Dallas Was an Island
Drowned on What
Are Now Business Streets of City
How the Old Song,
"Dixie," Was Taboo. Hunting in What Is
Now Manufacturing District of City -- Law
and Order Was Maintained -- Few Men
Had the Nerve to Start Anything -- Every
Grown Man "Toted a Gun."
W. S. ADAIR
family settled in Dallas a short time before the great overflow
of the Trinity River in 1866," said Clifton Scott, 1913
Orange street. "I have always believed and said, that
the river was higher at that time, than it was in 1908, though,
I admit that the matter is difficult to decide. The railroad
dumps and fills and the street grades, made after the first flood,
so changed the river banks and the low places in and about Dallas,
that some places that were under water in 1866, were high above
it in 1908. It is a fact, however, that in 1866, Dallas
was an island, save for a narrow strip of land on Elm street
at the head of Murphy street. The strip was about wide
enough for a wagon to pass with dry tires. At that time,
there was a creek where Murphy street now is. The water
came almost up to Houston street and Commerce street, and the
greater part of the yard of the Cockrell home, on the south side
of Commerce between Houston street and the river, was under water.
"My brother, Robert, 12 or
14 years old, was drowned in the backwater in Dallas Branch,
between Wood and Young streets. It was three or four hours
before his body was recovered. Dr. Gillespie and Dr. Crowdus,
and, I think, Dr. McDermett, worked a long time trying to resuscitate
him, but failed. The same day, I think it was, someone
was drowned in the creek at Main and Murphy streets; but, I do
not remember clearly about it. The mere fact is all I can
recollect. The person may have been a negro.
Starts Big Flour Mill.
Dr. James E. Scott, came from Alabama to Texas in 1854, and settled
in Walker County. He moved from there to Dallas in the
spring of 1866. He selected for his homestead, the block
now occupied by the Higginbotham-Bailey-Logan Company, and employed
Andy Moore, former marshal of Dallas, to build his dwelling,
which was a frame structure. Col. John C. McCoy's dwelling
was on the block between our house and Commerce street, and William
Caruth's dwelling was on the block on the opposite side of Lamar
street from Colonel McCoy's. Carey & Welch had a blacksmith
shop on the News block. A pond or swamp, shaded by persimmon
trees, made a dismal place of the old Windsor Hotel block.
"About 1867, my father built
a flour mill near the present site of Hughes Bros.' factory,
south of the City Park. It was the largest flour mill in
the state at the time, having a capacity of 200 barrels a day.
That was before the days of railroads and automobile trucks,
and even before the word 'good' had been coupled with roads;
in fact, roads were so scarce, that any kind of a blazed way
was a godsend. On account of lack of transportation facilities,
cotton could be profitability grown, and wheat was the leading
agricultural product in all this region. Our mill received
wheat by wagon from all the adjoining counties. There were
two varieties of it, known as red May wheat and white May wheat.
It averaged sixty pounds to the bushel, the white being
a little the heavier.
"I do not remember what the
yield of wheat per acre was, but I do remember that it was a
profitable crop, and that there were good and bad crop years,
according to the rainfall. After the railroads came and
furnished transportation for cotton, wheat was neglected for
the more profitable cotton, and in a few years, the impression
got abroad that cotton was the only crop that would grow in this
part of the country.
Wheat Main Crop.
paid from $1.25 to $1.75 for wheat delivered at the mill. He
sold the flour as fast as he could grind the wheat, at $4 to
$4.50 per 100 pounds at the mill. Customers came in wagons,
hundreds of miles. After the people began to grow cotton,
my father built a gin in connection with his mill, operating
it with the mill engine. I remember he had trouble getting
rid of the cotton seed, which at that time, and for many years
after, were regarded as worthless. He burned some of it
in the furnace of his engine and paid to have the rest hauled
away. Of course, it was known that cattle would eat cotton
seed and thrive on it; but, the whole country was open range
and the native grass of the most luxuriant growth, and there
was no demand for cattle feed. It was not until many years
later that the oil, cake and other products of cotton seed had
any value, or, that the processes of preparing them were discovered.
The first cotton ginned at our place sold for 3 1/2¢
"Dallas was not much of a
town, as towns go, when we settled here; still, it was a wonderful
country, blessed in many ways. Game of all kinds abounded.
I killed deer and turkeys in all parts of the territory
now covered by the city. My favorite hunting ground was
the vicinity of the present Dallas Cotton Mills. I shot
ducks and geese until I was weary of the sport, where the branch
runs into the river, near the east end of the viaduct, and killed
rabbits, squirrels and prairie chickens anywhere on McKinney
road, north of Orange street. Any man could step out, and
in thirty minutes' time, provide fresh game for a meal. Prairie
chicken were as thick as grasshoppers ever were, and for half
the year, we ate ducks and geese until we were sick of the diet.
Good Old Times.
country was all free range, and the native grass, which grew
like Johnson grass, sustained an incredible number of cattle.
Under such conditions, it was just as easy for a man to
own a herd of cattle, as not, and every man was, to some extent,
a cattleman. The butchers sold the best cuts of the finest
grass-fed beef in the world for 3¢ to 3 1/2¢ a pound.
We had no railroad outlet, and were a thousand miles from
nowhere, but we really had everything we needed, and got it almost
without effort. The people were just bow-legged with money,
and were free with it. Everything was on a cash basis.
Dallas has become a great, modern city, and there is much
wealth here, but the average man does not experience the good
times of the days of wagon trade, when all merchandise was freighted
from Houston and Jefferson.
"In those days, the streets
were crowded with wagons and people, day and night, and the wagon
yards flourished. It seemed that the chief business of
the people was to get rid of their money. They gambled
and drank whisky, and even tossed up dollars on the street, winning
or losing a dollar at a throw. Every man wanted to 'set
'em up' in the saloons, and, with every sale or service, went
a tip. The bootblack charged only 5¢ for a shine,
but he seldom received less than 25¢ or 50¢ as a tip
for his trouble.
Took Second Thought.
nowadays seem to think that a majority of the people on the frontier
were desperadoes. It is a fact that men went armed,
and prepared for any emergency, but the very preparation minimized
the emergencies. When a man knows, that to start trouble
means that somebody is going to be killed, and he is not certain
that it will be the other fellow, he goes a little slow. The
pistol-toting custom was, no doubt, the best for the welfare
of the community under the circumstances. This much is
certain -- there were no assassinations of unarmed men in those
days. Men had it in for one another, just as they do now,
but they had no opportunity of catching one another unarmed and
off their guard. You never heard of two or three heavily
armed men suddenly bursting into a room and, riddling with bullets,
a man whom they took by surprise, and who had no means of defending
himself. A man thought twice before he went on the warpath
in old times.
"I have a very vivid recollection
of Dr. Samuel Pryor, the first mayor. When we came to Dallas,
Dr. Pryor had a drug store on the south side of Commerce street,
near Houston street. He was a portly man, weighing about
200 pounds; wore a full beard, and impressed you as a mover.
John Neely Bryan was also still here. He was a stout,
thick-set man, about 5 feet 9 inches in height, sporting a full
beard, according to the fashion of the times. He seemed
to have great muscular energy and endurance. His son, Ash
Pryor, the first child born in Dallas after the town was incorporated,
I also knew well. Ash remained in Dallas until along in
the '80s, when he moved to Arkansas. I have not heard of
him in many years. Ash was on the police force for a long
time, and also served as Deputy Constable in Precinct No. 1.
- September 3, 1922,
The Dallas Morning News,
we came to Dallas, E. F. Davis was governor, and the state was
under carpetbag rule. Captain Horton, a one-armed man,
was in charge of the negro bureau in Dallas, and, backed by a
company of soldiers, he was making it uncomfortable for the people,
annoying them in all sorts of petty ways. Mrs. E. B. Scott,
who owned one of the few pianos in town, had the air of 'Dixie'
among her favorite pieces. Captain Horton served notice
on her husband that the playing of the odious Southern tune was
an insult to the flag, as well as to common decency, and that
if Mrs. Scott played it again, she would have to answer for it.
I give this as a sample of what the people had to put up
with in reconstruction days. Mrs. Scott was a daughter
of Wake Latimer, founder of the Dallas Herald, the first newspaper
published in Dallas."
Mr. Scott was a member of the Dallas
police force under Marshal Campbell during reconstruction times.
Captain June Peak was also on the force at the time. Mr.
Scott served as a deputy under Sheriff James E. Barckley, beginning
about 1872. In that capacity, he arrested two men who were
wanted elsewhere for murder, and who had given out that they
would not be taken alive. He was also a member of the police
force for several years under Chief James C. Arnold.
Magazine Section, p. 6, col. 1-4.
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