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Tells Story
of Dallas in
Saloon Days


"Green Tree" Was Long
Famous for Fine


This City in 1876

Held Church in Dance
Hall -- The Old Toll


     "In 1876, I accepted an invitation from my kinsman, R. T. Best, of Savoy, Texas, to accompany him on a hunting expedition to Indian Territory, and while in his part of the country, I deemed it my duty to visit another kinsman, W. E. Best, pioneer grocer of Dallas, and the outcome of the latter visit has been that I have lived in Dallas ever since," said R. E. (Bob) Best.  "I was born in the United States, but in infancy, was taken back to Ireland by my parents, and there, I remained until 1871, when I returned to my native land, with what was then regarded as a considerable fortune, which I had inherited.  I settled, or rather, sojourned, in New York, for it did not take long for me to grow weary of the way idle people put in their time there, which was not different from the way such people amuse themselves in cities throughout the world.  Then, it was, that the welcome invitation came from my cousin at Savoy.

Meets Billie Patterson.
     "To come to Dallas from Savoy, I took the Houston & Texas Central at Sherman and disembarked at the old union depot.  The Central Railroad, track of which seemed to have been laid with a lick and a promise, with the emphasis on the promise, was, in those days, popularly referred to as the Angel Maker, on account of the high rate of mortality among those who attempted to travel over the road.  I got downtown from the union depot in a street car drawn by two little mules.  After what seemed to me, in point of time, a Pullman run, I left the car at Lamar street.  I stopped at a fruit stand on the northeast corner of Main and Lamar streets to buy a piece of tobacco.  The stand was owned and operated by John and Powell Yeargan, both of whom are still here.  While testing out the quality of tobacco, these men handled, I dropped into a drug store, next door on Lamar street.  Gen. W. H. (Billie) Patterson, proprietor of the pharmacy, came forward to find out what I wanted, introducing himself.  Billie has always considered himself a committee of one to welcome strangers to the city, and he was no less suited to the role in those days, than he is now.

Col. John Stone Counted Out.
     "Dallas then had 6,000 population, [but] was such a town as a traveling salesman nowadays works within an hour and is ready to leave for the next town.  I was not long in getting a bird's eye picture of it and in making the acquaintance of the people.  Schneider & Davis, wholesale grocers, occupied the northwest corner of Elm and Lamar streets, and Dave Goslin's china store was next door, on the west.  Then, in order, on the west, came Bob Ogden, retail grocer; Sanger Bros., dry goods; W. A. Rodgers, hardware, with W. W. Weston, as head clerk, with A. Israelsky's dry goods store, the last in the row, on the corner.  The corner across the street was occupied by Wallace & Wagner's retail grocery, with B. M. Bond, grocer, next door.  Stone & Keating, dealers in farm implements and machinery, were Mr. Bond's nearest neighbors on the west.  Col. C. A. Keating, still an active business man in Dallas, was the junior member of this firm.  Col. John Stone, the senior, was, later on, elected Mayor of Dallas on the Republican ticket, but was counted out because it was, at that time, generally thought to be more of a scandal to tolerate a Republican Mayor, than it was to tamper with ballot boxes or to fabricate the necessary testimony.  So far as I can recall, the men who took the lead in setting aside the election were at no pains to conceal their highly questionable proceedings in the matter.  They took the position that it simply would not do to permit a Republican Mayor to his seat.

Eats and Drinks.
     "The lot on the northwest corner of Elm and Market streets, where Schneider & Davis afterward built, was unoccupied in 1876.  Soon after Schneider & Davis built, Tenison Bros., wholesale saddlers and harness makers, put up a plant on the same side of the street and in the same block.  On the corner, west of these, came Worden & Smith, blacksmiths and wagon makers.  Diagonally across the street from the latter establishment, loomed the Green Tree Saloon, long famous for dispensing the coolest and best beer to be found this side of Milwaukee.  The Green Tree was one block north of the business center, the courthouse square.  The grocery store of L. Wagner was on the southeast corner of Main and Jefferson streets, and it is still there.  John Bowen, present head of the store, was then a clerk for L. Wagner, who died some years ago.  Alex Harwood was County Clerk, and Billie Harwood, District Clerk.  The postoffice was on the corner now occupied by the Criminal Courts Building, with Gaston & Thomas' bank adjoining it on the east.  On the kittie-corner, was the New Idea Saloon.  On the opposite side of Main street, between Houston street and the river, stood the Crutchfield House, which served the best old-fashioned meals, country style, in this part of the country.  A large bell that set all the atmosphere in the county to vibrating was sounded to inform those whom it might concern that dinner was ready.  It still makes me hungry to think of the time when I was a regular boarder at the Crutchfield House.

County Buys Toll Bridge.
     "The Todd Mills, owned by the Cockrell family, facing the Texas & Pacific Railroad, behind the Crutchfield House, ran full-handed in those days.  There was a row of stores on the west side of the courthouse, between the New Idea Saloon and Commerce street.  Among them were Moore & Sons, B. Davis, father of Dave Davis, Deputy Sheriff, and Mr. Bell, all grocers.  The Cockrell home occupied a spacious lot on the south side of Commerce street between Houston street and the river.  The toll bridge, which was then a money-maker owned by a corporation, was kept by Mr. Smart, father of the late George Smart. The bridge was, two years after I came, purchased by the county and thrown open to the public.  The owners of the bridge had such a good thing of it, that they, at first, refused to sell, but, they took a more favorable view of the proposition when the County Commissioners threatened to build a free bridge alongside of theirs.  I think the purchase of the bridge by the county was in 1878.

Main Street High Lights.
     "One of the first places of interest on Main street east of the square, after one passed Levy Bros.' store on the northeast corner, was Tom Cade's saloon, on the north side of the street.  The Fulton Market was on the southeast corner of Main and Market streets, and right across the street, flourished a gambling house, two doors west of Thompson's Variety Theater.  The Field Theater was in The News block, facing north, and crude as the town was in other respects, the foremost actors of the times appeared in that playhouse, and later, along in the early '80's, two walking matches took place there.  For six days, Charlie Edgas of El Paso and Charlie Gay of Fort Worth, drew crowds.  A few months later, Edgas walked against Madame De Pree.  Edgas won both matches.  Madame De Pree had walked many matches and was never defeated until she met Edgas, who won by such a narrow margin, that he had nothing to crow over.  Other high lights down the street were Orr's buggy house, which rested on stilts over the creek, where the Linz Building now is, and Work's livery stable on the opposite side of the street, with Lively Hall on the second floor.  Through the week, the hall was let for dances, lectures and social gatherings of all sorts, while on Sundays, the Congregational Church held services there.
     "There were next to no business concerns on Main street east of Murphy street in 1876, though, on Elm street, business houses straggled as far as Akard street (then Sycamore street).  Turner Hall stood back from the street on the lot now occupied by Padgitt Bros.' plant, and Kilthau's laundry plant, the first steam laundry established in Dallas, was at Poydras and Jackson streets.  Up to that time, the Chinese had done the washing for the town.  The steam laundries gradually put them out of business everywhere.  St. Matthew's Church and the Jewish Synagogue occupied adjoining lots on the hill on the south side of Commerce street, at the end of Field street.  The Christian Church was on the south side of Commerce street, a little west of the Library Building, opposite the home of James C. Arnold, for many years, the chief of the police department.
     "The late W. C. Connor was president of the waterworks company, and the water was pumped from Browder spring in the present City Park.  The standpipe was on the site of the present Municipal Building.  But, water had not been put in all the houses.  Many people still drew water from wells, and some bought water from wagons, which had regular routes.  The streets in the business district were dimly lighted by means of small gas lamps.  When it rained, there was no crossing the muddy streets, and one could see bogged and abandoned wagons, look which way one would.  W. F. Morton, Henry and George Waller, Pat Sheehan, Tom Phares and Pat Mullen constituted the police force.  And, it was said that bad men, after looking the force over, passed the town up as no place to run amuck.  At all events, the famous killers and the shooters-up of towns, of the time, never made Dallas the scene of their exploits."
     After putting in forty years as a traveling salesman, Mr. Best has settled down, and is in business at 800 Main street.  He says he does not see, once a month, a man who figured in the census of 1876.

- January 24, 1926, The Dallas Morning News, Sec. 1, p. 9.
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