First Store in
County Was at
C. C. Parks, Born
Lancaster, Tells of
Early Dallas Days.
Gun Plant There
Firearms for Confed-
BY W. S. ADAIR.
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
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
"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.
- September 19, 1926,
Dallas Morning News, Sec. III, p. 10, col. 1.
"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."
- o o o -