The First Cabin, by Tom Gooch

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 The First Cabin
By: Tom Gooch

(Dallas Times Herald, 9 February 1936)

Editor's Note: The following is a verbatim transcription from That's All For Today - Selected Writings of Tom Gooch, edited by Decherd Turner and published by Southern Methodist University Press ­ Dallas, TX, 1955. (See copyright fair use notice at bottom of page).

Tom Gooch, the longtime cartoonist, reporter, editor and publisher of the Dallas Times Herald, wrote a daily column in the 1930's and 1940's. He was the great-grandson of Charity Gilbert, who gave birth to the first white child in the first cabin John Neely Bryan built, and even Barrot Sanders agrees it was built for and first occupied by Captain Mabel Gilbert and his family soon after
their arrival by way of the Trinity River from Bird's Fort in 1842.

Light hearted, tongue in cheek, and sometimes irreverent, Tom Gooch himself explains,

 "Every column must have a policy and it is only fair that we be frank with our enduring friends. We will stand unalterably for the profit system and a higher standard of living. We do not care particularly who pays the bill, just so it is not us. If that be rugged individualism, make the most of it.

"In this location, or another somewhere between here and the want ads, from time to time we will defend and violate the traditions of our Fathers. We will not be hide bound, even though ours is thick. There will be latitude in our attempts to be both serious and funny. Wives have a way of intimating that the latter can be accomplished by husbands who just act natural. But we must not bring family into business.

"There are plenty of things to write about in this world and that, perhaps, is the reason there is a shortage of writers. If we can do our little bit at this late date to help make up that deficiency we will have at last found a useful place in the cosmos of things.

"From time to time we will ask suggestions and advice from our readers. We expect no avalanche of letters, just a few kindly and perhaps charitable criticisms from patiently loyal friends."

The First Cabin

     We feel that it is the duty-we know it is the duty-of every loyal Dallas citizen to prepare himself as a competent guide of the thousands of visitors who will be here during the Centennial Exposition. We are willing to do our bit. This is the day of specialists, and we have decided to specialize on the John Neely Bryan cabin, which now occupies the Court House Square--rather it has always been there if we are going to stick to our story. Our readers will pardon us if we rehearse in advance what we expect to say to the curious-eyed strangers when they call for our assistance as a guide next summer. We shall be waiting at the train for them and our first visit, of course, will be the rude but picturesque replica of the first home in Dallas County. We know what the visitor will say, first of all-"So this is the first house in Dallas County."

     "Uh huh," we shall reply. And then the conversation will continue about as follows:

     "Of course it is the real thing," says the visitor, and if that is his belief, why should we start an argument?

     To ease our conscience we shall probably remark, "Of course you know we have to renew the hand-wrought shingles from time to time on account of the weather and the decay that naturally comes from exposure to our gentle summer sun. However, the entire roof has been rebuilt only once since John Neely Bryan died."

     "Certainly is a remarkable relic," will say the visitor, "and I am sure that every stick of wood in it was put there by the hand of that famous old pioneer. Just look how the door sill is worn, and see this beautiful hooked rug. Mrs. Bryan probably made it when she wasn't loading guns for her husband to use in shooting Indians."

     "Uh huh," we shall say, and then hastily add, "right on this river bank John Neely Bryan saw Capt. Mabel Gilbert, with his wife and family come around the bend to help him start the great city of Dallas."

     "Where is the river?" asks the inquisitive stranger. "We had to move it," is our prompt reply, "because we feared the Trinity when it got turbulent."

     "Yes," says the visitor, "it might have washed away this priceless relic."

     "Yep," we reply.

     "Why is it?" asks the knowledge-seeking delegate from elsewhere, "why is it that the Bryan cabin is built exactly parallel to this great court house?"

     Not to be nonplused we answer quickly, "Mr. Bryan was a far-seeing man; he dedicated this very ground to the public. And it was only fair that we constructed our public building in harmony with the first home in Dallas County."

     We feel that if we can get that far with the curious strangers, everything else will be easy, unless those who have charge of furnishing the cabin are careless enough to leave manufacturers labels on the bedsteads, or dumb enough to put a modernistic commode in the northeast corner.

     What we have been driving at is this: During our years of building and money-grabbing we forgot to preserve the precious relics of the fathers. Much has been destroyed of historic value in Dallas that can never be replaced. History has no beginning so far as anyone can definitely assert. And, of course, it has no ending. It is never too late for us to start gathering and preserving relics of our sturdy pioneers (someday we too shall be classed among them) to inspire future generations. We have a Dallas Historical Society, whose members devote themselves to that happy and unselfish task. Every Dallas citizen is eligible to membership. A hint to the wise and loyal is sufficient.

EBRUARY 9, 1936

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This publication was compiled, edited and transcribed by M C Toyer,
12 February 2001.