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D in the Heart of Texas             

Jerry T. Dealey

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John Neely Bryan – And Other Early Founders (Part 3)

Early History of Texas
The Europeans and American Settlers
John Neely Bryan – And Other Early Founders
Some Wheeling-Dealing to Grow a City
George Bannerman Dealey
The Dallas Morning News is Born
The Great 1908 Flood
G. B. Promotes Other Early Dallas Growth
The "City of Hate"
Building the ‘Subway’, Triple Underpass, Dealey Plaza
The Other Buildings Around Dealey Plaza
The Elder G. B. Dealey
The Dallas "Citizens Council"
The ‘Right Wing’ Direction of Dallas - "City of Hate" Revisited
A ‘Turn-Around’ for the Dallas Morning News
The Pre-November ‘Hate’ Incidents
Dallas’ Law Enforcement
November 1963, Why Dallas?
Dealey Plaza Changes To-Date

In the 1850’s, wheat became the dominant crop of the area. Dallas County became known as the heart of the great wheat regions of central Texas. In 1853 US Army engineers declared the Trinity the “deepest and least obstructed river in Texas”; however, even though the lower Trinity was being sailed by riverboats, all efforts to make it navigable up to Dallas had still failed.
To prove the navigability of the Trinity, Dallas resident James Smith built a flat bottom riverboat, The Dallas, and attempted to sail down the Trinity with a cotton shipment. Four excruciating months later, The Dallas, had only successfully traveled 70 miles to Porter’s Bluff due to the shallowness of the river, and the cotton continued on by wagon. Before The Dallas could be used in another attempt later, it struck a snag and sank. But by wagon, and alongside the Shawnee Trail, which went from Austin up to the Red River on Preston Road, Dallas was still a business crossroads. Later, in 1893, the steamship H. A. Harvey, Jr. would successfully navigate from Galveston on March 14, to arrive in Dallas on May 20, docking right at the Commerce St. dock (west of where the Triple Underpass is today). This event once again raised hopes of making the Trinity River navigable again. These hopes would not be officially dashed until the U. S. Army Corp. of Engineers said it would never be feasible, in the 1970’s.

In 1855, a Socialist colony of about 200 French speaking Swiss and Belgians moved into the area of Hord’s Ridge. (William Hord was the original 1844 settler of the area, and his cabin is still in the Dallas area today.) They attempted to set up a ‘Utopian’ colony, or commune, utilizing “scientific” Socialistic governing principles. They named their colony La Reunion, and today’s Reunion Tower, Reunion Arena and Reunion Hotel are named after them.
A relocating Frenchman, named Maxime Guillot opened Dallas’ first manufacturing facility. He opened a wagon and carriage-making yard at the northwest corner of Elm and Houston streets. This was the site of the current Texas School Book Depository.

In 1855, John Neely Bryan believed that a drunken man had insulted his wife, had shot and wounded the man. Bryan got on his horse, Neshoba, and escaped town to the Indian Nations in Oklahoma. He stayed with his old friend, Jesse Chisolm (of Chisolm Trail fame) for a time, and later returned to California to do some prospecting. The man he wounded refused to press charges; however, Bryan did not know this and stayed away prospecting for 6 years. Initially he wrote to Alexander Cockrell about how the citizens of Dallas had “turned on him”. His paranoia was another part of his downhill slide into depression, and when he finally returned in 1861, he looked so bad that his children and wife did not initially recognize him. His health and mental facilities continued to degenerate, until his family finally had him institutionalized in a sanitarium in Austin in 1877. Once institutionalized, he soon died and was buried there, many miles away from the city(s) he founded. His grave is among over 2,000 unmarked graves at that Sanitarium, and has never been found.

On April 3, 1858, in his first week as City Marshall, Andrew Moore was apparently trying to arrest Alexander Cockrell on some ordinance violation, and ended up fatally shooting Cockrell 8 times in the lower abdomen. The shooting occurred on Commerce Street, just west of Houston (on the south side of Dealey Plaza today). The July trial of Moore was one of the most sensational yet seen in Dallas. For three days the evidence was presented, but almost everyone cheered the “Not Guilty” verdict. Apparently, either Cockrell (a city leader) was not well liked, or Moore was very popular.

On July 8, 1860, with the 2:00 PM temperature at 105 degrees, a box of wood shavings “caught fire” at the W. W. Peak Drug Store on the west side of the Courthouse square (where Dealey Plaza is today). In five minutes the drug store was ablaze, and within 2 more hours every building on the north and west sides of the square, and about half the structures on the east side, were destroyed -- some 25 businesses were burned, virtually the entire business district. An hour and a half after the Dallas fire began, Denton, some 30 miles north, also saw the entire west side of its town square in flames. That same afternoon, fires erupted also in the towns of Pilot Point, Milford, Honey Grove, Black Jack Grove, Millwood, Jefferson and Austin. A number of Dallas slave owners’ homes also had mysterious fires over the next few days. Two weeks later, a committee of 52 Dallas citizens laid the blame on 3 black men named as ringleaders. They were taken down to the Trinity River at the end of Main Street (where the Triple Underpass now stands) and hanged before a large crowd.

When November of 1860 rolled around, and the "abolitionist" (according to some) Abraham Lincoln was elected U. S. President, the State of Texas voted to secede from the Union. Texas felt that they had the right to nullify the agreement they had made with the U. S. during their annexation in 1846. This was especially true since the U.S. Constitution never did allow for the United States to Annex the Texas Republic in the first place (an argument that is still carried by the “Republic of Texas” movement of the late 1990’s). Dallas County voted 741 to secede, and a surprising 237 to remain in the Union.

The ensuing Civil War did not hurt Dallas as much as it did many southern cities, as Dallas was recognized as a critical agricultural center that would be needed to supply both the Confederacy, as well as the Union, depending on who won. It was therefore pretty much left untouched. Likewise, Reconstruction after the war was beneficial, as the business leaders of Dallas seized on the opportunity to cooperate and help promote Dallas’ prosperity in the process. The lack of a workable (without slavery) cotton based economy in other parts of the south actually caused many to come to the Dallas area and thrive in the wheat-based economy. The City of Dallas actually grew because of the Civil War and Reconstruction, expanding from around 775 in 1860 to nearly 3,000 in 1870. As we will see, the positioning of Dallas by it’s leaders was just another example of the business of making a city grow, in the tradition of Bryan and Cockrell. It continued a pattern that would remain in Dallas for some time.

IE150-1.GIF - 1880 Bytes D in the Heart of Texas - Table of Contents
03LEFT.JPG - 1880 BytesJohn Neely Bryan - And Other Early Founders (Part 2)
03RIGHT.JPG - 1880 Bytes Some Wheeling-Dealing to Grow a City

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Last edited June 3, 2003