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ELM STREET ONCE
TRAIL IN BRUSH

________

W. M. McCOMMAS TELLS OF
EARLY DAYS IN VILLAGE
OF DALLAS.

________

DURING INDIAN DAYS
_______

Red Men Had Surrendered Coun-
try East of River, but They
Claimed Territory West.

BY W. S. ADAIR

    "John Neely Bryan's log cabin was the only house, in what was afterward, Old Dallas, when my grandfather, Amos McCommas, settled on the Greenville road, five and one half miles northeast of Mr. Bryan's home in 1844," said W. M. McCommas.  "Our family came originally from Ohio, but lived successively in Illinois and Missouri before coming to Texas.  They made the journey in wagons, since there were no other conveyances in those days.  Grandfather took a survey of the land, part of which is now Delmar Heights Addition to the city.  Father, John McCommas, who was 17 years old when the family reached Texas, took a headright survey.  Father's brothers were James, Isaac, Elisha, Amos Jr., and W. M. McCommas.
    "The year they came, father and Uncle Jim went to Chambers Creek in Ellis County, thirty or forty miles south of Dallas, to hunt buffaloes, and brought home a year's supply of dried buffalo meat for the family.  The same year, father took the wagons to the Red River for a supply of corn.  In the absence of grist mills, the early settlers pounded the grains into the nearest possible approach to meal by beating them with stones.  Grandfather built a grist mill on his place a few years later, which must have been the first mill operated in Dallas County.  The mill stones were crudely finished, and were made to go round by the weight of six big steers.  That is to say, it was a tread mill.  From the best accounts I have of it, it resembled the mills of heathen gods in slowness, without attempting to compete with them in the fineness of the output.

Early Indian Raids.
    "The Indians raided as far east as the Trinity River after our family settled here, and murdered a family or two between Dallas and Fort Worth, but I have forgotten the names of the victims.  I remember seeing the settlers arm themselves and hurriedly cross the river to pursue a band of Indians who had committed depredations within a few miles of Dallas.  That must have been about 1855 or 1856.  I also remember that they failed to come up with the Indians.  The Indians never gave settlers any more trouble, to speak of, east of the river, after our family came.  They, no doubt, occasionally ran off some horses, but they committed no murders.  By that time, they had definitely surrendered the territory east of the river to the white man, but they seemed to think the white man should reciprocate by keeping to his side of the river.  I was born here in 1853.
    "When I first saw Dallas, what is now the business district was covered with cedars and postoaks, with a dense undergrowth of green briars.  The ground was very broken, and several creeks meandered through it.  We came to town by a trail cut through the thicket.  That trail is now Elm street.  A one-story courthouse, made of soft, molded bricks, a log jail, so frail that it was necessary to keep guards around it, in order to prevent the prisoners from walking away from it, and a few cheap log and frame houses on the four sides of the square, constituted the town.  The first courthouse was a log cabin, which, according to tradition, was burned as an act of patriotic vandalism by leading citizens heading a movement for a better courthouse.  The fire occurred at midnight, at the height of the Christmas festivities.  The brick courthouse was also destroyed by fire, and was replaced with a two-story stone courthouse.
    "Ferdinand Michel was the first man to manufacture bricks in Dallas, so far as I know.  His plant was on the site of the present Union Passenger Station, or, not far from it.  The bricks he turned out were merely molded and too soft to be enduring building material.  No pressed brick were made in Dallas until some years after the railroads came.  Harry Brothers, I think, were the first to manufacture them on a large scale.

First Child Born in Dallas.
    "Grandfather Amos McCommas, who was a minister of the Christian Church, must have delivered the first sermon preached by a minister of that denomination in Dallas County.  At first, there were no churches.  Religious services were held in the courthouse, in schoolhouses and at private residences.  I remember hearing grandfather preach in the two-story brick courthouse when I was a very small boy.  Soon after settling here, grandfather performed the marriage ceremony for George Glover, the father of W. W. Glover, the first child born in the county, after it was organized in 1846.  I do not remember the name of the bride.  At the time of the wedding, Dallas County was part of Nacogdoches district.  The county was organized, and started to going by an election held in July, 1846.  W. W. Glover, who is still living, was the first child born in the county after the election.  The County was named for George M. Dallas, then Vice President of the United States.  The town of Dallas was incorporated in 1856, and Ash Pryor, son of Dr. Samuel Pryor, the first Mayor, was the first child born in the town after it was incorporated.

Hard Times During the War.
    "We had hard times in this part of the country during the Civil War.  To be sure, we had no such experiences as had the people of the old Southern States, which were invaded by the Federals; for we stopped the Federal armies before they could get into the State, and thus, prevented them from destroying our property.  But, we were, nevertheless, cut off from the rest of the world and compelled to live at home.  Father was engaged in the freighting business many years.  All the merchandise coming into the county had to be hauled on wagons from Houston, Shreveport or Jefferson, and all the lumber from East Texas.  The country was well stocked with cattle and sheep, and the farmers had begun to raise wheat, and several small flouring mills had been established before the war.  Wagons going south or east for merchandise or lumber usually took with them, flour, or hides and wool, which commanded such a price, as to make the hauling of them profitable.  Father, at first, used oxen, but later changed to mules.  As one of his drivers, I made many trips, both to East Texas and to the Houston & Texas Central Railroad terminus, first at Millican, then at Bryan, and finally at Corsicana.  We hauled much of the lumber used in the building of houses in Dallas from 1865 to 1872.  We sold the lumber here at $7 to $8 per 100 feet.  The coming of the railroads, in 1872 and 1873, put an end to the freighting business.  The Houston & Texas Central Railroad brought better lumber from South Texas than we had been getting from East Texas, since the shortleaf pine trees of East Texas are small in comparison with the longleaf pines of South Texas, and make poorer lumber.

Indians Kill Teamsters.
    "We sometimes freighted for the Government, hauling from the Houston & Texas Central Railroad terminus to the army posts in the west, flour, sugar, coffee and molasses.  On one of these trips, in 1871, we divided our wagons into two trains, one having supplies for Fort Richardson, in Jack County, the other for a fort farther out, as to the name of which, I am not sure.  I was in the train bound for Fort Richardson.  We reached our destination without adventure, but the Indians attacked the other train in the night and killed all the men, except one, who escaped by reason of the fact, that he was on mounted guard when the Indians raised the war whoop and rushed upon the sleeping teamsters.  Having murdered and scalped the teamsters, the Indians rounded up the mules, helped themselves to such of the supplies as they wanted or could conveniently carry, and burned the wagons.  I am unable to give the names of any of the teamsters, or even of the one who escaped.  It was customary with the pioneers, when traveling, to graze their horses and mules at night, since they could not carry feed, and when they were apprehensive of danger from Indians, they guarded their stock.  The man who escaped on this occasion, owed his life to the fact, that it was his night to stand guard.  If any of the Indians concerned in this massacre were ever punished, I never heard of it.  My impression is that it was never known who they were.

Sold Cotton for Three Cents.
    "The development of Dallas and of Texas began with the coming of the railroads, proving that means of transportation is of prime importance to all communities.  Settlers began to pour into the State, and to build towns and cultivate the lands, and by producing and consuming, made business for the railroads.  Before the railroads came, the best lands within four and five miles of Dallas brought from $2.50 to $5 an acre.  Solomon Dixon once bought an entire headright survey of 160 acres between Reinhardt and Garland for a pair of jeans trousers.  The man who located the survey getting tired of the wilderness, and wishing to return to his old home in Illinois, said that was the best, and only, offer he could get for the land.  Mr. Pendleton, the present owner of this land, during the World War, refused $350 an acre for his land.  I was a farmer down to 1902, when I retired from active pursuits, and moved into Dallas.  I have sold many a bale of cotton for 3¢ a pound, and I have received as high as 22¢ for it.  I see by the market columns of The News, that it is worth 30¢ today.  I have seen Dallas grow from a settlement of a dozen homes, to one of the leading cities of the country, and, if I live ten or twelve years longer, I shall be here when the official census gives it a population of 500,000."

- August 24, 1924, The Dallas Morning News,
Sec. III, p. 8, col. 1-2
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