When You and I Were Young: Lane, Crutchfield & Norton families/Dallas' First Post Office
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(Updated February 2, 2002)


     Editor's Note.---Following is the eleventh of a series
of articles by Mrs. Foster, a resident of Dallas for
many years, concerning interesting people and
events here a quarter of a century ago.


Prominent in Activities of Dallas in Former Years

     When Mrs. Octavia Brown, a bride, came to Dallas with her young husband, Stephen Decatur Brown, they lived for a short time on Commerce street, near the old opera house and the old Windsor hotel. This was in 1873. Mrs. Brown was a native of Texas, born in Gonzales. Mr. Brown was from Petersburgh, Va.
     Their second home was on Jackson street, at the edge of a cedar brake so dense that frequently people were lost in it. Next, they moved across the river into a house built of logs, warm in winter and cool in summer, and known as "the haunted house."

Picturesque Figure.
     It had been the home of Anthony Danning Norton, a picturesque figure in early Texas days. An Ohio boy, a graduate of Kenyon college, among his collegemates were Rutherford B. Hayes, Edwin M. Stanton, Guy M. Bryan of Texas, and Royal T. Wheeler, who, when he died, was chief justice of Texas.
     Banning Norton came to Texas in 1848. He was a friend of Sam Houston, and, like him, he espoused the cause of the union. He was adjutant general of Texas in 1860, and went back to Ohio when Texas seceded, returning later. When we came to Dallas in 1890, he was frequently seen on the streets, and his long, white beard, and his long, white hair bore witness to his youthful vow never to shave or have his hair cut if Henry Clay was not elected president.
     Banning Norton had bought one acre across the river form a farmer, and in this log house, he lived and published Norton's Union Intelligencer, at Honey Springs, head of navigation, later moving to Ross avenue, beyond Leonard.

Threats Stop "Ghosts."
     When Stephen Decatur Brown moved into the haunted house and was told that lights appeared on the gate posts (how convenient that would have been before the days of electricity), and that balls of fire rolled around the yard, and that ghostly faces appeared at the windows, and a woman had been left to die there alone, he promptly said that if any more ghosts came, he would shoot them. As he had a great reputation as a shot, and it was known that he could shoot the head off a turkey while it was running across the yard, the ghosts never did come again.
     Later, it was ascertained that the farmer had wanted to reclaim his acre of ground and took this method of making the owners sell back to him, but he did not know the temper of Anthony Banning Norton, nor of Stephen Decatur Brown.

Bought "Brushwood Farm."
     The Browns then bought a farm, a "brushwood farm" Mrs. Brown calls it, in South Dallas, and raised stock. This farm was where Colonial Hill now is. When we came to Dallas, it was called Chestnut Hill. I never could find that chestnut tree, and I wonder if it really was there as a material fact, or if some lonely exile saw in imagination the clustering white blossoms and the roasted chestnuts in "the garden of memory."
     The only near neighbor of the Browns was a Mr. Fetzer, who had a vineyard and who made wine.
     Mrs. Brown finally sold the farm to Mr. Bolanz, who opened up Brown's addition, and Mrs. Brown gave the land in front of her place for Pennsylvania avenue. Ervay street was, at an early day, almost impassable in dry weather because of the deep sand. One had to go over to the Central railway to get a good road to town.
     After awhile, many pleasant neighbors settled near the Browns--the Bolanz family, Mainor Shumards, who live now at Hayoke ranch at Boerne, the Henry Lewises, Mrs. Virginia Q. McNealus, the W. A. Callaways, the E. C. Lanes, the A. J. Daniels and others.
     When I learned that Mrs. Daniels had been Retta Stickney, I said to her, "Were you related to One Strikney and Two Strikney of Ohio?" and she answered, "Yes, I was. Their names are a tradition in our family. What can you tell me about them?"
     Said I: "They were friends of my father's and naturally their names appealed to me and I asked my father about them. He said that their father numbered his boys and named his girls for states. I think the girls were Carolina, Maryland and Indiana."
     Mrs. Daniels had come from the East to visit her uncle, J. C. Stickney, for many years with Scarff & O'Connor. He lives now in St. Louis.

The Chandler Family.
     Another Colonial Hill family was the Chandlers. the little yellow-haired daughter of the Chandlers who sat in the back yard and moulded tiny figures in clay, is now Clyde Chandler, sculptor, of Santa Monica, Cal.
     Mrs. Brown recalls the building of the first street car line. Associated with W. J. Keller in this enterprise was Chas. Dent, a cousin of Julia Dent, wife of President U. S. Grant. Because of their Southern sympathies, the Dents of Dallas never claimed this relationship, though it was known to their intimate friends.

Recalls Primitive Post Office.
     Mrs. Brown remembers the primitive post office, a small building having but one or two clerks. The letter boxes were marked N--S---E---W---and you were expected to know the points of the compass and to separate your mail before depositing it.
     The first post office had been opened away back in 1845, and the first postmaster was Charles H. Durgin, who was from New Haven, Conn., and whose wife, formerly Elizabeth Thomas, made the cloth pouches, twelve in number, which hung on the white wall, and received the incoming mail. The second postmaster was Thomas F. Crutchfield, who came from Louisville, Ky., in 1847. The Crutchfield family were pioneers in Dallas. For many years, the Crutchfield house, near the river, was the leading hotel. It was kept by Thomas F. Crutchfield, whose wife made hospitable and efficient hostess. Betty, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Thos. Crutchfield, married John W. Lane, January 5, 1860. The parents of John W. Lane had come from Kentucky to Freestone county, Texas, at an early day.
     John W. Lane settled in Dallas and took an active part in the civic problems of the time. He had the greatest pride in the growth of the city and in its improvement.
     He was a newspaper man and owned and published, with his brother-in-law, John W. Swindells, the Dallas Herald.

Fought for Southland.
     He enlisted as a private in the Confederate army, Eighteenth Texas cavalry, under Captain E. C. Browder, for whom Browder street and Browder Springs were named.
     An old Dallas Herald of 1864 reports him as returning to his regiment, Lane's brigade, under Col. Chisem, after a furlough, and offering to carry letters.
     His wife died in January, 1866, leaving one son, Clarence C. Lane.
In an old scrap book owned by Mrs. C. C. Lane, I found this funeral notice. It recalls the time when there were no daily papers and cards were printed and sent by hand to friends. It reads: "The friends of the family of Thomas F. Crutchfield are respectfully invited to attend the funeral of Mrs. Betty Lane, wife of Captain John W. Lane, from the Crutchfield house, tomorrow, Sunday, at 10 o'clock a. m., Dallas, Texas, January 13, 1866."
     Captain John W. Lane was one of the early members and officers of Tannehill lodge, the first Masonic lodge of Dallas.
Captain Lane served in the Texas legislature and was the valued friend of Governor Throckmorton. He also served in the senate when E. J. Davis was governor. He was not a Republican, but a staunch Democrat, and was named first assistant secretary of the senate.
He married a second time, Mrs. Emma Thompson Hughes of San Marcos.

Son Follows in Footsteps.
     The son of John W. and Betty Crutchfield Lane, Clarence C. Lane, followed in the footsteps of his father.
     He was public-spirited and gave much of his time to the betterment of Dallas. He served as president of the school board and as alderman of the seventh ward. He was active in the Chamber of Commerce, in the Credit Men's association, and in the Manufacturers association. He was a member of the Dallas Turnverein, and was, at one time, secretary of the State Fair of Texas. He was past exalted ruler of the Dallas lodge of Elks, and held office in the grand lodge as inner guard and as district deputy.
When Clarence Lane was a young boy, he served as a page for the legislature at Austin. The pages kept, with pride, old-fashioned autograph albums, and Mr. Lane's is in the possession of his widow.

Historical Names.
     Some of the names therein are of great historical importance. Among them are L. S. Ross, march 14, 1881, who, six years later, on January 18, 1887, was inaugurated governor of Texas; O. M. Roberts, governor at the time he wrote his name, 31, 1881, in young Clarence Lane's album; Anson Rainey, then of Waxahachie, but later, for many years, a distinguished citizen of Dallas, and S. B. Cooper, the father of a little girl who became the wife of Governor Hobby.

- February 1, 1925, Dallas Times Herald, Sec. III, p. 7, col. 1-4.
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