when aneighth grader studies Texashistory, he learns that SanAntonio has its Alamo, Houstonits San Jacinto, Fort
Worthits Chisholm Trail. But Dallas? Allthe books have to say for Dallasis that it might have been namedfor an
obscure Vice Presidentwho never did anything, that lotsof cotton was once ginned here,and that the
council-managerform of government is a very nicething to have.And, of course, there’s John Neely Bryan, our city’s
foundingfather, whose little log cabindowntown makes a nice field trip.But what the teacher nevertells is that the
cabin was rescuedfrom Shack town after much of ithad been used for firewood. Orthat Bryan died in a lunaticasylum in
Austin. Or that his bodyhas since been mislaid. It’s time Dallas’ real history wasfinally unveiled. So here itis.
Everything the history booksnever told you. Dallas B.C.:
John Neely Bryan’s first corn crop, planted where the old red courthouse now sits, was trampled by a herd of
Dallas tried its first civil suit, a divorce case. Charlotte Dalton was victorious over her husband, Joseph. The
next day she married Henderson Crouch, foreman of the jury.
Dallas became an official stop for Orin Hatch, a circuit-riding Methodist preacher. Hatch informed the locals that
it was a sin to dance, play cards, and read novels. Though not a sin, it was considered poor taste to spit tobacco
juice on the church floor.
Most of the city’s leading citizens were charged with gambling in William Walton’s saloon. Too few were left to make
up a jury, so the defendants took turns serving on each other’s cases. They fined themselves $10 each.
The town was besieged by horned larks. The flying fiends, though little larger than hummingbirds, devastated the
wheat crop by sucking juice from the grain. Bludgeons, shotguns, bells, tin pails – nothing could prevail against
Wheeler-dealer Alex Cockrell announced the completion of the Trinity River bridge, the largest ever built in Texas.
It even had a roof. Three years later, during the spring, Cockrell was shot dead while trying to collect a debt from
the town marshal. Shortly thereafter his bridge collapsed into the river.
Auguste Savardan was resident physician of La Réunion, the Utopian colony established on the west side of the
Trinity. Savardan advocated free health care on medical as well as philosophical grounds: He had observed that every
time a doctor talked to a patient about fees, the patient took a turn for the worse.
Pomp and ceremony were the order of the day as the City of Dallas received its town charter from the State of Texas.
Unfortunately, founder John Neely Bryan was not around for the festivities. He had skipped town after shooting a man
who had insulted his wife, and was holed up with a half-breed Cherokee in the Creek Nation.
Upon hearing that the Reverend Silas Davenport was desirous of building an Episcopal church, local gamblers passed
the hat and took it to him filled with gold and silver. The gamblers told Davenport they had done it because he had
treated them “more or less human.”
The citizens of Dallas County voted 516 to 3 in favor of taking $5000 in gold out of the county treasury and sending
it to the Confederacy to buy arms. After the South lost, the county treasurer was sued by citizens for having gone
along with such an idiotic gesture.
Cash was scarce during the War Between the States, so the Dallas Herald announced that readers could pay for
their subscriptions with butter and eggs. A poverty-stricken editor issued a public appeal for the loan of a pair of
The area’s most prominent female delinquent was Myra Belle Shirley, who took particular delight in facing down male
acquaintances unaccustomed to the ways of a tough woman. She once required a young doctor, at gunpoint, to lift the
tail of his horse and give the animal a kiss. Belle got even wilder after marrying Sam Starr.
In an effort to disrupt a meeting of black citizens at the Duck Creek School, the local Ku Klux Klan hired a
ventriloquist, instructing him to hide in the school’s chimney and throw his voice in a hideous and grotesque
John Younger, Cole’s little brother, was getting looped at Joe Krueger’s saloon. Younger told William Russell, the
town drunk, that he would spring for drinks the rest of the night if Russell would let him shoot the pipe out of his
mouth. Russell shakily agreed and offered up his profile, with the bowl of the pipe extended as far away as he could
get it. It was not far enough; Younger shot off the end of Russell’s nose.
The excitement over the arrival of the Houston and Texas Central Railroad in Dallas was so infectious that the
convicts laying the rails volunteered to work on Sundays.
To John Henry Holliday, a local dentist, the faro tables looked like more fun than toothaches, so he took up the
profession of gambling. But when Holliday did in one of the solid citizens, he had to beat a hasty retreat. When
next heard from, “Doc” was at it again, blowing away Tom McLowery at the O.K. Corral. The city’s first street-car
system began operation with a fleet of two mule-drawn six-seaters imported from St. Louis. Things went well until
the brakes on one of the cars failed as it descended a steep grade on Main Street. The car careered downhill,
gaining speed, until the fate of the winded mule was sealed.
Dallas was the leading world market for buffalo hides. A healthy business was also conducted in buffalo tongues,
considered a delicacy.
The three-story Le Grand Hotel, at the corner of Austin and Commerce Streets, billed itself as “the most elegant
hotel in the South.” Its Christmas buffet featured pig jowls, stuffed goose, broiled quail, sea turtle, roasted
brown bear, ravioli, truffles, figs, venison, duck, and kale greens.
Fire broke out at Professor Lawrence’s Commercial College, Lamar and Camp (now San Jacinto). A corps of amateur
firefighters called “Dallas Hook and Ladder Co. No. 1” raced to the scene, only to discover that the cistern was
empty. Mr. L. Caperon, a neighboring shopkeeper, saved the day with the loan of 11 barrels of wine.
Sam Bass, with his cronies Arkansas Johnson and Seab Barnes, held up the Texas and Pacific express car at Eagle
Ford. An express company agent was too smart for Bass, though; he stuffed most of the money into his pockets and
posed as a passenger. The robbers’ total take: $50.
Former mayor Ben Long was shot and killed by a man named Reynolds when he asked Reynolds to pay his saloon tab.
The T and P train was delayed on its run from Dallas to Fort Worth by a grasshopper storm.
On January 4, the temperature dropped to four below zero, freezing the Trinity River and causing a water shortage in
Legend has it that on a slow news day, the editor of the Herald sent the printer’s devil to the
slaughterhouse to fetch a bucket of blood, then ordered him to sprinkle it on the bridge over the Trinity. The next
day, the Herald carried a stirring story of a miserable wretch who had been jilted by his sweetheart and was
so desperate that he slit his throat and jumped in the river. The paper even printed melancholy details from the
suicide note. A reporter for the competing Commercial was fired for missing the story. 1881
In a contract dispute with the city, the Dallas Hydrant Company cut off the water supply to the firehouse, the
police station, the hospital, and the stock pound.
The Texas Marriage Aid Association offered marriage insurance policies to unmarried white persons of good character.
For a $5 premium, the association paid its policy-holders 50￠ a day until a spouse was found.
Main and Elm streets were paved with bois d’arc blocks. Some of the blocks sank into the mud; those that remained
afloat swelled, buckled, and emitted a sticky ooze that drove horses batty.
The novelty drink in Dallas’ saloons was buttermilk.
A delegation of businessmen called on County Attorney Charles Clint in an effort to dissuade him from harassing
Dallas’ gamblers. Rumor had it that the City of Fort Worth had offered them free rent and $3500 in cash if they
would move there – a devastating loss of revenue to Dallas.
Confederate spy Belle Boyd, the siren of Shenandoah, was arrested for shooting a man who, she said, had compromised
It was against the law in Dallas to be seen with a prostitute, employ a lewd woman as a beer carrier, bathe in the
Trinity in the daytime, or carry off slop without the approval of the City Scavenger. If played for money,
chuck-a-luck, rondo, muggins, and crack-or-loo were forbidden. It was also a crime to maim an ass, carry a spear,
curse in a tavern, fly a kite, bowl on Sunday, be an idiot, or operate a hobby horse without a permit.
Pat Parker, better known as “Old Black Joe,” died in the Dallas County Poor Farm at the age of 125.
In Lisbon (now South Oak Cliff), children did battle with the three R’s at the Hog-Eye School. It got its name from
an old one-eyed hog that came to school every day for handouts from the students’ lunch pails. Over the years, old
One-Eye consumed thousands of carrots and turnips that the kids got credit for.
The Texas Cocking Tournament was held in Dallas, with one regrettable incident in the fourth event. J.M. Cheatham’s
bird had its spine broken early on, but stayed like a thoroughbred, finally driving its opponent outside the charmed
circle. Dr. J.M. Fry, the losing bird’s owner, wrung the disgraced critter’s neck and threw it on a garbage pile.
Sanger Bros, added ex-outlaw Frank James to its sales force, Figuring he would draw customers. Sure enough, gawkers
flocked to the store, but no one bought anything. James was let go.
After watching Lilly Langtry’s performance in “A Wife’s Peril,” the Dallas News critic admired her bustline
but concluded that as an actress she was a charlatan.
A plague of crickets had the people at Union Depot squishing ankle deep in the insects.
Frogtown, north of the courthouse along the river, was Dallas’ unofficially sanctioned red-light district.
Prostitutes were immune from arrest there, as long as they had certificates proving they were free of venereal
disease. Frogtown got its name from the thousands of bullfrogs that crawled out of the river every night to provide
a musical backdrop to the hell-raising. Doctors who ventured into the area to treat patients were careful to display
their medical bags prominently so as to suffer no injury to their reputations.
The steamboat Harvey docked at the foot of Main Street after a 67-day voyage from Galveston. (The stacks had
had to be removed from time to time along the way to get under low bridges.) Businesses closed and the town paraded
in the streets to celebrate this turning point in civic history. By nightfall, every bottle of beer in town had been
Fifteen-year-old John Arthur Johnson went to work for Walter Lewis as a carriage painter. Johnson had no inkling
what he wanted to do with his life until Lewis interested him in pugilism. Fifteen years later, “Jack” made
mincemeat out of Tommy Burns to become heavyweight champion of the world.
As a ten year old, Frank “Bring ’Em Back Alive” Buck found himself in a heap of trouble when he used his daddy’s
best pliers to extract the fangs from a live copperhead. Later in life, Frank delivered a zooful of animals to the
City of Dallas.
The prize fight of the century was scheduled in Dallas between Gentleman Jim Corbett and Bob Fitzsimmons. Work
commenced on a 52,000-seat arena (the population was 45,000). Fearing a moral catastrophe, however, churchmen
bombarded Governor Culberson with protests. The “Christian Governor” called a special session of the legislature,
which outlawed prize fighting in time to head off Dallas’ debauchery.
At the Turner Hall dog fights on Commerce, a local canine killed 11 rats in 40 seconds.
The first automobile to grace the streets of Dallas belonged to Ned Green, son of New York’s ruthless Hetty Green,
the “Witch of Wall Street.” The novelty soon turned into a nightmare. By 1901, the citizens were up in arms and the
city responded by slapping a seven-mile-per-hour speed limit on the streets of downtown Dallas. It seemed, though,
that nothing could head off the proliferation of autos – by 1903 there were 40 of them.
John Philip Sousa led the 4th of July parade from downtown to Fair Park.
A proposition to merge with the City of Dallas was defeated by the voters of Oak Cliff. The major bone of contention
was Dallas’ ordinance requiring that cows be kept off city streets. Oak Cliff preferred its own law, which required
only that they be penned up at night. Three years later, the voters relented, but only by 18 votes.
The city’s favorite street vendor was Old Fine, with his fabulous homemade fried pies. He got his name from his
call, “Fine, fine, super fine; one for a nickel and two for a dime.”
Dallas Giant catcher Branch Rickey’s contract stipulated a salary of $175 a month and time off on Sundays. In the
’04 season, Rickey hit .261 and threw out 41 baserun-ners in 41 games.
Lydia Pinkham offered for sale a vegetable compound for the cure of falling and displacement of the womb. Side
benefits included relief from extreme lassitude and the blues.
After her arrest on charges of obscenity, Carrie Nation praised U.S. Marshal R.M. Walden of Dallas for his “elegant
and respectable manner.”
A splendid Hereford bull escaped from a pasture on Reiger Street and gored Mr. Mc-Kowan. The frisky bull, thinking
that Mc-Kowan was playing with him, toppled him over every time he attemped to right himself. McKowan became wise to
the bull’s intentions and feigned death. The bull was taken to the city pound.
Louis Richenstein’s dying declaration was admitted as evidence in the trial of his accused murderer, J.D. Manley, a
sergeant in the Texas National Guard. “I asked the soldier to permit me to cross the line to catch a car and he
refused me,” Richenstein said before he died. “He struck me across the right shoulder with his gun. I made the
remark to him, ’Wasn’t that a nice thing to do.’ And thereupon, without warning, he ran his bayonet through me.”
Dallas’ Frank McCarroll was granted a patent for retractable aircraft landing gear. McCarroll said that he got the
idea from watching a buzzard draw its legs in during flight.
Oak Cliff High School’s basketball team closed out a winning season with a 36 – 8 victory over TCU.
The North Texas Soccer League was formed by SMU, Baylor, the Dallas Soccer Club, Cleburne, and Sears Roebuck.
SMU lost to Rice, 146 to 3.
To encourage church attendance, a long boardwalk was laid between the Highland Park Methodist Church and Dallas Hall
so that SMU students couldn’t use the mud as an excuse. The boardwalk became the ultimate test of faith when
hundreds of wasps adopted it as their home.
The Human Fly set out to scale the Sanger Bros, building before 40,000 spectators, the largest crowd ever assembled
in the South. Though he encountered difficulty between the fifth and sixth floors, the Fly made that hurdle,
shouting to the crowd below, “If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.” After attaining the pinnacle, the Fly
planted a flag which read, “Times Herald, always first.” Reverend G.W. Owens announced that he had seen local
citizens hoeing and plowing on the preceding Sunday, and that the matter would be referred to the County Attorney
Much of black Dallas was congregated in the squalor of Deep Ellum. In the brothels, Huddie (Leadbelly) Ledbetter
chronicled the times with lyrics like these:
“Walked up Ellum an’ I come down Main,
Tryin’ to bum a nickel jes’ to buy cocaine.
Ho, ho, baby, take a whiff on me.”
The United Fidelity Insurance Company turned down an application for a $50,000 life insurance policy from Pancho
In the height of Prohibition, Dallas police made 3136 arrests for public drunkenness.
The school board ordered that North Dallas High School be renamed Clinton P. Russell High School in honor of a
former president of the board of education. Tradition at North Dallas was so strong, however, that students’ mothers
gathered around the workmen and threatened to tip over their ladders if they tried to change signs. The order was
Dallas high schools lost two state championship football playoffs in a single year. Forest lost in January (for the
75 season) and Oak Cliff in December, both defeats coming at the hands of Waco.
Joe C. Thompson opened a small ice house at 12th and Edgefield. Tired of being asked what his hours were, he later
changed the name to 7-Eleven.
The Dole pineapple family offered a prize of $25,000 to the first pilot to fly from San Francisco to Honolulu.
Dallas pilot William Erwin entered his craft, the Spirit of Dallas, and signed on Alvin Eichwaldt, a wireless
operator. The last message received was, “We are in a tailspin.”
University Park bought its first fire engine. The City Secretary was chief of the fire crew, consisting of a few
students from SMU who took the job because they were told it would leave them plenty of time to study. They didn’t
expect South Hall dormitory to catch fire. When it became evident that the fire was winning, the crew jumped aboard
the truck to retreat, but the wheels became mired in the mud, and the prized vehicle was abandoned to the flames.
J. Waddington (Waddy) Tate, a retired druggist, was elected mayor. His list of priorities for Dallas included a
Coney Island-style amusement park at White Rock Lake and the removal of spikes from the retaining wall around City
Hall, so that people could sit there.
An experimental grading system was undertaken at Colonial Elementary School: Students were judged solely on
character. Superintendent N.R. Crozier said that if children had good character, book learning would follow in due
course. Grades were assigned in Obedience, Industry, Self-Con-trol, Social Attitude, Punctuality, Personal Habits,
Mildred Didrikson was hired by Employers Casualty Company to play on the women’s basketball team, and, if she were
so inclined, to work in the office. When she reported for duty, “Babe” said she had never seen so many girls with
big hands and feet.
A Dallas woman sued a local dentist for $50,950 for drilling her tongue.
A band of Indians was imported from Oklahoma for a movie production. While they were camped on the Caruth Homeplace,
the movie company ran out of money and skipped town. The buffaloes left by the producers made a delicious stew.
Peruna, SMU’s pony mascot, was run over by a car on Mockingbird Lane.
The body of Bonnie Parker, riddled with 51 bullet holes, was laid to rest in Fishtrap Cemetery. Her tombstone
As the flowers are all made sweeter by the sunshine and the dew, So this old world is made brighter by folks like
These were difficult times for the Marsalis Zoo. In a suicidal charge, Wilbur the bull elephant ran into a concrete
wall. Jimmy the orangutan died from lead poisoning after lunching on a paint brush. The crowning blow was the loss
of Dr. Wham, the Egyptian stork, who was inadvertently locked out of his house during a blizzard and found the next
morning in a standing position, frozen stiff.
The Rose Bowl-bound SMU Mustangs had an easy game scheduled with Baylor. All-American tackle Truman Spain looked
around at the scant crowd and jokingly told Coach Matty Bell that there weren’t enough people to justify his
performance. Bell didn’t grasp the humor and slapped Spain on the bench. Halfway through the first quarter, Spain
meekly advised Bell that the crowd was large enough after all. “I just saw a big bunch come in,” he said.
Dallas pulled off a booking coup when Midnight Frolics, one of the city’s most intimate night spots, enticed Husk
O’Hare and his Genial Gentlemen away from the Black-stone Hotel in Fort Worth.
The city installed 1000 parking meters. The manufacturer promised that they would do away with “parking hogs,” that
there would be little or no wait for spaces, and that the nerves of motorists would be less frayed than in cities
The reefer man was peddling home-grown marijuana in Deep Ellum. Customers were called “muggle smokers.”
A hero for conquering the Atlantic in 1927, Charles Lindbergh had descended from the clouds into a shower of
confetti during his Dallas visit. But by 1941, people were fed up with his alleged sympathy toward the Nazis. On
December 3,1941, Charles Lindbergh Street was renamed Skillman Avenue. A week later, the U.S. and Germany were at
Inside the ladies’ restroom at the Plantation Club on Industrial was a statue of a Greek god, adorned by a hinged
fig leaf. Some found the temptation to peek irresistible, then learned to their chagrin that they had triggered a
loud buzzer on the dance floor.
Highland Park High School had a cracker-jack backfield, composed of Bobby Layne, Dave Redmon, Billy Gibbons, and
Paul Evans. Ewell Walker’s boy, Doak, was on the second string.
Lou Bovis, owner of Louann’s supper club, opened a small subdivision off Fisher Road to welcome ex-GI’s and their
families. He called it Pregnant Valley.
Brother Bill Harrod of the West Dallas Mission held the first of his annual “shoe parties,” distributing shoes to
poor children. Harrod was a reformed brawler and beer-drinking buddy of Clyde Barrow, who claimed he’d “done all the
sins but murder.” Frank Tolbert captured for posterity this excerpt from one of Bill’s sermons:
This wicked old king took and throwed these three little bench-legged Israelite boys into the fiery furnace. But God
was with them boys and they stayed cool as cucumbers down there and grinned up at the wicked king like three mules
eating cockle burrs.
Dallas crime kingpin Lois Green was killed by a shotgun barrage while standing in the doorway of the Sky Club on
Christmas Eve. Sheriff Bill Decker told several local hoods to bring in their shotguns. Decker sniffed the barrels,
then turned the gangsters loose. Green’s killers were never found.
The first stretch of magnificent new Central Expressway, designed to speed motorists out of the city at 50 miles per
hour, opened to traffic. Mayor Wallace Savage observed that it would get workers home at night in a relaxed state of