Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Transcription Tuesday: The Exciting Streets of Dallas, Texas in the 1890s

The following articles report on a couple of incidents in the streets of Dallas in 1892 and 1893 in which my great-great-uncle William Henry Lewis was involved. One centered around a run-away buggy in which he was riding and the other around the pursuit of a criminal in which he took part. Our modern-day equivalent of the second incident, which also involved an exchange of gunfire, would be the police car chase. It’s fascinating to consider that my not-so-distant ancestors (Henry Lewis did not die until 1946) lived during times when there were still horse chases and shootouts in the streets.

From the Dallas Morning News, 7 March 1893:

“Thrown From a Buggy

While County Treasurer Coe and ex-Sheriff Lewis were buggy-riding yesterday near the new cemetery, south of the city, their team took fright and ran away. Mr. Coe was thrown from the buggy and found in an unconscious state. He soon, however, recovered from the shock and was last night reported to be doing well.”

From the Dallas Morning News, 4 October 1892:



The Sad Plight of an Ellis County Farmer Who Became a Self-Constituted Deputy.

“Yesterday was horse traders’ day on the public square. The first Monday in every month is the legal day for disposing of strayed animals at public outcry, but by far the largest business is transacted by horse traders, who congregate to exchange, buy and sell. Among those who were trading horses yesterday was Mr. Sid Williams, a gentleman who lives a short distance west of Oak Cliff. He traded with a stranger for a mule and afterward he said that he discovered that the party with whom he traded did not have a clear title to the animal. Mr. Williams laid the case before Sheriff Lewis. Mr. Lewis sent Deputies Henry Tanner and John Bolick after the party who traded with Mr. Williams. The found him, and at the sheriff’s office a short while previous he gave the name of J. J. Jackson to Deputy Carson, who wrote a bill of sale for him. Mr. Jackson told the deputies that he could be easily identified in the city. He started with them to Sanger Bros.’ store about 1:30 in the afternoon, where he said he was known, but before they left Jefferson street, on the public square, he suddenly wheeled his horse and started at race horse speed down Jefferson street toward the jail. The deputies pursued and they were joined by an Ellis county farmer by the name of Harris, who was on a swift horse. Mr. Jackson led the trio down to Market street. He crossed over to Houston, back on Houston to Commerce and out on Commerce and across the Trinity bridge, leaving a cloud of dust behind like the wake of a cavalry company. Crossing the bridge, Mr. Harris’ horse seemed to forge ahead and get in the lead and as the object of the chase reached the west abutment of the bridge he turned and fired five times toward his pursuers. Mr. Tanner replied with five shots from his pistol.

“It was along here that Mr. Harris dropped out of the race. He fell and the conclusion of everybody watching was that he was shot. When Messrs. J. W. and J. T. Tucker picked him up, covered deep in dust and found clotted blood over his left eye and a small hole in his right arm, they felt sure that he was shot and fatally wounded. So the report flashed over the city that a man had been killed. Mr. Harris was carried in an express wagon to a drugstore on Jefferson street where his wounds were dressed. All of the bullets missed him and his injuries were caused by falling on small pebbles. In addition to the places over his eye and on his arm his hip was cut, necessitating one stitch, and after that was done he was out on the streets. He told a News reporter that his name was J. T. Harris and that he was a farmer living nine miles south of Waxahachie, near Forrest’s store. “I don’t remember much about the race,” he said, recounting his experience of a short while back. “I didn’t trade horses with the fellow and I don’t know who he is. I never saw him before and I don’t know anything about him. I saw some deputy sheriffs coming towards me running him, and I hollered to them to deputize me that I could catch him. I started in, and going across the bridge my horse ran away with me. He went the wrong direction. He went towards them bullets as hard as he could go, and it kept me d---d busy dodging them. I could see that pistol belching fire and I thought I was a goner. I tell you, partner, if I had had my old winchester with me I would have mixed it with him, but I didn’t have a thing and my horse was running right into them bullets. He carried me up almost by the side of that pistol and then my horse fell. I went down and that’s all I know about it, but you see me here.”

“Public interest centered on Mr. Harris for the time being, while Sheriff Lewis, John Bolick and Henry Tanner continued after the flying horseman. After the shooting at the bridge he proceeded to reload his pistol. Mr. Lewis followed to the foot hills of West Dallas. The horse he was riding was not fleet and he was compelled to turn back. Messrs. Tanner, Henry Jacoby and Bolick kept up the chase over the pike road toward Fort Worth. Red Stewart was watching from the courthouse tower and he said the time made broke the record. Over the hills and out of sight went the horse trader and his pursuers, who never came nearer than 200 yards of him after he crossed the bridge until near Kidd Springs, when the horse trader threw his pistol back and fired one shot toward Bolick. The latter returned the fire and the horse trader jumped from his now jaded nag and took to the bushes afoot. He disappeared in the underbrush before the officers came up. They captured the horse he was riding, which was the one he had traded from Mr. Williams. Mr. Bolick’s shot evidently hastened the horse trader in taking leave of the saddle. The bullet went through a slicker which was tied behind and entered the saddle. An effort was made to get dogs on this party’s trail, but they could not trail him, and about 5:30 the two deputies returned to the city leading the race horse which carried the fugitive beyond their reach.

“He left behind him a gray mare which he had with the mule when he struck the square for a trade. He was a stranger to the horse traders on the square. None of them seemed to know him. While the chase was in progress, Deputy Sheriff Tom Carson received the following wire message dated Krum, Tex., and signed by G. D. Witt, who was unknown to any of the sheriff’s force: “Arrest a man about 23 years, light complexion, light mustache, riding gray mare about fifteen and one-half hands high, branded LU on left thigh, leading black 3-year-old horse mule, no brand. Advise at Sanger, Tex.”

“Sheriff Lewis and Mr. Carson stated that the description of the mare and mule tallied exactly with that of the animals left behind by the horse trader. His description also was correctly given as far as it went. He was five feet ten or eleven inches high and he wore a black shirt, black soft hat and his pants were stuffed in his boot tops.”


  1. I just LOVE this kind of color! Great read!

  2. I've given you an award, Greta. Love your blog and especially liked the Transcription Tuesday post! Go to http://tennesseememories.blogspot.com/2010/01/happy-101-award-for-tennessee-memories.html to pick it up.

  3. Besides being an interesting story of not so distant ancestors, I also love this old newsy, homey newspaper writing.

  4. Wow, that was quite a story! A fascinating look a early police chases. Thank you for sharing it.

  5. LOL! I stole that iced tea comment from the movie, "Steel Magnolias." I believe it was Truvy (Dolly Parton) that said it to Shelby (Julia Roberts) at the County Fair. I just HAD to use it SOMEwhere!

    As to the subject of glass - I really like all kinds. I used to actively collect, but am content now to just enjoy what I have and not continue to deplete what's out there for sale!!

    I have several different patterns of Depression Glass, the largest group I have is in the Iris pattern by Jeannette. And I have quite a collection of milk glass by Westmoreland.

    Have a good evening, Greta!

  6. From my “My Family Root Run Deep ” blog to you — I’d like to pass along the Happy 101 Award to your blog. I am happy to have found your blog. Look forward to reading your future and pasts posts. A copy can be found at:http://www.myfamilyrootsrundeep.blogspot.com/

  7. Wow! Gosh, those journalists of the 19th century really knew how to write a good story! Makes our newspapers dry as bones in comparison... Great stuff and so fun to read!