insisted on being permitted to examine
the thing. The makers of the first talking machine did
not attempt to reproduce music. The plain conversational
tones of the voice were, for some time, sufficiently wonderful.
- December 23, 1923,
The Dallas Morning News,
"Meine Brothers' Band and
Orchestra was the leading musical organization here in the early
'80s, and it was one of the finest things of the kind we have
ever had. Meine Brothers went to Los Angeles and became
famous there. Old-timers will recall the Sunflower Minstrels.
Once a year, the Sunflowers, all Dallas boys, gave a series
of entertainments, and once, they went to Bryan and gave a performance
at a school commencement. Dick Flanagan is due all the
credit for organizing and rehearsing this aggregation. Members
of the company were Will and Walter Mansfield, Hotentot dancers;
George Whittaker, song and dance artist; Brother George and I,
clog dancers; James Pfouts and Will Gleason, singers; Tom Harris,
interlocutor and leader of the orchestra; and Dick Daley and
Will Mansfield, end men."
Magazine Section, p. 2.
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