Not Bad Now,
John H. Cullom Tells
Early Day Rain Which
Here for 52 Years
Towns of Duck Creek
and Embree Combined
to Form Garland.
BY W. S. ADAIR
have lived in Dallas County fifty-two years," said John
H. Cullom, County Tax Collector. "My father, the late
Peter Cullom, known as Uncle Peter, who lived at Nashville, Tenn.,
brought me, as a small boy, along with the rest of the family
to Texas in 1877. My mother's brother, Henry Hollis, had
[preceded] us by ten or fifteen years and had acquired a body
of 500 acres of black waxy land, a short distance north of Forney.
I do not remember what he paid for the [tract], but, from
the fact that he [often] said that he could get $5 an acre for
it, I collected that it must have cost him much less than that
"We took a tract adjoining
the watershed between East Fork and [Bushy] Creek. The
elevation con[taining] the watershed was known as Irish Ridge,
from the circumstance that it was owned and occupied by Irish
settlers, headed by [Tom] Layden and Jerry Maloney. The
Layden brothers had been railroad contractors, and it was while
they were building the Texas & Pacific Railroad, that they
took a fancy to this land.
"Father built a box house
and bought a yoke of steers, and we began to break the prairie.
The land was packed down hard by [ages] of settling, and
was further [ ___ ] to a considerable depth by a tangle of grass
roots that were as strong as wires. There was no doing
anything with it in dry weather, so, we had to wait for rain
and scratch what little we could of it while it was wet and soft.
Forty yoke of oxen could not have pulled a plow through
it in dry weather. Under the most favorable conditions,
our plow never penetrated the soil more than two or three inches.
That summer, the grasshoppers came, not in swarms, but
in clouds so dense and extensive, that they actually obscured
the sun. They came all at once and left as suddenly, but
remained long enough to make a clean sweep of all tender vegetation.
They did not attack the grass and the cotton, but left
the gardens and corn fields bare and stripped the trees of buds
and young twigs and leaves.
"In September of the same
year, there came a queer blow. I am not sufficiently conversant
with atmospheric phenomena to classify it, but I think I am safe
in saying that it was not a twister. The rain did not come
in a perpendicular direction, nor even slanting, but blew horizontally,
and, coming under the eaves of the house, filled the rooms with
water. Thinking that the roof of our house was gone, we
vacated it, wading out. Pat Tilley's house, near us, was
demolished, but without injury to the inmates. All the
cotton that was open, rode away on the wings of the loud storm.
But, with all these drawbacks, we made about three bales
of cotton to four acres.
"The following winter, we
plowed the land that we had cultivated, a little deeper, broke
some more raw prairie and scraped acquaintance with another aspect
of Texas weather. People nowadays think we old-timers are
drawing on our jaded imaginations when we grow loquacious about
the blue norther and treat the matter with such incredulous sneers,
as sometimes to make us wish that they might get caught in one
of those [c]old freezers, since nothing less, it [seems], would
convince them. This particular variety of blow, as if by
way of making itself all the more impressive, usually picked,
as a contrasting setting, a warm, perfectly clear afternoon.
We victims first noticed a little blue mist in the sky
of the northwest. The next moment, all that quarter of
the compass was blue. Then, the wind was upon us like 10,000
howling wolves, and the mercury fell like a leaden bullet from
a steeple, dropping 60 degrees in almost as many seconds. Our
houses were built for the tropics, and we had no very great piles
of clothing. The result was that we had to suspend all
work and specialize on suffering until the norther passed.
"But the weather has, since
pioneer days, settled down and come to something like order.
The Government Weather Bureau can now issue notice a day
or so in advance, of a drop in the temperature, so that everybody
may prepare against a freeze, whereas, back in the seventies,
a norther could travel faster than a telegraph or radio message
could have been transmitted. The rains are more copious
and more evenly distributed. Fifty years ago, many parts
of the Staked Plains were barren sand heaps, whereas, they are
now smiling gardens.
Sees First Circus.
"For our first crop of cotton,
we got 9¢ at Forney and 9¢ and 10¢ for several
years, thereafter, but during the hard times following the election
of President Cleveland, the market went to pieces and the price
dropped below the cost of production. The price of corn
fluctuated widely in those days. There was no outside market
for corn, nor was there any shipped in from other states. The
result was, that when the crop failed, as it often did, nobody
had any corn and when it hit, everybody had corn. So, when
a farmer planted corn, there was no telling whether he was going
to get 15¢ or $1 a bushel for what he produced. Fortunately,
however, we did not need corn for work stock, for they could
keep in good condition on grass alone. We could work them all
day and turn them out at night and the luxuriant native grass
would look after the feed bill. But, the native grasses
are becoming extinct, along with the horses, mules and oxen.
"The only church in our section
was at Forney. The Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians
and Christians occupied it Sunday about; that is, each of them
had it one Sunday in the month, and all four were represented
by teachers in the Sunday school, which was held every Sunday,
and to which people went for miles. I walked three miles
to get to it. It was at Forney, I saw my first circus.
I was too much engrossed in the sensational details of
it to bother about who owned it, but my impression is that it
was C. W. Noyes' Great Crescent City Circus. I still remember
the tunes the band played. Some of us boys, next day, made
a springboard and began to imitate the tumbling of the circus
performers, others were carried away by the trapeze artists and
others, still, sat down and let the band tunes radio through
their heads. Interest soon waned in the springboard and
the trapeze, but the musical bunch organized a band, of which,
I became a member. We bought uniforms, and were, before long,
playing for picnics and other gatherings. The first telephone
I ever saw was at Forney. C. H. Alexander and John Walker,
merchants, who had been reading of experiments with the telephone
in New York, undertook to experiment on their own hook. They
ran a string between their stores, a block apart, and arranged,
as best they knew how, the whole apparatus. They succeeded so
far as to transmit the sound of the voice, but could not get
the sound to re-form the words at the other end.
"In 1879, we moved to Haught's
Store, now Lawson, where father bought a farm, and where I became
the Haught's Store correspondent of the Mesquite Mesquiter, weekly
newspaper, founded and ably edited by R. S. Kimbrough. Mr.
Kimbrough liked me, and one day, asked me how I should like to
learn printing. I jumped at the chance. He owned
a general store. I set type five days in the week, and
clerked in the store one day, Saturday, that being his only very
busy day. I worked for him three months. He boarded
me and gave me $50 in cash for the three months' work, which
was very liberal, as boy wages went in those days. I returned
to the farm, but was called back to Mesquite in 1882, when Judge
Thomas F. Nash, then a member of the Legislature, leased the
Mesquiter. Judge Nash placed me in charge of the paper,
but at the end of the year, finding that there was no money in
it, he turned it over to J. M. Knox.
Town Site Fight.
- January 27, 1929,
The Dallas Morning News, p. 9, col. 1.
"I continued in charge of
the paper under Mr. Knox, but not for long. He was supporting
the Hon. Olin Welborn, candidate for re-election to Congress,
and finding out that I was for Barnett Gibbs, Welborn's opponent
in the race, he bounced me incontinently. I came to Dallas
and went to work on the Southern Mercury, Populist weekly newspaper,
owned and edited by E. G. Rust. Judge Nash had, in the
meantime, taken charge of the farmers' co-operative store at
Duck Creek. The Santa Fe Railroad, then under construction
through the county, had established a station, half a mile from
Old Duck Creek, and named it Embree, after Dr. K. H. Embree,
and had succeeded in taking the postoffice away from Duck Creek
and having it called Embree. Later, the Katy Railroad came
along and established a station on the other side of Old Duck
Creek and named it Duck Creek. The merchants of the two towns
were pulling against each other for the business and fighting
hard. Joe Routh, owner of the Duck Creek Rustler, had moved
his paper, the Duck Creek Rustler, to Embree, and changed the
name to the Embree Enterprise. The other crowd, headed
by Judge Nash and Joe Mewshaw, started a newspaper, called the
Duck Creek News, and placed me in charge of it.
"The fight thickened, until
the two crowds got to carrying guns for each other, when the
leveler heads saw that something would have to be done. The
two factions agreed to refer their differences to the Hon. Joe
Abbott, Congressman for the district. Judge Abbott recommended
that the postoffice be placed halfway between the two towns,
and that it be called Garland, for A. H. Garland, then Attorney
General of the United States. His decision was accepted,
the postoffice and all the business concerns in the two towns
were moved to the midway point, Joe Routh discontinued his paper,
I moved my office and outfit to the compromise point, and called
my paper the Garland News, which is still running and flourishing.
The people shook hands and forgot the past."
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