Dig This

Amateur archeologist Alex Troup has some advice for those who would bring life back to downtown Dallas: The answers are under your feet.

A theater marked "colored variety" occupied the block directly north of Troup's dig site. It was accompanied by another boarding house and three saloons. More saloons and more boarding houses filled the surrounding blocks, all of which the maps categorized as "Negro dwellings."

Before the turn of the century, Fannie Howard showed up in city directories as residing on Austin Street, closer to the theater. But in 1904 Howard moved to Market Street, where she bought two lots.

A "c" in the city directory denoted that Howard was colored. Troup didn't know what her occupation was until a friend gave him an 1893 article from the front page of the Dallas Times Herald. It opened up a new mystery.

Amateur archeologist Alex Troup believes Dallasites once used these rocks as toilet paper. He has other thoughts on Dallas history just as likely to rub some the wrong way.
Mark Graham
Amateur archeologist Alex Troup believes Dallasites once used these rocks as toilet paper. He has other thoughts on Dallas history just as likely to rub some the wrong way.
Want to know what a vibrant downtown Dallas looks like? This turn-of-the-19th-century street scene gives you a clue.
Want to know what a vibrant downtown Dallas looks like? This turn-of-the-19th-century street scene gives you a clue.

SUICIDE OR MURDER?

ALBERT W. GRANT CROSSES OVER TO THE UNKNOWN LAND.

And There is Said to Be a Mystery Connected With His Sudden Exit from This Vale of Tears--Story of Fannie Howard, the Woman in the Case.

Those were the headlines. The story got more outrageous.

Waves of crime continue to roll over this county, and the number of people who have died with their boots on during the past twelve months, is appalling. Fanny Howard is a half-breed, a cross between Indian and African. Her father was a Cherokee and her mother a negress, and Fanny inherited all the vices and none of the virtue of both races. She is one of the noted women of town and keeps a bagnio at the foot of Austin street, where her dusky courtesans receive the attention of dissolute white men. At an early hour, yesterday morning, Fanny was shot through both thighs, and Albert W. Grant, her white lover, just above the heart. The shooting took place in an alley near the Howard residence.

Howard told the newspaper that Grant had a falling-out with his family and was down on his luck. She called his death a suicide.

I gave him a $5 bill and told him to get it changed. He did not return and I found him at a saloon, drinking. He refused to go to the house with me, and I snatched his hat from his head and ran home. He walked around the block and walked into the alley close to my house. I followed him, and he said: "Don't come near me, or I will kill you."

Howard approached him anyway.

He shot me twice and then shot himself.

Evidently, nobody bought Howard's story. Instead, they believed a "rival" in the house, perhaps another lover, shot Howard and then turned the gun on Grant. Police did find the murder weapon, a .38-caliber Smith & Wesson that Mollie Cotton, "a woman of the town," later turned over.

A follow-up story reported that police officials confirmed Grant was murdered, a fact that rendered Fannie Howard a liar. Although a grand jury investigated the case, the outcome is unknown.

The shooting, however, was hardly an isolated event. Dallas was filled with people who had a strong thirst for vice: "cocaine fiends," "whiskey fiends," "morphine fiends" and "cigarette fiends," as the newspaper described them. In fact, the presence of sober people on the streets was so rare that it was news, according to the January 3, 1893, Times Herald.

Not a drunken man appeared on the streets yesterday. In the "good old days," every gentleman got drunk New Years.

Nowadays, most people trace the city's economic origins to cotton and, more important, the discovery of oil in East Texas, which in the 1930s made Dallas home to a new class of millionaires. The city's first boom, however, grew out of the sale of buffalo parts in the 1860s, followed by the arrival of the railroad in the 1870s, according to the WPA Dallas Guide and History, a book compiled in the late 1930s by the federal Work Projects Administration.

By 1869, the buffalo trade turned Dallas into a raging party town, according to the WPA.

"The Dallas of the late sixties and early seventies was no longer the peaceful settlement of antebellum days but was a booming, roistering western frontier town--crowded, noisy, uncouth and disorderly, full of strangers and bustling confusion, its unpaved streets choked with pedestrians, horsemen and wagons, and with a life as raw as the whiskey sold in the barrooms that never closed their doors."

In 1870, the federal census gave Dallas a population of just 3,000, though the WPA estimated that the number was much higher because the city was filled with transients. Dallas builders couldn't keep pace with the demand for construction.

"Gambling halls and saloons solidly occupied the whole north side of Main Street from Houston to Austin Streets, and the southwestern part of the town was thickly dotted with dance halls," the WPA reported. "These rough emporiums of frontier vice never closed and the music in them never ceased, except when it was momentarily interrupted by an exchange of pistol shots."

Despite the efforts of reformers like J.T. Upchurch, the prostitutes did not go away, and neither did the gamblers or other purveyors of vice. In fact, when Troup unearthed Fannie Howard's trash, what he found was the beginnings of a city that would evolve into a destination resort for thrill seekers of every sort. By the 1930s Dallas had become a modern city filled with local retailers, restaurateurs and white-collar professionals.

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