OLD LANDMARK IS
HISTORY OF CITY'S
"WHITE WAY" RECALLED BY
RAZING OF BUILDING.
BY W. S. ADAIR
The razing of
the two-story brick building on the northeast corner of Lamar
and Camp streets, marks the end of one of the oldest business
houses in that locality, and gives the discoverer of these archaeological
fragments an opportunity to present a few more glimpses of early
times in Dallas. The building was erected in 1873 or 1874,
by J. H. Bryan, and was, for several years thereafter, occupied
as a general mercantile store by Mr. Bryan, W. J. Clark and S.
D. Blake, under the firm name of Bryan, Clark & Blake. At
that time, the adjoining building on the east was occupied by
Ferdinand N. Tucker, as a grocery, while A. T. Grimes ran a grocery
farther down the street, opposite the Camp street wagon yard,
the site of which, is now occupied by Ben Ablon's produce house.
A. C. Camp, for whom Camp street was
named, owned three or four acres on the east side of Lamar street,
south of Camp street, on which, in 1868, he built a dwelling
on the ground now occupied by the old Texas & Pacific passenger
station, the lumber for which, was hauled from Palestine by John
H. Gaston on wagons. When the Texas & Pacific Railroad
was completed to Dallas in 1873, Mr. Camp sold the property to
the railroad company for a depot site.
Trend of City's Growth.
By the time of the advent of the Texas
& Pacific Railroad, the residence section had scattered in
all directions west of the river from the courthouse square.
Barnett Gibbs, Maj. Jerome C. Kearby, Judge R. D. Coughanhour,
J. H. Bryan, W. H. Prather, W. B. Greenlaw, A. C. Camp, Dr. Arch
Cochran, John Tenison, and other leading families, had homes
north of the Texas & Pacific Railroad, while W. C. Connor,
Gen. W. L. Cabell, Seth Shepherd, Dr. J. W. Crowdus, Judge George
N. Aldredge, Sawnie Robertson, Col. John J. Eakin, E. M. Browder,
Col. R. E. Cowart, Judge Charles Fred Tucker, D. T. Rainwater,
Paul F. Erb, Fee Bryan, Alexander and Philip Sanger, and others,
settled in what was called The Cedars, comprising that part of
the city between Commerce street and the present City Park.
Judge Nat M. Burford's dwelling was where
the St. George now stands, and he owned the block in which he
lived. The block on the opposite side of Main street was
the homestead of Jack Smith. The Episcopal Church was on
the northwest corner of Elm and Lamar streets, Dr. Davenport,
rector. The Cumberland Presbyterian Church was on the hill
on Cochran street, where the Cumberland Hill School building
now stands, the hill taking its name from the church.
Andrew J. Ross.
Ross avenue was named for Andrew J. Ross,
one of the first settlers on the street. In 1868, Capt.
W. H. Gaston bought a tract on Ross avenue, which included the
land, which afterward became the homestead of Col. A. H. Belo,
at Ross avenue and Pearl street. The ground was covered
with a dense thicket, in clearing which for the erection of a
dwelling, rattlesnakes were discovered by hundreds, and some
time after Captain Gaston's family moved into the house, a negro
servant girl, employed to nurse Robert K. Gaston, then an infant,
died from the sight of a rattlesnake in the yard. She was
found by Mrs. Gaston dead in the yard with the infant, Robert,
sprawling near her and making ineffectual efforts to crawl to
the snake, which had attracted his attention.
Big Realty Deal.
In 1868, the late Judge T. G. T. Kendall
owned the E. M. Kahn block. He offered to trade the block
to John H. Gaston for twelve mules, which were valued at about
$900, but as Mr. Gaston was, at the time, making money freighting
between Dallas and Jefferson and Palestine, and, as he could
not see just how any revenue was to be made out of the block,
he declined to consider the proposition. But, the following
year, Judge Kendall found a man who took a different view of
the matter, and who paid him $1,000 for the block.
Downtown Corner for $5.
A short time before this transaction,
a couple of itinerant poker players dropped into town and readily
found a game. In the course of the playing one of the local
sports, having lost what cash he had, but still retaining confidence
in his luck, offered as a wager, the title to the lot on the
northeast corner of Lamar and Elm. He got $5 worth of chips
for the title. The visitors also got this, as well as pretty
much everything else the Dallas men had in the way of cash, negotiable
paper or pawnable chattels. The game over, the winners
went forth to realize on the things they had won. But finally,
they returned to the man from whom they had won the lot and handed
him back his piece of paper, complaining that the lot was worthless
and that he had cheated them.
"Doc" Chamberlain's Place.
When Bryan, Clark & Blake vacated
the building at Lamar and Camp streets, "Doc" Chamberlain
occupied it as a retail liquor store for the ensuing twenty-five
years. In spite of the fact that Camp street developed
into the most disreputable street in Dallas, and carried the
banner as such for a long series of years, "Doc" Chamberlain's
place had the name of being one of the most orderly saloons in
the country. The police never had occasion to visit him professionally,
and his was one of the few old-time saloons that had not a single
killing to its credit.
Entering the retail liquor business at
a time when it was not considered so disreputable, as it afterwards
was regarded, Chamberlain carried into his vocation, the dignity
[of] becoming a legitimate business. For almost the entire
period of his connection with the corner, he rode a white horse
between his home and the saloon. Toward the end, he wore
a long white beard, which gave him something of the look of a
patriarch. He was noted for the readiness with which he
responded to hard-luck stories. He even contributed to
the building funds of many struggling churches.
Camp street was known all over the country
as the easiest place in the Southwest for a man in search of
trouble to find what he was looking for. The west end of
the street became a network of saloons, variety shows and gambling
houses, while the east end was the settlement of the worst negroes
in the city, who also had their places of amusement, on the model
of those on the other end. Such allurements as Camp street
held out, constituted about the only amusement to be found in
frontier towns, and those who had any of the spirit of adventure
in them, especially those whose acquaintance with the world was
limited, felt called upon to explore these retreats, and, it
is no exaggeration to say that those who went after nightfall
to see the sights on Camp street, paid for the privilege, whatever
amount of money they happened to have about their clothes --
in fact, they were lucky if they got out physically whole.
The street quieted down a little after
the variety shows were suppressed, but it was not completely
civilized until the property became profitable for business stands.
But, so long as the street made any pretentions to toughness,
it was, no doubt, the toughest thoroughfare of its length in
"Stick 'Em Up!"
People nowadays are divided broadly into
rich and poor, or capitalists and laborers, with, of course,
a large number between, with some uncertainty as to their classification.
But, in early days, there were no great accumulations of
capital, and the division of society was on different lines.
The law-abiding, well-meaning, industrious citizens, those
with wholesome ideas and aspirations, made one class, and the
rest, terminating at the top, in the desperado, the other. A
sample or two of the latter class will suffice.
At noon, on a fine summer day in 1874, two bandits, Riordon and
McGee, rode into the city and hitched their horses in a post-oak
grove, where the Gaston Building now stands. This was in
the rear of Kerr & Gruber's Bank, which fronted on Main street.
While McGee remained in the rear, Riordon walked on Lamar
street to Main. The town was very dead at that hour. In
his stroll, Riordon saw no one abroad. He heard the honest
tinkling of a blacksmith's anvil in the uncertain distance, and
saw a dog asleep on the board sidewalk on the opposite [side]
of the street, now and then, lazily raising his head to snap
at a fly that buzzed too close to his ear.
Six-shooter in his hand, and a handkerchief
over the lower part of his face, the bandit entered the front
door of the bank, while his companion, similarly accoutered,
closed in from the rear. Mr. Kerr and Mr. Gruber, who were
alone in the bank, hastened to comply with the command to "Stick
'em up." According to the best account, the bandits got
James E. Barkley was Sheriff and Bev
and Tom Scott were among his deputies. Hurriedly organizing
a posse, the Sheriff pursued the robbers and succeeded, eventually,
though, not right away, in apprehending them. Both were
convicted and sent to the penitentiary.
- January 9, 1921,
The Dallas Morning News, Sec. 3, p. 2.
One night, [in] 1873, a homicide occurred
in Bogel's Saloon, on the south side of Main street, between
Lamar and Austin, which had an important bearing on criminal
proceedings for a long time afterward. Major J. P. Horback shot
and killed H. K. Thomas, a railroad man. The case was tried
before Judge Silas Hare, District Judge. Judge John J.
Good and Z. E. Coombes defended. A verdict of guilty was
the result of the trial. Relying upon the testimony that
the deceased reached for his hip-pocket before his slayer drew,
although, it was proved conclusively that Thomas was not armed,
the defense appealed the case to the State Superior Court. That
court, the "Old Alcalde" himself, handing down the
principle, that when in a difficulty, if a man's devil prompts
him to reach for his hip pocket, when he knows that pocket is
empty, the man he has his eye on can not be expected to stop
to canvass the motives of the other, but is justified in acting
promptly on appearances.
This decision became of inestimable value
in subsequent murder trials, and slayers were cleared by the
score on hip-pocket testimony. In fact, all over the State, unarmed
men seemed to seek sudden death by picking quarrels with bad
men and reaching for empty hip pockets. Just what the vice
in the reasoning of the upper court was, seemed to baffle the
sagacity of prosecuting attorneys to make out, and vicious, it
certainly appeared to be, for it [was] subversive of all justice
if the guilty might avail themselves of a sound principle of
law. Later on, however, it was discovered that the vice was not
in the principle itself, but in the application of it.
- o o o -