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
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
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
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"
* * *
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."
Brothers Still in Business.
- July 6, 1919, Dallas
Daily Times Herald, Sec. III, p. 9, col. 1-4.
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
"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."
(Photos: June 4, 1922, Dallas Daily Times Herald, Sec. II, p.
14, col. 3-5.
- o o o -
Early Years of Texas State
Fraught With Many Difficulties
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
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.
* * *
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.
* * *
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
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.
* * *
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.
* * *
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
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.
* * *
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.
- October 10, 1920,
Dallas Daily Times Herald, p. 4, col. 1-3.
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.
- o o o -
[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."]