and Slumps During Early
Railroad Building Days
By W. S. ADAIR
had a bad name in the North and East, and Dallas was far from
inviting as a place of residence when I came to the State, early
in the '70s," said W. H. Dana, 1626 Allen Building. "The
Houston & Texas Central Railroad had been completed to a
connection with the Katy at Denison, and the Texas & Pacific
to Eagle Ford. Persons coming from, or going to points
not reached by these railroads made their way on horseback, in
wagons, on foot, or by stage, just as they had been accustomed
to do of old. Farmers had begun, here and there, to stir
the ground, but the country, in all directions, was still open
range, where cattle flourished on the luxuriant native grasses,
and whence, when matured, they were shipped by rail, or were
moved on foot to the northern markets.
"Eagle Ford, which, they say,
took its name from the fact that a pair of eagles, for many years,
nested in the top of a tall tree on the bank of the river at
the crossing near the town, was the nearest shipping point for
the cattlemen of the West for the gathering of buffalo hides.
It had everything that any wild-West town had, and, was a hummer,
until the Texas & Pacific resumed construction, after the
financial panic of 1873, and pushed the terminus to Fort Worth.
By the time construction had reached Arlington, Eagle Ford
was dead as a doornail. The population deserted, the merchants
having no trade, moved their stocks, and many of the more substantial
buildings were pulled down, and the lumber in them, was hauled
to Dallas or Fort Worth to go into other buildings. Then,
Fort Worth, known as Cowtown, took over a great share of the
wagon trade that Dallas had been enjoying, and began to put on
the airs of a rising town.
Dallas as a Hurrah Town.
Eagle Ford was the terminus, Dallas was the livest [liveliest]
business point in the Southwest. I do not know accurately
what the population was, but it could not have been more than
4,000 or 5,000, counting the floating element, always large in
such settlements. The people had hastily assembled here
with a view of getting hold of what money they could, while the
place was a terminal point, and, when the bottom fell out, of
moving to the next best place. The result was, that up
to that time, nothing in the way of public improvements was attempted.
The business district was confined to the courthouse square
and to Main and Elm streets, to about Poydras on Main, and perhaps
Murphy on Elm. The streets, dust heaps in dry weather,
and mud holes in west, and lighted at night by half a dozen or
such, a matter of small gas lamps, were always jammed with wagons,
which came in loaded with buffalo and cow hides, and cotton and
wheat, and went out loaded with groceries, whisky and other supplies,
and lumber. The lion's share of the prosperity went to
the wagonyards and the lumberyards. The sawmills of East
Texas could not keep the lumberyards in stock. The entire
West seemed to be on a wild building boom.
"For some years after the
Civil War, the people of the Southwest would have nothing to
do with bank notes --- because they suggested Confederate money,
which was still plentiful and worthless. They demanded
silver and gold. Lumber haulers often brought to town with
them, in shot bags tied to the hounds of their wagons, the coin
with which to pay for their cargoes. There were no petty
highjackers in those days. The pioneer bandit, being closer
to the influences of chivalry, respected the struggling little
fellow, and directed his operations against banks, express companies
and railroads, which, he suspected, could easily repair the damage.
Turned Their Money Loose.
were no very rich people in Dallas, nor, did it require much
capital to operate. Business was so brisk that every merchant
sold his stock as fast as he could get it, and thus, turned his
money over many times during the year, and every dollar in town
was in swift circulation, suggesting the coin tricks of the sleight-of-hand
showman. Some of the larger merchants were Sanger Bros.,
Fee Brothers, Thompson Brothers, E. M. Kahn, C. M. Wheat, Jack
Friedlander, L. Goldsmith, E. Bauman, dry goods and clothing;
Padgitt Brothers and G. H. Schoellkopf, saddles and harness;
Schneider & Davis, T. L. Marsalis, Wallace & Wagner and
B. M. Bond & Brother, wholesale grocers; W. A. Rodgers and
Huey & Philp, hardware; R. V. Tompkins, Stone & Keating
and Bowser & Lemmon, farm implements and machinery. The
only one of the pioneer retail grocery concerns that has continued,
is that of L. Wagner, southeast corner of Main and Jefferson
streets. Mr. Wagner's sons, who succeeded him, are still
operating at the old stand.
"The best drinking water was
such as shallow wells afforded, and there were not more than
a dozen bath tubs in town, but everybody who wanted a job, had
one, and living was cheap. A couple of struggling young
men could rent a room over a store on the courthouse square for
$1 a month, and could get first-rate table board for $3 a week.
As good a suit of clothes as most of them wore could be had for
$10, a pair of shoes for $2, a hat for $1.50, and a shirt for
50¢. At any one of a dozen saloons, a liberal beef,
pork, or fish sandwich went with a 5¢ schooner of beer,
and in some saloons, the purchaser had the privilege of listening
to the orchestra play while he was getting on the outside of
his lunch. There were places where any one who felt that
he was lucky, could, at any hour of the day or night, try his
hand at faro, roulette, keno, or most any other game; or, at
less risk, invest $1 in the Louisiana lottery and stand a chance
of winning $15,000. Some old men I meet in my rounds still
refer to those days as the 'Good old times.' But, in one
respect, at least we were in advance of today -- we had every
year, a series of the finest dramatic performances the world
has known, first in the Field Opera House on Main street, and
later in Craddock's Opera House, on the second floor of the northwest
corner of Main and Austin streets.
Some Ups and Downs.
the Texas & Pacific Railroad was completed to Fort Worth,
the floating population and many business concerns of Dallas
joined in the wild rush for the new terminal, just as certain
birds migrate when the seasons change, and as the herds and flocks
on the plains move to what looks to them like the best grazing.
Dallas lost, both in trade and population, and was, for
a time, visibly declining. Many were decidedly of [the]
opinion that the place had seen its best days. For several
years, there was no building, and the old architecture began
to take on the weather-beaten, and slightly mossy, aspect of
stagnant towns. But, the men who had staked their all here,
were not to be discouraged by the first whiff of adversity. All
the time, they were reaching out for trade, pulling for more
railroads. The fruits of their labors began to appear by
1884, and not long thereafter, all kinds of good things for the
town began to break. Railroads were under construction,
or had been projected in two or three directions; several new
additions to the town had been opened. The Dallas News
had started, and the State Fair was launched.
"In fact, the boom was on.
Additions were opened on all sides, and the old street
railway lines extended to them, or new lines built. Larger and
better buildings sprang up like magic in the business district.
People, money, and business concerns poured in, kicking
up the stir of an oil town. Real estate steadily advanced
from day to day. It was impossible to convince a man who
had bought a lot, day before yesterday for $250, and sold it
today for $500, that he could not reasonably expect that sort
of thing would go on forever. And, that was precisely the
trouble. A man who had $1,000, would buy four lots at $1,000
each, and pay $250 down on each, in the belief that before the
end of the week, he could sell for $1,000 cash. For a time,
his calculations tallied with the outcome. When that happened,
he would buy sixteen lots, and quote himself as worth $16,000.
It is easy to see where everybody landed when the crash came."
- September 27, 1931,
The Dallas Morning News,
to Texas from Rochester, N. Y., as the Southwestern agent of
a big cigarette concern. My territory was Texas, Louisiana,
Arkansas, Oklahoma and Indian Territory, with headquarters at
Dallas. Cigar-smoking is not a strictly modern luxury or
vice, whichever you may choose to call it, as you may know, from
the records of my office, I received and distributed advertising
matter by the carload, and had twenty-five traveling salesmen
on the road, whose orders were filled through the wholesale grocery
houses of my territory. Many of our best customers were
in inland towns, and reached only by hard riding, on horseback,
in buggies or stages, and the hotels were, as a rule, not so
appointed as to make one hurry up in order to take his [egg?]
in them. In fact, the traveling salesman's lot was not,
aside from the money in it, calculated to excite the envy of
persons wishing to mix the comforts of life with the struggle
for existence. Our business grew as the population increased
and the towns multiplied. Then, two of the big cigarette
concerns combined, and business doubled. Later, a third
manufacturer joined the two, and then a fourth, and so on, until
the cigarette output of the entire country was under one management.
This arrangement made it possible to handle the business
with fewer and fewer traveling salesmen as the number of houses
dwindled, and, since the radio has come into general use, the
combined industry, I am told, makes [it possible] to get along
fairly well without keeping any men at all on the road."
Section IV, p. 1, col. 1-2; cont. on p. 4, col. 5-8.
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