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1919
Amazing Increase in Realty Values
Here in 50 Years; History of City
Told in Transaction of Pioneers

______

By HARRY DeVORE.

 

S. B. SCOTT
 

T. P. SCOTT

     The rise in the value of Dallas real estate in the last fifty years has been a source of wealth second only to the discovery of the world's wonder oil pool at Wichita Falls. The gulleys and the gulches, the swamp, the wilderness and black land prairie on which the city of Dallas has been built almost within the lifetime of the present generation were traded on debts and used for the purchase price of a good mule. A whole block could have been bought for less than the cost of a good suit of clothes to-day. Imagine what it would mean to be able to purchase the block on which the Southwestern Life Insurance building now stands for less than the average man pays for a suit of clothes. Consider what an oil well it would be to be able to buy the site on which Oak Lawn now stands for a good mule. Only a few years ago, these were every day occurrences.
     In January, 1858, the Scott brothers, S. B. (Bev.) and T. P. (Tom) Scott, set out from Lynchburg, Va., with their father, Dr. Roy B. Scott, and grandfather, S. M. Scott, several uncles and their families and a large number of negroes, for Texas. They brought with them in wagons and carriages everything that they would need to set up a home in the wildest part of Texas. After being on the road for several months, they arrived in Dallas county, where it was decided to settle.
     There were five important towns in the county at the time, Dallas, Cedar Hill, Lancaster, Cedar Springs and Trinity Mills. The census of the Scott party showed a population of 200 people, which was more than the embryo metropolis of the southwest could boast of. Part of the Scott party settled in the village of Dallas, and the others in the country, north of Dallas.
     A 5000 acre tract of land was purchased by the Scotts about ten miles north of the city above backwater from White Rock dam and where the little town of Alpha is now located. The black prairie land was considered worthless and was bought for from $2 to $8 an acre. The country was still wild, deer, prairie chickens and wild turkeys were plentiful. Buffaloes watered at the Trinity river just below the foot of Main street in the early fifties. The country was a hunter's paradise. Mosquitoes made life miserable sometimes, while the Indians did not cease their pestering until 1865. In that year, 100 Comanches made a raid on Lewisville. Citizens from Dallas were called upon for assistance, and the Comanches were chased as far as Cooke county, some of them being killed.

* * *

Col. Coit Raised First Cotton.
     The black lands of the state were considered almost worthless, except for grazing and the raising of large crops was not attempted. The first crop of cotton in Dallas county was raised by Col. Coit, who raised a regiment in Dallas county and vicinity during the Civil war. His son, Henry Coit, one of the wealthiest farmers in Dallas county, lives on part of the old homestead near the present town of Renner. The second crop of cotton in Dallas county was raised by S. M. Scott, grandfather of S. P. and T. P. Scott. The crop was good, and enough cotton to make between 75 and 100 bales was picked. The cotton was stored, and during the war, women came from all sections of the state to get cotton to spin for their families and the e soldiers. About twenty-five to thirty bales were left at the close of the war, which sold for 80¢ per pound in gold, or about $400 per bale. The cotton seed had no value and brought no returns. It was considered dangerous to feed it to cattle, as it was believed that it would poison them. The test of the black lands had been made and the section was destined to become one of the richest in the state from the cultivation of "King" Cotton.
     The farm land on which the first cotton was grown could be bought for from $2 to $8 per acre, but today, the same land is quoted at from $200 to $300 per acre, or an increase in value of 9900 per cent.

* * *

John N. Bryan, Oldest Citizen.
     The original town of Dallas was located in the headright of 640 acres, granted to John Neely Bryan. He was the oldest citizen of Dallas county and was influential in making Dallas the center of the activities of the county. Dallas county was originally part of Nacogdoches county. When it was decided to incorporate this section as a county, a town had to be selected as the county seat. Three towns, Dallas, Cedar Springs and Hoard, were in the race for the county seat.
     Cedar Springs was as alive as Dallas at that time, but the offer of John Neely Bryan, which conveyed to the county the present court house square and fifty town lots, brought the county seat to Dallas. Another prosperous town at that time was Trinity Mills, near the present site of Carrollton. Mexicans journeyed from Laredo, El Paso and Mexico with team of oxen to Trinity Mills for flour.

* * *

Former Owners of City.
     Dallas had a population of less than 200 people when the Scotts arrived in 1858. The arrival of the Scotts increased the population of the town considerably, and since then, Dallas has grown by leaps and bounds. The present site of Dallas, with all her suburbs, exclusive of Oak Cliff, was originally owned by fifteen men, John Grigsby, J. S. Scourlock, John Neely Bryan, John A. Sylvester, J. M. Patterson, Crawford Grigsby, Allen Beard, Robert Ray, Thomas Lagow, Michael Main, Wm. Romine, A. J. Clark, J. M. Crockett, John H. Cole and H. C. Long These men laid the foundation for the city of Dallas, some of them by clearing the land, others by their service to the struggling little village.
     The sons and daughters of many of the early settlers are in Dallas today, and are taking a leading part in the affairs of the city. The family names of these early Dallasites will be recognized at once. Among them are the Pattersons, Coles, Cornwells, Cockrells, Cochrans, Binghams, Burfords, McCoys, Stackpoles, Edmundsons, Crutchfields, Brandenburgs, Tubervilles, Eakins, Scotts, Elliotts, Halls and Burtles. The efforts of these families placed Dallas in the forefront in Dallas county, and it was not long until her competitors, Cedar Springs, Trinity Mills and Hoard were left far behind in growth

* * *

Oak Lawn Site Traded for Mule.
     The story of the tremendous growth of Dallas in the last half century can hardly be believed, it sounds so much like fiction. Real estate values have risen from insignificant prices for large tracts of land, to almost fabulous prices for a few square feet. John A. Sylvester, who captured Santa Anna, was granted 640 acres of land, located where Oak Lawn is at present, for this service to the state. Not long after, he was given this tract of land, he saw a good mule that he wanted, but the owner of which, was not inclined to sell. Mr. Sylvester used every means possible to get the mule, and as a final bid for the animal offered the owner of the mule, the 640 acre tract of such poor land for such a valuable mule, but after much persuasion, agreed to do so. Where is the mule today that is valuable enough to be traded for Oak Lawn.
     In 1874, S. B. Scott was a deputy sheriff of Dallas county, and in that capacity, levied an execution on 1
1/7 acres of land located at the corner of Main and Akard streets and extending east. This plot of ground was sold by the sheriff and bought by Judge Buford for $60. Judge Buford, prior to his death, sold all of this land, except the 100 by 100 foot corner, where the Southwestern Life Insurance building now stands. This corner was sold by Mrs. Griffin and Mrs. Freeman, daughters of Judge Buford, for the sum of $300,000, or an increase of approximately 5,000,000 per cent in less than fifty years.
     The corner diagonally across from the Southwestern Life Insurance Building, on which Marvin's drug store is now located, was purchased by Chas. Rowan, the present owner, for the sum of $2,200. Mr. Rowan recently leased this same corner to Dreyfuss & Son for $1,000,000. The property now has a value of $7,500 per front foot. There is an oil well on every corner in Dallas, as far as monetary returns are concerned.
     S. M. Scott, the grandfather of S. B. and T. P. Scott, bought about 700 feet facing on Commerce street, running east along Commerce street, where the old Santa Fe depot is located, for $2,500. The Scotts had their home there for a number of years, and then traded the place for $3,600 worth of stock in the toll bridge at the foot of Commerce street, which was paying 100 per cent dividends. The county commissioners bought the bridge later for the par value of the stock, threatening to build a bridge beside the old one if the owners did not sell. That same 700 feet of ground, which was bought for $2,500 and traded off for stock in the toll bridge, is worth several million dollars today.
     S. B. Scott took the block bounded by Pearl, Preston, Main and Elm streets in 1877, in payment of a debt of $300, and later traded it in for $350 on a Denton County farm. This same property, juggled in the payment of debts and traded for a farm, is valued at approximately $1,500,000 today.
     T. P. Scott bought a plot of ground, where the Seth Sheppard home on Ervay street is located, in 1875, for $85, and later sold it for $125. The same piece of property has been sold since for $50,000.

* * *

Evolution by Fire.
     The present Dallas County court house is the result of what might be called evolution by fire. Dallas County has had six court houses, all erected on the same spot, and five of them destroyed by fire. If this line of reasoning holds good, it is just a question of time until Dallas County will have a new court house where the present building stands. The first court house was a little frame building and burned before it was realized that it was on fire. The second court house was of brick construction, and was burned by negroes, who were doing similar deeds at other places, in 1860. The entire town of Dallas was almost totally destroyed by fire at this time. Two of the negroes were caught, and after confessing to the crime, were hanged on the banks of the Trinity river, close to where the Texas & Pacific bridge is at present.
     The third court house burned in the year 1870. The fourth one was of stone construction, and was a costly building. The Odd Fellows were having their annual convention here in 1880, and they were given a few hours entertainment watching Dallas County's fourth court house burn. A singular thing happened in connection with the burning of the fifth building. The Odd Fellows were holding their annual convention in Dallas again, and they were joked about burning the Dallas county court houses. The present structure was completed in the fall of 1892, and has withstood the element of fire for twenty-seven years.
     The first postoffice was in charge of Thomas Crutchfield, who was proprietor of the Crutchfield House at the northwest corner of the court house square, where the fire department is located at present. Mr. Crutchfield was the whole postoffice force. There is a striking contrast between the first postoffice and the one at present under the supervision of postmaster B. M. Burgher.

* * *

"Bev." and "Tom" Scott.
     S. B. (Bev.) and T. P. (Tom) Scott have been in the real estate business in Dallas for the past twenty years, and in Dallas for sixty-one years. Both have contributed to the growth of Dallas a private citizens, and have served the city and county in a public capacity, being honored with various offices. "Bev." Scott was a deputy sheriff for several years in the seventies. In 1880, he was elected to the office of tax assessor of Dallas County and held that position for eight year, during which time, the value of Dallas County real estate increased from $10,000,000 to $52,000,000. He was county clerk during the boom period of Dallas, and in the late eighties and the early nineties, had eighteen to nineteen record clerks working, and then could hardly keep up the work of the office, real estate was changing hands so fast. He took up the real estate business in 1897. He served Dallas as street commissioner during the W. M. Holland administration, and has his name on the tablets in both the city hall and court house. He is probably the best posted man in Dallas on real estate values.
     T. P. (Tom) Scott was, for several years, a traveling salesman, representing local and out of state concerns in all parts of Texas. He is not only familiar with real estate values in this city, but has taken an active interest in the growth of every part of the state. He was city tax collector for five or six years in the late nineties, and still has 50¢ to his credit on the city's books, having turned over 50¢ too much to the city treasurer. Since that time, he has been in the real estate business with his brother, "Bev." Scott.

* * *

Brothers Still in Business.
     Both of the Scott brothers are still in active business, and if the facts did not reveal their ages, neither one would be taken for a man over 50 years of age, while both are active as most men of 40. The information in this article on the values of Dallas real estate was contributed by them.
     "When some folks read of the enormous rise in real estate values in Dallas, they will wonder why I am not a millionaire," said "Bev." Scott., "but the same chance to make money on Dallas real estate exists today as it did fifty years ago. Dallas will grow so much in the next twenty-five years, that most any downtown lot will sell for many times what it is worth at present. It's a better investment than an oil well, because you don't take a chance on striking a dry hole, and the pool is not likely to play out, as Spindletop did, and as the Ranger field will eventually do. I look for the population of Dallas to be doubled in the next ten or fifteen years, at most. Dallas is my home town. I've been here for over sixty years, and I'm going to continue to stay here and take part in the phenomenal growth of the city."

- July 6, 1919, Dallas Daily Times Herald, Sec. III, p. 9, col. 1-4.
(Photos: June 4, 1922, Dallas Daily Times Herald, Sec. II, p. 14, col. 3-5.
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1920
Early Years of Texas State Fair
Fraught With Many Difficulties

     Rome was not built in a day -- nor, was the State Fair of Texas.
     Like every other great institution, its development was gradual, extending over a period of nearly three and one-half decades. The 34 years of its existence have been fraught with disappointments, sacrifice and failures and the success which has crowned its ambitions within the past score of years has been achieved as much through the patriotic zeal of its sponsors as through its own virtues. The story of their struggles to keep the Fair alive during early years of financial reverses forms one of the romantic chapters of the history of Dallas.
     Nothing, perhaps, has played a more important part in the social, agricultural and industrial development of Texas than its great State Fair. As in the ancient days of the Babylonians, who displayed their wares in the great bazaars, this modern institution has annually brought the people of Texas together to teach them, and amaze them and amuse them. Its visitors come from city, town, hamlet and farm, to see its wonders and revel in its delights. And, in its booths are displayed the merchandise and natural wealth of states and nations.

* * *

First State Fair.
     There are still many old timers in Dallas who can recall the first State Fair. It came into being on Tuesday, October 26, 1886, under the name of the Dallas State Fair and Exposition, on the same site as the present Fair. Other fairs had thrived in Dallas before this date, but they were entirely local. The first of these was chartered in 1862, while Texas was under the flag of the Confederacy, but before the Fair could be opened, a call for volunteers was sent from Richmond, and the 12 directors responded. Again, in 1872, the project was launched again with Captain W. H. Gaston as president, and Col. Ed Bower as secretary, and this time, successfully. In those days, the plow and the hoe were the only implements of cultivation and "Uncle" Billy Miller owned the only registered bull in North Texas.

* * *

Private Institution.
     The present State Fair was chartered in 1886, and its first exposition was given on the present grounds, with J. B. Simpson as president and Capt. Sidney Smith as secretary. Since, under the constitution, the state could not give aid to the enterprise, it was organized and conducted on private capital until 1904, when the property was donated to the city of Dallas. A new organization was formed to perpetuate the institution and $30,000 was donated out of the capital stock to be added to $40,000 given by the old stockholders for the erection of an exposition building. A bond issue was voted by the city to finance the enterprise and the stockholders contracted with the city to give the Fair every year for 20 years on their own responsibility. The agreement further specified that no official, except the secretary, was to receive a salary, and that every dollar of profit was to be turned back into the Fair.
     Under this organization, the State Fair of Texas has been crowned with success. It is, today, the largest State Fair in the United States, and every year, it brings millions of dollars and thousands of people to Dallas. This year, the directors expect the attendance to pass the 1,000,000 mark.

* * *

Governor Opened First Fair.
     It was a momentous day when the first State Fair opened on October 26, 1886. According to catalogues found in the files of the State Fair records, it was the gala day of the year. All business houses were closed and the streets were adorned with flags and bunting. Governor Ireland and John Henry Brown, mayor of Dallas, officially opened the Fair, and Brig. Gen. David Stanley and his staff "kindly consented to lend their presence to the occasion." General Sul. Ross and the veterans of the Ross Brigade were there, too, being provided with horses by the Fair association.
     A parade marked the official opening. Leaving the Windsor hotel, where the distinguished visitors were received, this impressive procession, escorted by the old cavalry brigade and headed by a military band, marched out to the Fair grounds, where the opening ceremonies were held.

* * *

Primitive Aeronautics.
     The big event of the day was a balloon ascension with a death-defying trapeze stunt, on which a Locklear of primitive aeronautics performed "high up in mid air, some 500 feet from terra firma."
     Horse racing in the arena was the chief attraction of the afternoon. On other days, there were bicycle races and military drills. One of the interesting attractions was the horse show, where premiums were awarded. Horse racing was suspended on Sundays, while the bands offered a sacred concert in the Exposition hall. Then, the "liberal" premium list approached nearly $40,000, according to the management's announcement, which affords an interesting comparison to this year's list of cash premiums, totaling more than $100,000, of which, $65,000 is for live stock alone. At that time, the broncho, the longhorn and the razorback composed the live stock exhibits. Today, nothing but pedigreed stock, some coming from the far corners of the country, is admitted to the grounds. The buggy and wagon exhibits of the first Fair have since been replaced by the automobile and tractor displays, and so has the march of progress been evident throughout the life of the Fair.

* * *

Shows Wealth of State.
     From the start, the prime object of the Fair has been to impress the people of Texas with a proper appreciation of its vast wealth and unlimited resources, and to teach its possibilities. How well it has succeeded in bringing about closer relations between urban and rural life can not be overestimated.
     Names which have always been linked with the progress and development of Dallas appear among the officers and directors of the first State Fair. They were J. B. Simpson, president; J. S. Armstrong, vice president; E. M. Reardon, treasurer and Sydney Smith, secretary, and J. B. Simpson, T. L. Marsalis, W. J. Keller, Alex Sanger, W. H. Gaston, J. M. Wendelkin, J. S. Armstrong and B. H. Blankenship, directors.
     The cost of operating the first State Fair, including the erection of buildings, purchase of grounds and general expenses, was $179,028, while the receipts amounted to only $48,205. Stock amounting to $14,000 was issued to Captain Gaston for the purchase of the land and stock was subscribed for in cash by citizens, amounting to $13,422. When the books had been balanced at the end of the first State Fair, the directors faced a deficit of $100,401, which was carried by Dallas banks on the personal notes of the directors.

* * *

Building Rapid.
     The Fair began operations with $13,000 cash, and with the directors guaranteeing against loss. They advertised that they would stage an exposition complete in every detail, and they made their promises good. Visitors to the first Fair marveled at the manner in which the bald prairie had, within a few weeks time, been transformed into a beautiful park. To do this, it took an army of workmen and cost about $14 an acre. The ground had to be leveled and plowed, driveways and sidewalks laid out and lawns planted. The race track entailed an expenditure of $10,000, and after 33 years of continuous service, it is said to be one of the fastest in the West. Wells were drilled and windmills installed to pump water. Farms were rented and gravel hauled from them in mule carts. A miniature electric light plant was installed by Henry Garrett. Just before the Fair opened, the builders pulled their big surprise. Two carloads of cactus were brought from the Sierra Blanca Mountains and 200 cedar trees were placed in especially bored holes along the driveways, giving the appearance of having grown there.

* * *

Had Competition First Year.
     In its opening year, the State Fair faced competition for the only time in its career. Over on what was known as the "Cole Grounds," another group of citizens, who were dissatisfied with the State Fair directors, decided to give an exposition of their own. The excitement attending the opening of these two fairs on the same day served to give much publicity to Dallas and brought many people here who, otherwise, might not have become interested. After the first y ear, the two factions consolidated their interests.
     From 1886, until the Fair association was recognized in 1904, the enterprise met with varying degrees of success and failure. The earlier years were fraught with disappointments and financial reverses, but the directors continued with undaunted patriotism, in the face of what, at times, seemed insurmountable barriers. The weather always played an important part in the Fair's successes and failures, being bad more often than good. Fires, accidents and law suits also marked its early careers.

* * *

Twice Reorganized.
     The Fair began making a profit after about 15 years, and from then on, its development became more rapid. At the close of the fair in 1899[?], a brokerage company which held bonds against the fair, demanded payment and it became necessary to reorganize. Stock was sold, and the association [financed] on a larger scale. On the following year, a tier of seats collapsed during a fireworks display, resulting in damage suits amounting to $180,000, although the highest seat was only 48 inches above the ground.

* * *

Mexico Sent Band.
     The Mexican band, which is being brought here this year, will not be the first sent to the State Fair of Texas by the Southern republic. In 1896, the directors decided to ask the Mexican government to send a band to Dallas, and with this in view, the secretary was sent to Mexico City with invitations addressed to President Diaz from the Fair association and from Governor Culberson. The mission was successful and President Diaz sent Senor Diaz's favorite band to Dallas.
     In July, 1902, the Exposition building was completely destroyed by fire and the mangers were unable to replace the loss in time for the opening in October. Nevertheless, the Fair of 1902 was one of the most successful of the early days, being the year of the great Confederate reunion. Col. C. C. Slaughter was elected chief in command of the reunion and $65,000 was subscribed by the people of Dallas to feed and care for the 13,000 old soldiers who visited the Fair. In the same year, the implement building, which was being remodeled, collapsed, killing one workman and injuring 15 others.

* * *

Bar Horse Racing.
     Gloom hung over the Fair grounds prior to the opening in 1903. Horse racing had been knocked out by a bill framed by Curtis Hancock of Dallas and adopted by the legislature, making betting a penal offense. This, with the loss of the Exposition building, made the outlook anything but bright, but it was finally decided, after many conferences, to continue the Fair, races or no races. At this time, the stockholders were offered $120,000 for the Fair Grounds by real estate men who wanted to use them for a new suburban addition. The offer was refused, and finally it was decided to donate the property to the city of Dallas, in return for which, the Fair was to be put on a basis that would insure it against failure. The Reardon plan for the perpetuation of the State Fair was then adopted and the State Fair association reorganized with a capital stock of $150,000.
     This made possible the erection of the Exposition building, and on the following year, the Fair association entered into its agreement with the city to stage a fair every year for 20 years without cost or liability to the city. The contract was delayed, and the Fair, in 1904, was more of a carnival than a fair. The race horse bill was still in effect.

* * *

Fair Prospers.
     The following year, however, was a banner year. The attendance was larger and the financial success greater than ever before. The anti-horse race bill had been repealed and the book makers flourished. So successful had the Fair proved under city supervision, that vast improvements were made possible for the following year, including much landscaping work, and the erection of new buildings.
     Sentiment against the book makers had been growing from year to year, until, in 1909, the legislature again passed a law forbidding betting on horse races. The Fair directors, fearing the abolition of horse racing would injure the Fair, attempted to modify the bill by substituting the "Pari Mutuel" system of betting, but they were defeated after a legislative battle.
     The year 1909 was also known as "Coliseum Year." A total of $55,000 was subscribed and the Coliseum was built at a cost of $108,000. It was originally intended for horse shows and breeders exhibits, but this plan was finally abandoned, and it was converted into an auditorium.

* * *

Was Prosperous Year.
     In spite of the ban on horse racing, the Fair flourished in 1909 as it had never before flourished, and what portended to be a disappointing year, turned out to be a brilliant success.
     During the past decade, the Fair has outgrown its limits, until this year, the directors realize that it can grow no more until additional space is available. According to Secretary Stratton, twice the available exhibition space could be utilized this year.

* * *

Effects of Prohibition.
     Like the abolition of horse racing, the prohibition of liquor played an important, but overestimated, role in the history of the State Fair. When it was decided to prohibit the sale of liquor on the Fair grounds in 1916, there was some uneasiness. But, fears proved to be ungrounded. The Fair prospered as never before, and when statewide prohibition went into effect two years ago, the difference in gate receipts was not noticeable.
     The largest attendance on record was in 1916, when a total of 1,001,903 visitors passed through the turnstiles. Last year, the inclement weather handicapped the Fair and the attendance fell to 814,078. This year, however, the directors hope to set a new attendance record.
     "More than a million" is the mark.

- October 10, 1920, Dallas Daily Times Herald, p. 4, col. 1-3.
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[The above article was accompanied by a photo, bearing the caption: "The State Fair of Texas seventeen years ago was an institution which drew crowds from all sections of the state. The photograph shows crowds at the opening day of the Fair in 1903."]