50 Years Ago
Wood H. Ramsey Soon
to Round Out His Half
They Lived High
Wild Turkeys, Prairie
Chicken and Bear
By W. S. ADAIR
"I shall soon
have rounded out my fifty years in Dallas," said Wood H.
Ramsey, of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, 701
Kirby Building. "As a boy, I came here from Meridian,
Miss., with my father, Gen. B. Y. Ramsey, in December, 1875.
In recent years, I have been away a little, but I have
always claimed Dallas as my home. My father remained but
a short time and returned to the old home.
"For bustle and business, Dallas
was a wonder among Texas towns. It was certainly a crude
settlement, compared with what would, today, be considered a
tolerable place of residence, but as we compared it only with
less inviting places, it really bulked large. Every man
had a horse or a horse and buggy, just as nearly every man now
has an automobile or hopes to have one. People rode down
town and hitched their horses to rings or racks along the sidewalks,
and in many instances, left them there all day. Every merchant
had a hitching rack in front of his store, and the county provided
hitching space for scores of horses under the trees in the courthouse
yard. Horses were parked everywhere, just as automobiles are
today, and in place of the garages that now abound, we had livery
stables and wagon yards, and instead of going to hotels as autoists
do when they have parked their cars, the patrons of the wagon
yards picked soft places and camped there.
"Automobiles would have been of
no use in a highwayless country such as Texas then was; besides,
people were not in a hurry. They seldom had occasion, except
when fleeing from justice, for higher speed, than a scrub horse
was capable of. People these days find even the automobile
too slow, and in their craving for something better, they have
actually wished the airplane into existence. Old-timers had not
dreamed of even the now obsolete bicycle.
Fifty Years Ago.
"In 1875, Nat M. Burford was
District Judge. Judge George N. Aldredge was County Attorney,
and Col. Robert E. Cowart was his assistant. Maj. James
E. Barkley was Sheriff. Gen. W. L. Cabell was Mayor of
the town; Tom Keaton, City Assessor and Collector; John B. Hereford,
City Secretary, and Capt. June Peak, Town Marshal.
"The City Hall was a two-story frame
building on the southwest corner of Main and Akard streets. The
second floor furnished ample space for all the city offices and
for the police court, and was, besides, used by the people as
a town hall. The ground floor was let to meat and vegetable
men, and yielded the city a revenue. When the city moved
its headquarters to the second floor of the building on The News
corner, in 1882, the vacated building became the office of the
Evening Times, owned and edited by the late Col. W. G. Sterrett.
What the Market Afforded.
"In 1875, Dallas was still receiving
buffalo hides and buffalo meat from the west. Wagons, coupled
together like the cars of a freight train, came in with buffalo
hides stacked on them like loads of hay, and drawn by six and
eight pairs of mules or yokes of oxen. Venison, antelope meat,
wild turkeys, prairie chickens and bear meat, were almost as
plentiful on the local market as beef and mutton. The leading
butchers or meat market men were Jacob Nussbaumer and Henry Boll.
"Elm street, west of Lamar, was
the cotton market. There, the farmers stopped their wagons
and haggled with the buyers.
"There were no railroads traversing
the country west of the Houston & Texas Central, except the
extension of the Texas & Pacific to Eagle Ford, which gave
Dallas the wagon trade of a vast region. The stage lines must
have still been in operation in that region at the time of which
I speak, but they are dim in my memory. I cannot recall
that I ever saw them in connection with the postoffice, which
was on the northeast corner of Main and Houston streets. Judge
A. B. Norton was postmaster.
"The newspapers were the Herald,
the Commercial, the Mail and Norton's Intelligencer. Judge
Norton owned the Intelligencer, which was the only Republican
paper in this part of the country. Mose Harris got the
Evening Mail out as best he could for a time, and when he failed,
he scrapped it and started the Evening Times, which eventually
fell into the hands of Col. W. G. Sterrett. I think Col.
Barto was at the head of the Herald, the morning paper, and Col.
McClure at the head of the Commercial, though, I am not sure
about this. Some years later, Col. Paris S. Pfouts got
control of the Herald, and Col. W. L. Hall of the Commercial,
an afternoon paper. They combined the two and dropped the
name of the Commercial, and taking Col. John F. Elliott in as
a partner, they bent their efforts to make the Herald a go. Col.
Hall and Col. Pfouts took charge of the business department,
and Col. Elliott of the editorial. A polished and prolific
writer himself, Col. Elliott was assisted in his work by Maj.
Charles L. Martin. The News absorbed the Herald in 1885.
James P. Smith and the late J. C. McNealus must have been
the first regular newspaper reporters in Dallas. McNealus
was here asking people what they knew all of fifty years ago,
and Smith came not much later. They published whatever
they pleased, and when news was slow about happening, they made
Volunteer Fire Department.
"The old volunteer fire department
must have been at its best in 1875. W. C. Connor was chief,
and such men as Jules E. Schneider, Alfred Davis, Dave Goslin,
Charles Kahn, Barnett Gibbs, and Philip and Alexander Sanger,
were members of Hook and Ladder No. 1, and Dennis Canty was driver.
The horses, Bud and Jules, were named for "Bud"
(W. C. ) Connor, and Jules E. Schneider. George Burger
was engineer. The fire station was on the north side of
Commerce street, next to the Lamar Street Methodist church, at
Commerce and Lamar streets. One day, when the men in charge
of the station had adjourned to Main street to view the parade
of C. W. Noyes Great Crescent City Circus, the hay in the rack
at the station caught fire, and burned down both the fire station
and the church. That was about 1878.
"Capt. June Peak was succeeded as
City Marshal by Capt. W. F. Morton, who made James C. Arnold
deputy marshal. Capt. Morton enjoyed great popularity.
Indeed, it was the opinion of many that he could not be
beaten for any office for which he might run. It was, therefore,
considered by these men folly and suicidal on the part of Arnold
to come out as a candidate against his chief at the next election,
and they sought to pick up some easy money on his rashness. At
first, they offered big odds, but they soon discovered that was
not at all necessary, since nobody on the other side wanted odds.
"The election was a great surprise.
Arnold won by a heavy majority. Arnold was a born
police chief. He continued at the head of the department
until he died, and, had he lived, he would, no doubt, still be
at the head of it.
"In 1875, the police force consisted
of City Marshal Morton and Patrolmen James C. Arnold, Roxy Clements
(the town wit), John W. Spencer, Bill Phares and Mr. Russell.
They had, more or less, definite beats, but were supposed
to be on general duty as well; that is, ready to go at any time,
wherever their services might be most needed.
"The business district, consisting
of half a dozen blocks, was lighted by small gas lamps, which,
in comparison with the modern arc lights, shed an illumination
something like that of a glowworm. The streets were just
plain roads, not only without pavements, but without grades.
In place of macadam for surface, they were laid in sand,
which, through the constant kneading of the heavy traffic of
the wagon period, became fine as dust, and rose in clouds in
dry weather, and turned to boggy mud in wet weather.
Local Postal Service.
- October 4, 1925,
The Dallas Morning News,
"For some time after I came
to Dallas, the postal service was that of the merest cross-roads
town. The mail from the south, east and north came by rail,
the trains arriving, one in the morning, and the other in the
evening. Persons expecting mail went to the postoffice,
took their places in line in front of the delivery window and
patiently waited for Postmaster Norton to arrange the pieces
alphabetically. In those days of abundant leisure, people
did not mind putting in an hour at the postoffice, for where
else could they find a bigger crowd, or meet in one spot almost
everyone they knew?
"There were two transfer lines engaged
in hauling passengers and baggage between the hotels and the
railway stations. One of them was run by C. M. Orr, and
the other by S. P. Siler. Siler, who was full of go, was,
for years, a familiar figure, set off by a fiery red head.
"The Lamar Hotel, now the St. George,
had just been completed in 1875. I think it was run up
to three stories, at first, but some contend that it had only
two. Anyway, E. U. Root was the first manager of the hostelry.
"All the shows that came to town
were given in the Field Opera House, facing Main street, in the
middle of The Dallas News block. Lively Hall, on the north side
of Main street, opposite the Linz Building, was the place for
social functions, and for pulling off the high-power dances of
"Not one of the physicians who were
in the practice in Dallas is still in active life, and Judge
Robert B. Seay is the only one of the lawyers, making up the
bar of fifty years ago, that still has out a shingle. And,
of all the merchants who combined to make Dallas the best town
in North Texas half a century ago, Leon Kahn is the only one
still in business."
Mr. Ramsey went to work for the C. B.
& Q., with headquarters in Chicago, in 1909. Recently,
he has been transferred back to Dallas, with the title of city
freight agent. He is working under C. W. Andrews, general
Sec. IV, p. 10, col. 1.
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