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1926
First Store in
County Was at
Pleasant Run

________

C. C. Parks, Born Near
Lancaster, Tells of
Early Dallas Days.

_______

Gun Plant There
________

French Colonist Made
Firearms for Confed-
erate Army.

________

BY W. S. ADAIR.

     "There were few settlers in this part of the county when I was born on Ten Mile Creek, six miles west of Lancaster, Dec. 29, 1853, though that was before Lancaster was started," said Capt. C. C. Parks.
     "My father, Curtis Parks, had moved from Elliottsville, Ind., to Texas toward the end of the '40s; I am not sure whether it was in '46 or '48, but whatever the year, he brought his family and belongings in wagons, and, getting hold of 640 acres of land, built him a log house and settled, as I indicated a moment ago, on Ten-Mile Creek.
     "The only store in the southern part of the county when father came, was that of M. M. Miller at Pleasant Run, a mile north of the site afterward selected for Lancaster. Mr. Miller carried no candy, if, indeed, any country merchant did in those days, but, not to be behind his successors, he gave me a small paper of brown sugar the first time I visited his store in company with my father, that being before the chemists had learned how to bleach and granulate sugar, and thus to ruin it, as I can testify, for I have tasted nothing since that at all compared with the peculiar tang and searching sweetness of that same plain brown sugar.

First Store in Dallas County.
     "I can not say when Mr. Miller established his store at Pleasant Run, but it has always been my understanding that he was the first man to open a store in Dallas County. Before there were any stories in the country, communities of settlers were in the habit of putting their wagons together and going in parties to Jefferson and Shreveport for their supplies. It was with a view of saving the settlers this trouble that Mr. Miller established his store, and it may be truthfully said that whether he was the first retailer in the county or not, he was at all event the first jobber in this section and in North Texas, for he sold goods in such quantities as to amount to job lots. I am not clear whether there was a postoffice at Pleasant Run, but as it was on the stage line, I am inclined to think there was, and if so, it was no doubt the first postoffice established in the county. However, all this may have been, when Lancaster sprang up with two or three stores and a postoffice, Mr. Miller went out of business and Pleasant Run came to an end.
     "During the Civil War, the family sent me to the postoffice at Lancaster about once a week, and thus, I familiarized myself with such features of the village as a small county boy could take in. Paul Henry ran the postoffice in the back part of his general store. Other merchants were Groves & Everts and James Lowerery. Ben Green was the proprietor of a furniture store and William White was the first man in the country who had money to lend. Dr. Moffett conducted a drug store. But the most important establishment in the village was Billy Mott's mill. He ground into flour the wheat grown within a radius of seventy-five miles and the finished product was sent by wagon to Houston and Shreveport and Jefferson, those towns being the nearest markets.

Confederate Gun Factory.
     "But as an industrial plant, Mott's mill took second place during the Civil War. Paul Henry, who had come to the county with the French colonists who settled Reunion, secured a contract to manufacture guns for the Confederacy and established his factory at Lancaster. I know nothing of the details of this, except that he gave employment to what looked to me like a lot of men.
     "Up to the end of the war there was not a single brick house in Lancaster. The most substantial building was Mott's mill, a structure of stone, the construction of which was stopped for the period of the war by the Jack of mechanics, but which was resumed at the end of hostilities and completed about 1865.
     "My brother, J. J. Parks, built and operated on Ten Mile Creek, one of the first gins in the county and North Texas. In early days, cattle and horses constituted the wealth of the country. Settlers planted small patches of corn and oats for home consumption and a little wheat for exportation, but were slow about growing cotton; on which there was little profit after they had hauled it several hundred miles to market. But my brother did a good business. Farmers brought their cotton hundreds of miles to have it ginned. His gin had a capacity of only about three bales a day, and the result was that he got business enough to keep going the year round. In those days, ginners had trouble getting rid of the cotton seed, which accumulated in heaps around the gins and attracted cattle, which fell ravenously on it. After the ginners had for years employed small boys to run the cattle away, only to have them come right back, the tardy bright idea occurred to some dreamer that after all, cotton seed might perhaps have a food value. That set the chemists to work.

Village of Possum Trot.
     "A village that has disappeared from the map, as well as from memory, was Possum Trot, situated one mile southeast of the present town of Red Oak. Owen Dorsey was the first and largest merchant there, though there were two or three other stores, a blacksmith shop, a shoe shop and some other establishments. Possum Trot, with a fertile and beautiful country around it, , was on the Waxahachie stage route, and any one who had traversed the State, or who knew anything about Texas, could tell you where Possum Trot was. When the Katy Railroad built south to Waco, it left Possum Trot a mile to the south and established Red Oak station. All the business concerns at Possum Trot at once moved to Red Oak, and that was the last of Possum Trot.
     "Cedar Hill must be about as old as Lancaster, for it was a village when I was a small boy. I remember when Cedar Hill was destroyed by a cyclone, though I do not recall the year. Several persons were killed and many injured. At the time, I heard the names of the dead and injured, but have forgotten them. I think two members of the Hart family were among the dead. The twister made a clean sweep of the village, leaving not a single house standing. I was playing in the yard at home when the cyclone reached Ten Mile Creek. My sisters, who were returning from school, came running, and one of them picked me up and carried me into the house. The wind howled and shook the house, filling me with fear, but did no damage beyond transporting our smokehouse to parts unknown.
     "In the early '60s, we heard more of Waxahachie than we heard of Dallas. In fact, my impression is that Waxahachie was the larger town at the time. Birdville, the old county seat of Tarrant County, was a place of some repute in our section. Fort Worth was well known as an army post, but as a business point, was of much less importance than Birdville. McKinney, Sherman and Paris were good towns when Dallas was a village. There was only an occasional house between Lancaster and Dallas in the '60s, and Dallas appeared to me to be a village with little, if any, edge on Lancaster.

Flourishing Terminal Towns.
     "When the construction of the Houston & Texas Central Railroad was resumed after the war, some bustling towns sprang up along the route. I was familiar with many of the terminal towns as they bloomed and faded, from Calvert, this way. All the wagon trade of Central, North and Northwest Texas that had once gone to Houston, and much of it that had gone to Shreveport and Jefferson, was concentrated at H. & T. C. terminal points as they moved slowly north. I saw trains of thirty and forty wagons coming and going. There was plenty of money in circulation, and saloons and gambling halls flourished.  When the railroad established a new terminal point, everybody moved, leaving the abandoned town dead as a doornail, and, in many instances, without hope of resurrection. When the railroad would announce a new terminal, the merchants would send men ahead to put up shacks for their new quarters, so as to be ready to move promptly in order to catch the wagon trade, and the floating population could be depended on to follow the town. Corsicana was a flourishing town, and Ennis prospered for a time, and even Hutchins saw bright days while the railroad was laboriously under construction across the river bottoms. But, the larger merchants in the moving towns skipped Ennis and Hutchins, and moved from Corsicana to Dallas. I think their combined capital exceeded that of the old merchants here.
     "Beginning in the later '70s, I visited the various mining towns and camps of the country, starting at Deadwood and including Leadville, Ouray, Aspen, Telluride, Salt Lake City, Ogden and Cripple Creek, and got as far as Nome, in Alaska. Both here in Texas in early days, and in the mining regions later own, people go along peaceably. This was chiefly due to the fact that a clash over even a small matter was a serious affair. It meant a shooting, for people did not settle difficulties with their fists, and they usually thought a matter over seriously before they started anything."

- September 19, 1926, Dallas Morning News, Sec. III, p. 10, col. 1.
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