is the fifteenth 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.
(view photo accompanying
the article here)
a few years ago, there stood on McKinney avenue, midway between
Dallas and Highland Park, a landmark familiar to all early residents.
This was a big brick house with low windows and porches set in
a grove of giant oaks. The first part was built in 1850 and additions
were made later.
It was said to be the first brick
residence erected in Dallas and the owner, John Higgs Cole, familiarly
known as Jack Cole, had his own brick kiln and made his own bricks
on the place. The frames for doors and windows were all made
by hand and were solid and substantial.
Had Wonderful Orchard.
The orchard was so big that after
peaches, pears and grapes had been preserved in quantity and
apples stored in barrels in the cellar and the neighbors plentifully
supplied, the pigs were let in to eat the fruit on the ground.
The father of Jack Cole, a native
of Virginia, was one of the men who formed Dallas county, and
he was its first probate judge. He took up a headright claim
of 640 acres, three miles from Dallas, and then bought other
land at 50 cents an acre. He died in 1851. His sons settled in
the neighborhood on their patrimony and the Cole farms extended
through what is now Northern Hills and part of Highland Park.
The children and grandchildren
inherited a love of nature and every tree and vine and flower
was known to them and all of the little springs of clear water
that surprise us now when we come upon them.
Jake Cole was the first surveyor
of Dallas county, his appointment coming from Governor Pease.
He had eight children, four of whom are still living. He died
in 1908. Mrs. Gillespie and Mrs. Miers live on Cole avenue, a
son and daughter at Stoneleigh court.
The Coles have fought in every
war, with the exception of the Spanish war, beginning with the
Jake Cole added to his land by
taking other lands in payment for his services as a surveyor.
Sometimes a horse or cow was all that could be paid. When a new
animal was driven into the barnyard, the children all raced toward
it, and the one who reached it first had the privilege of naming
Jim, one of the former slaves brought
to Texas, and his sister, Nancy, and descendants, stayed with
the Cole family and cooked and nursed the children to the fourth
Jim had a high opinion of the "quality
folks" and bowed down to none but his own.
When the H. & T. C. railroad
came to Dallas and passed by the farm, he never questioned their
right to drive him from the track and proceeded calmly on his
way, though he heard the whistle behind him.
Finally, the engineer let off steam
on him and then he lost his dignity and rolled down into the
The hospitality of the big house
At one time, a city church was
in the habit of using a pond on the Cole farm for baptizing new
members. One Sunday, when a crowd had gathered, the Cole children
heard a member suggest that they go to the Coles' for dinner.
All agreed, and one of the children ran ahead to tell the mother
of her unexpected party. A daughter, Mrs. A. C. Gillespie, who
told me the story, said that her mother did not seem in the least
flurried. She calmly gave orders to the many servants. There
was meat in the cellar and potatoes and apples and kraut, all
in barrels, and big jars of preserves. Chickens were killed.
Every Southern cook could beat up biscuit, and in less time than
it takes to tell dinner was ready.
Loved Good Horses.
The Coles owned horses and loved
them. One strain had come down from the days of the Revolution,
and Jack Cole used to laugh and tell them that "Edna"
was a daughter of the Revolution. Her ancestor carried General
Marion. There is still a descendant of this horse in Cole family.
One of Jack Cole's Revolutionary
stories was to the effect that an ancestor of his, after capturing
some British officers, invited them to dinner in great state.
The only thing served was all they had, sweet potatoes. One of
the officers wrote to England and said there was no use trying
to beat a foe who could live and fight on sweet potatoes.
Here, where the buffalo once roamed,
broke down the fences and ate the crops, where later the fields
of wheat waved in the breeze, where now stands the North Dallas
High school, and where the city of Dallas has purchased Cole
park, in this old brick house to which Jack Cole brought his
bride, were born and reared and married the Cole children, and
on part of this land still live the fifth generation of the descendants
of John Cole first and Mary, his wife, who came from Virginia
by way of Tennessee and Arkansas to Texas in the early forties.
The most beautiful country house
in the vicinity of Dallas is Millermore, the ancestral home of
Mrs. Barry Miller, whose maiden name was Minnie Miller. High
above the surrounding country it stands, and the view of the
city from its windows and porches is unsurpassed.
Of pure colonial type, built of
red cedar cut on the place, its big rooms and halls and old-fashioned
furniture of walnut and mahogany are a joy to the guests who
are privileged to take part in its unostentatious hospitality.
When William B. Miller was 21,
his physician told him he could live only in a milder climate.
He lived to be over 91 and voted the Democratic ticket for seventy
years. Born in Kentucky, he lived in Alabama until of age, and
then in Missouri, making his first trip to Texas in 1846.
Rode Horseback to
He rode horseback from Independence
and obtained land grants in what is now Dallas county, in the
famous Van Cleave survey. His farm was five miles south of the
village of Dallas. The new bridge on Holmes street on the Hutchins
road replaced the old one, always shown as Miller's Ferry bridge,
for here in the early days was the ferry owned by William B.
Miller, over which came his supplies, and over which, he sent
to market his cotton and his corn.
This ferry came into being about
1852, and was operated by an old man by the name of Dunham, and
later by a former slave, Henry Hines.
Confederacy Owes Them.
The Millers have a number of statements
from the Confederate army showing their indebtedness for troops
and feed and ammunition trains carried across the river. Needless
to say, this money was never collected.
William B. Miller returned to Texas
in 1847, bringing his family and slaves. On the return trip,
the wagons stuck in the quicksand in the Red river and were extricated
with great difficulty.
On reaching his land, Mr. Miller
built first a log cabin in which to live until the big house
Later, he bought 8,000 acres at
a low figure and then 420 acres at $6 an acre near the Fair grounds.
School for Girls.
The first school for girls in Dallas
county was held on the Miller place. W. B. Miller sent to Kentucky
for a teacher, a Mrs. Gray, and invited the girls of the county
to come and study with his four young daughters. There were only
twelve girls in the county at this time, all of whom came to
the school and boarded on the place.
The late Mrs. A. A. Johnson, wife
of Dr. Johnson of Dallas, then Elizabeth Griffen, was one of
the pupils of this early school.
Mr. Miler felt that his girls should learn some of the social
graces, even if they were in the wilds, and taught them to dance
himself. This was in the early fifties.
During the negro uprising in 1864,
when Dallas was burned, former slaves had made plans to confiscate
the home, which had been occupied throughout the Civil war, and
had even picked out the rooms they were to use.
A young boy who belonged to Mr.
Miller's eldest son, Grill Miller, heard of this plan and ran
four miles to warn the white people.
Late in life, William B. Miller, then a widower, married Emma
Dewey, the widow of Madison Miller.
When he died in 1899, he left the
home place to his youngest child, Minnie Miller, who married
Barry Miller, then a young lawyer, now lieutenant governor of
the state of Texas.
Slaves Stayed on the
1, 1925, Dallas Times Herald, Sec. V, p. 11, col. 1-4.
The families of the slaves, brought
to Texas long before the Civil war, stayed on the place, and
until the last one died, not many years ago, the descendants
of William B. Miller were served by old-fashioned servants in
the old-fashioned way.
In making some repairs to her home,
Mrs. Miller had the old log cabin of red cedar torn down and
used the logs for floors in the hall and living room.
In remembrance of the Barry estates
in Ireland, called Barrymore, "more" meaning hill,
Mrs. Miller paid a tribute to her husband's family by adopting
the name for her own beautiful home on the crest of a hill five
miles south of Dallas, and calling it "Millermore."
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