Search billions of records on
To Dallas County Archives main page
To list of published Wm. Adair columns, 1920-1925, 1926-1933
To list of transcribed Wm. Adair columns

Blue Norther
Not Bad Now,
Cullom Avers


John H. Cullom Tells of
Early Day Rain Which
Came Horizontal.


Here for 52 Years

Towns of Duck Creek
and Embree Combined
to Form Garland.


     "I 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 [figure].
     "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.

Spectacular Weather.
     "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.
     "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."

- January 27, 1929, The Dallas Morning News, p. 9, col. 1.
- o o o -