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

WINE USED TO
PUT OUT FIRE
IN 'OLD DAYS'

_______

Leak in Cistern, So Vol-
unteer Department
Raided Saloon.

_________

MARDI GRAS FETE
_______

Crowds Came to Dallas
When Celebrations
Were On in '70s.

By W. S. ADAIR

    "I have seen Dallas grow from a hamlet, to what it is today, and I hope to be here when the census sets the population down at 500,000," said August S. Guillot.
    "My father, Maxime Guillot, a native of France, set out from New Orleans to go to California in 1849.  Making a halt at Dallas, he found so much work here, that he concluded to seek no farther.  He was a wagon and carriage-maker by trade.  Four or five years ago, Judge O. E. Dunlap, a Waxahachie banker, told me father made him a buggy in 1867, and that after using it thirty years without being able to wear it out, he gave it to a New Mexico ranchman, on condition that he take it to New Mexico and never bring it back to Texas, for he was tired of looking at it.
    "Father was influential in bringing to Texas, the French colonists that settled at Reunion, and he was their interpreter after they arrived.
    "My earliest recollection goes back to the landing of a steamboat at Dallas, the Harriet something, just below Commerce street.  There was no bridge across the river, but my vague impression is that there had been a bridge, and that it had been carried away by a freshet. The Harriet came some years before the steamer Sallie Haynes landed. I also remember the great herds of wild cattle that, in those days, crossed the river at Dallas and went through the village on their way to Northern markets.

Elm Street Gets Its Name.
    "We lived at the northwest corner of Elm and Houston streets. Father bought the south half of the block and built a dwelling and his shop on it.  He planted a number of elm trees on the lot, and along the sidewalks, and boxed them around so as to keep the oxen from destroying them.  The streets were full of ox wagons in those days and the drivers stopped their teams under the thin shade of these trees.  The people got to designating our locality as the elm grove, and when a name was needed for the trail, which has since evoluted into Elm street, they named it after our grove.
    "The few stores that constituted the town then were around the courthouse, with possibly one or two on Main street, between Jefferson and Market.  The courthouse was a two-story structure with a cupola or tower, but, whether it was built of brick or lumber, I am not clear, but I rather think it was frame.  It was about 40x60 feet in ground dimensions, on a lawn of Bermuda grass, and surrounded by locust trees.  It was destroyed by fire when I was a small boy.
    "In those early days, we had but little in the way of public entertainment, and when a show came along, it stirred the people to the pitch of a sensation.  I well remember the first theatrical I witnessed.  The players were the Crisps -- Mr. and Mrs. Crisp and their two children, a boy and a girl.  They played 'The French Spy,' a popular production of the time, in the courthouse.  The play and the players made a lasting impression on me.  The Crisp boy, red-headed, and then about 12 years old, afterward became a member of Congress and was elected speaker of the house.  The Crisps went from Dallas to Waco, and there the head of the family fell ill and died. Twenty-five years later, I found Crisp's grave in a Waco cemetery with a simple stone at the head of it.

Prof. E. B. Lawrence.
    "Prof. E. B. Lawrence, now almost forgotten, was a mover in his day.  He organized the first big brass band we had, though a smaller band, Parker's, had gone before, and he established the first commercial college in this part of the country and long enjoyed the great success with which it met.  His college and band headquarters were on the north side of Main street, between Houston and Jefferson.  He was a wonderful performer on the cornet, and was in request at all entertainments.  He was a handsome man, a good dresser, and one you would pick out in a crowd.  He was always giving entertainments in the hall of his college.  He once utilized Halloween night for some sort of blowout.  The hall was all decorated, and to me, was as brilliant as could be.  But, in the midst of the festivities, and when the band was playing the Danube Waltzes, it was discovered that the decorations were on fire.  Some of the people undertook to put out the fire, some ran to call the fire department, but most thought only of their personal safety and ran over one another in getting downstairs.  The fire department, of which the late W. C. Connor was chief, made a good run, only to find that the street cistern, which was supposed to contain a store of water against fire in that locality, was bone dry: since the last inpsection, it had sprung a leak.  What was to be done?  There was no water nearer than the river.

Fight Fire With Wine.
    "The firemen, though merely volunteers, and therefore amateurs, we may say, were not without ideas available in an emergency.  A Frenchman, Mr. Caperon, kept a saloon and winehouse nearby.  It was known that he always had in stock, forty to fifty barrels of wine, on stays, in the front part of his saloon.  Chief Connor ordered the firemen to commandeer the Frenchman's wine, or enough of it to quench the fire in Lawrence's College, and this, they did.  They knocked in the heads of the barrels, and, forming a bucket brigade, soon stopped the fire.  Prohibitionists will, of course, applaud the firemen for this act, but for my part, I wish I had some of that wine at this moment.  Wine was cheap in those days.  It was made of the native wild grape, and it probably was not a drain on the city's strong box to indemnify Mr. Caperon.  He was, no doubt, satisfied with ten or fifteen cents a gallon, or whatever the city thought was right.
    "Lawrence later moved his headquarters to the second floor at Lamar and Camp streets, and there, I took a commercial course.  For the benefit of working boys and girls, and for grown-ups, whose early education had been neglected, Lawrence taught a night school, and many men who afterward became prominent, attended it.

Small Transactions.
    "I can recall little in regard to the completion of the Houston & Texas Central Railroad to Dallas in 1872.  My parents must have made me stay in the yard.  But, when the Texas & Pacific came the following year, it ran within half a block of our house and impressed me.  I could view the progress of the construction on the Texas & Pacific bridge across the river.
    "A short time before the advent of the railroads, father purchased two acres of land, which would now be bounded on the east by Harwood street, and on the south, by Live Oak, paying for it, $600.  He built a concrete house on it.  He did not consider it a transaction of any importance, and forgot or neglected to have the deed recorded, and some years later, when he went to sell part of the tract, he was unable to find the deed.  But, he had been in undisputed possession of the tract so long, that the statute of limitations had run in his favor, and the loss of the deed was of no consequence.  The tract, today, is worth more than a million dollars.
    "The Mardi Gras parades in the latter part of the '70s drew immense crowds to Dallas.  But, in that day, 2,000 visitors overran the town, whereas, 50,000 now, do not perceptibility increase the number of people on the streets.  At the same time, Dallas merchants displayed real enterprise in putting on Mardi Gras.  It was a heavy tax for a doubtful experiment, but it had the desired effect of putting Dallas on the map.

Pulls Bonehead.
    "In 1889, I went out to see the world.  I visited South America, crossed the Pacific in a sailing vessel, encountering the stormiest sort of weather, and landed at CapeTown, South Africa, where I became president of a mining company.  I saw the diamond fields of Kimberly, and through a letter of introduction from the Consul General at Cape Town, met Paul Kruger, President of the Boer Republic.  I returned by way of London.  While sojourning in Rio de Janeiro, I became acquainted with our Consul General, Dr. O. H. Dockery, of West Virginia.  The White Squadron, Admiral Walker in command, then on a kind of world tour, was billed to touch at Rio.  The news of the coming of the fleet had much excited Dr. Dockery, who was short of help. Being a stenographer and typist, and otherwise handy, I, as any loyal American should have done under such circumstances, volunteered to assist him, as did, also, two other American visitors in the city.  The fleet arrived amid the usual booming of big artillery and remained about a week.  First, the officers were entertained on shore, and then there was frolic on shipboard.  Early, on the day the squadron was to sail, I went with other Americans to bid farewell to our friends.  Before I left the Consul General's office, he gave me some papers to hand to the flag officer.  We had a great time nearly all day on the ship.  It was nearly night when the flag officer remarked in my presence that he could not understand why the Consul General had not sent the clearance papers.  This remark reminded me of the papers I had in my pocket, which I produced.  I had no idea what the papers meant, but I had delayed the departure of the fleet several hours.  This ought to make me eligible to honorary membership in the Bonehead Club."

- October 31, 1926, The Dallas Morning News,
Sec. 4, p. 7.
- o o o -