Quit With Print
And Ink Supply
Tells About Troubles
in Dallas of Old.
BY W. S. ADAIR
father, John W. Swindells, a native of New York, settled in Dallas
in 1853, and the following year, became associated with J. Wellington
Lattimer in the publication of the Weekly Herald," said
Charles S. Swindells, North Texas Building. "I am
unable to say what induced him to leave civilization and to plunge
into such a wilderness as Texas was at that time, nor, can I
divine what future he could see for a newspaper in a village
of 300 population, backed by neither agriculture, nor manufacture,
and without a railroad or navigable stream as a basis for development.
Truly, the ways of the pioneers were past finding out,
at least by us.
"The Herald was started at
Clarksville, Red River County, by Charles De Moss in the early
'40s, but I am unable to ascertain in exactly what year, but,
knowing the conditions, I can shrewdly guess at the measure of
success it met with. At any rate, by 1849, Mr. De Moss
was ready to sell the plant to Mr. Lattimer, who moved it to
Dallas, at one load, on an oxwagon, oxwagons being, at the time,
the latest thing in the common carrier line on the frontier.
There is no telling at how many points the shifting owners
of the Herald plant had attempted to establish a newspaper, as
the plant slowly drifted across the country and into Texas. But,
certain it is, that, in 1853, Mr. Lattimer found his types so
battered, and the letters in some of the boxes of the cases,
so scarce, that he was obliged to order a new outfit.
First Newspaper in Dallas.
"To get the new outfit, he
needed a little money. That enabled father to secure an
interest in the paper, and with the first issue printed on the
brand-new type, he appeared as editor. Mr. Lattimer died
in 1859, and was buried in the Old Masonic Cemetery, on South
Akard street, where a monument marks his grave. Col. John
W. Lane, many times Alderman, and once Mayor, of the town, took
his place, and wrote the editorials, father returning to the
business office. The paper was supposed to be a 24x36-inch
folio, but oftener than not, it came out as a single sheet printed
on both sides, in long primer and small pica types.
"The office of the Herald
was on the southwest corner of Elm and Houston streets, subsequently,
the stand for many years of Smith & Worden's blacksmith shop.
From that corner, the paper was issued regularly once a
week, until the mysterious fire, which swept away the entire
village, July 8, 1860. The fire was supposed to have been
kindled by negro slaves, instigated thereto by Abolitionist agitators,
who came South to stir the slaves against their masters.
But, that is another story. Father made a trip to Cincinnati,
and there bought a new outfit and resumed the publication of
the paper, Oct. 8, 1860, three months after the fire.
"When the Civil War started,
father joined General Darnell's regiment and went to the front,
after leasing the Herald to Richy & Cory, who employed Col.
John W. Lane as editor. But, the blockade against the Confederate
States prevented the publishers from getting printers' supplies.
For a time, they used brown wrapping paper, which they
bought from the local merchants, and issued the paper as a single
sheet. In a little while, however, the merchants ran out
of even this poor grade of paper, and the Herald office out of
ink, and the publishers had nothing for it, but to close the
plant down. Dallas was, accordingly, without the enlightening
influence of a newspaper from some time in the summer of 1862,
until father was permitted to come home from the war, on account
of ill health, in 1864.
"The completion of the Houston
& Texas Central Railroad to Dallas, in 1872, and of the Texas
& Pacific, the following years, brought a great accession
of population, business concerns and capital, and started the
town on a very pronounced boom. To keep step with the longer
strides of the town, father, with Capt. Robert Josselyn as his
editor, turned the Herald into a daily, issued the first daily
edition of a newspaper to appear in Dallas, Feb. 11, 1873.
The paper received a few hundred words of wire news in skeleton
form, and this, with such stray items as the telegraph operator
was authorized to divulge, made up the meager budget of outside
news the pioneer daily was able to give its readers.
"The cost of running a daily,
even in those days, was considerably more than that of running
a weekly, and it soon became apparent that, in spite of the sudden
transformation of a sleepy village into a flourishing young city,
the demand for advertising space had somehow merely marked time,
and was exhibiting little inclination to join in the general
forward movement. To make matters worse, the great financial
panic of 1873 came on, suspended railroad building, and credit
of all kinds.
"Some notes father had been
obliged to make before the crash came, fell due at Adams &
Leonard's bank. The Sheriff seized the Herald plant and
nobody else bidding on it, Adams & Leonard were forced in
self-protection to take it over. These bankers undertook
to keep the paper going, but soon made such a mess of it, that
they were glad to unload it on Paris S. Pfouts and Col. John
F. Elliott, for less money than they were out on it.
Sheriff Seizes Plant.
"The Herald, at the time the
Sheriff intervened, was issued from the two-story building adjoining
the Field Opera House, on the south side of Main street, in the
middle of The News block. While the Herald was in process
of liquidation in 1874, W. L. Hall took it into his head that
the time was ripe, and the field white, for a daily, clear of
debt, and without a disagreeable record to hamper its extension,
and he, accordingly, launched the Daily Commercial. This
made a division of the few citizens who considered the keeping
with the daily happenings of the world worth while, and of the
very limited and grudging amount of advertising the rising town
afforded, and put the owners and attaches of the two papers in
the bread line. At this juncture, the adventurous Moses
C. Harris launched the snappy Evening Mail, the first afternoon
newspaper published in Dallas, and a short time later, Colonel
McClure shoved out the Evening Times, making the fourth daily
newspaper in the wagon town.
"Clearly, the field hardly
afforded a living for one, much less, four newspapers. Each
of the morning papers knew the other was tottering, and when
Pfouts & Elliott proposed to Mr. Hall to combine the two,
the latter was ready to listen with both ears. The outfit
of the Commercial was moved to the office of the Herald, the
name of the Commercial was dropped, and the name of the firm
became Pfouts, Elliott & Hall.
"After something of a meteoric
flash in Dallas journalism, Mose Harris suspended the publication
of the Mail and moved to Fort Worth, where, he once more, scintillated
for several years. In the meantime, Col. W. G. Sterrett
became the owner and editor of the Times and the Times continued
as the only afternoon newspaper, and the Herald as the only morning
newspaper in Dallas, until The News entered the field in 1885
and absorbed the Herald plant, name and patronage, and employed
Colonel Sterrett as a member of its editorial staff.
Old Timers Not Prophets.
- January 4, 1931,
The Dallas Morning News,
"It is a mistake to suppose
that even after the railroads came, the leading citizens had
any notion that Dallas was to be a city. When the movement
for a city hall and market house started, various sites were
proposed. Father suggested that the place for the building
was at Main and Akard streets.
"The next day, a committee
of indignant citizens waited on father at his office. Col. John
C. McCoy, spokesman for the committee, said to Swindells, 'we
have always looked upon you as a sane man, and we come as a jury,
as it were, to inquire into your mental condition; we wish to
know why you would place the city hall and market house out in
"Father tried to reply, that
in a little while, the site he recommended would be in the business
district, but I am satisfied that his explanation only served
to confirm the original opinion of the members of the committee,
who, while he was talking, cast knowing glances at one another,
as much as to say, 'It is even as we feared and suspected.' "
Automobile Section, p. 1, col. 7; cont. on p. 5, col. 2.
- o o o -