Flashback : Dallas

A Miscellany: History, Ads, Pop Culture

Category: 1860s

Celebrate the Pecan Tree’s 150th Christmas!

pecan-tree_bigOur beautiful Pecan Tree! (click for larger image)

by Paula Bosse

Ever since I realized that 2015 was the sesquicentennial for what may the world’s most famous pecan tree, I’d planned to do a nice post worthy of such an occasion. Except that, as usual, time seems to be slipping away from me, and I have time today to post only a few photos of one of my very favorite local landmarks.

The pecan tree — or, the Pecan Tree (it deserves to be capitalized) — is in Highland Park on Armstrong Parkway at Preston Road, and if you grew up in the Dallas area, driving past the huge tree decorated with lights is an annual Christmas ritual. I remember when I was going through my sullen teen years how I always rolled my eyes when my parents said we were going to go see the Pecan Tree — but when we got to the tree and saw it … it was just wonderful.

The tree began life in 1865 (!) as a sprout in the middle of a cornfield owned by the Coles, one of Dallas’ pioneer families. In October of that year, young Joe Cole, just returned from the Civil War, was working the field and discovered the little plant in a furrow, crushed under the wheels of his wagon. The story goes that Joe, still overwhelmed from the horrors of war, got out of his wagon and replanted the sprig, taking pains over the years to make sure it grew into a large healthy tree. And it did.

I discovered recently that the very first house I lived in was Joe’s old farmhouse, part of which, somehow, was still standing across from North Dallas High School into the 1980s. I’ve always felt a kinship with that tree, and it’s nice to know that my very first home was the home of the man responsible for the tree that has given so much pleasure to so many people. Thank you, Joe!

Below, a short, six-and-a-half-minute film about the history of the tree, produced by KERA: “Million Dollar Monarch,” directed by Rob Tranchin.


1909 (via DeGolyer Library, SMU)

Photo by Lee Hite


UPDATE: Sadly, the Pecan Tree did not make it to its 154th Christmas. The Highland Park landmark was cut down in October, 2019, a victim of age and disease. The nearby “sister tree,” which was grafted from the older tree in the 1950s, has taken its place on center stage. Several articles on this sad development can be read on the Park Cities People website here.


Sources & Notes

First two photos were reproduced as promotional postcards by the Park Cities Bank in the 1970s; thanks to the Lone Star Library Annex for allowing me to use these images. Source of other photos as noted.

Read about the tree on the Highland Park website, here.

More about the history of the tree can be found in a 1933 article from The Dallas Morning News, with memories from the then-92-year-old Joseph Cole: “Million-Dollar Tree of Dallas, Big Pecan Centering Parkway, Set Up by Hand of Man Now 92” (DMN, March 5, 1933).

A 2012 report on the aging tree can be found in a Dallas Morning News article by Melissa Repko, here.

This famed Pecan Tree was planted in the fall of 1865, which would make this its 150th anniversary. I haven’t seen any mention of this. I know the tree has been in bad shape at times throughout the years, but I’m pretty sure it’s still standing. I haven’t seen the tree this year, but it was still looking pretty impressive last year. Happy 150th, Pecan Tree!

Click photos for larger images.


Copyright © 2015 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.


Newspaper Subscriptions by the Bushel

dallas-herald_wheat_112664Dallas Herald, Nov. 26, 1864

by Paula Bosse

No Confederate money, please.

Will be taken in payment for
Subscription to the Dallas Herald, at the rate
of Two bushels for six months, delivered at this office,
or any mill in this vicinity.

dallas-herald_wheat_020965Dallas Herald, Feb. 9, 1865

Those of our subscribers who have promised us wheat, and have not as yet delivered the same, are requested to bring it in with as little delay as possible. We desire to get up a good supply of paper, and specie, or something that will bring it, is the only thing that will buy it; we also wish in a few months to enlarge our paper to double its present size, and thereby give our readers as much, if not more reading matter than any paper in the State, outside of Houston. It will depend altogether upon the encouragement and promptness of our patrons, whether we shall do this or not.

Persons at a distance can deposit wheat at any of the following mills, and the miller’s receipt will bring the paper, viz:

Mansfield Mills, Tarrant Co., Record & Elliott’s, Cedar Springs, Horton & Newton’s, Wiggington’s [sic] and Parker’s Mills in Dallas county, and at Dowell’s Mill near McKinney, in Collin county.

(Note: the Civil War-era Dallas Herald was two pages: front and back of a single sheet.)

dallas-herald_wheat_subscription_050465Dallas Herald, May 4, 1865

Wheat will be taken in payment for Subscription to the Dallas Herald, at the rate of Two bushels for six months, delivered at this office, or at any of the following mills, and the miller’s receipt to, viz:

Mansfield Mills, Tarrant County; Record & Elliott, Cedar Springs, Horton & Newton’s, Wigginton’s and Parker’s Mills, in Dallas county, and Dowell’s Mill, near McKinney, Collin county.


All of the above from the Dallas Herald collection via UNT’s Portal to Texas History site,

Wikipedia entry on Confederate money here; entry on commodity money here.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

Ads for Slaves Lost, Found, and For Sale in the Pages of The Dallas Herald

runaway_negro_dallas-herald-1856(Dallas Herald, June 7, 1856)

by Paula Bosse

When one is browsing through Texas newspapers from the 1850s and 1860s, one shouldn’t be surprised to see things like this. But that doesn’t make them any less shocking. Black men and women were not regarded as people, but as property — in all of these “ads” you could easily substitute “horse” for “negro.” I think I always wanted to believe that slavery wasn’t much of an issue in Dallas — but it was. The name of one man, E. M. Stackpole, a successful shopkeeper, kept coming up a lot in these advertisements. In addition to the general merchandise of his store, he seemed to do a pretty brisk trade in buying, selling, hiring (more like leasing from other slave-owners), and hiring out slaves. One of his ads is below. (By the way, the word “likely” was a common adjective for slaves; it meant, basically, “worthy of purchase.”)

trade_for_negro_dallas-herald_1856(March 15, 1856)

negro-auction_dallas-herald_091558(Sept. 15, 1858)

negro-auction_dallas-herald_102058(Oct. 20, 1858)



All advertisements from The Dallas Herald, via UNT’s Portal to Texas History site.

My lack of knowledge about slavery in Texas is appalling. The Wikipedia entry provides a good overview; read it here.


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

How Lincoln’s Assassination Was Reported in Dallas — 1865


by Paula Bosse

Abraham Lincoln was shot by John Wilkes Booth on April 14, 1865; he died the next morning. I wondered how the news had been reported in Dallas. I couldn’t find the first mention of the assassination in The Dallas Herald, but it seems there may have been a special “extra” edition published on or just after April 29th — a full two weeks after the fact! The one thing I kept encountering in general Google searches were mentions of the vicious, celebratory editorial that appeared in the pages of the Herald — these reports always quote the line “God Almighty ordered this event or it could never have taken place.” I found that editorial. It appeared in the two-page Dallas Herald on May 4, 1865, along with detailed reports of the assassination.



The image resolution here is pretty bad (it is transcribed below), but, yes, this eye-poppingly vitriolic editorial did appear in the pages of The Dallas Herald — but it did not originate with the Herald (which is not to say that the Dallas editor wasn’t in agreement with the sentiments expressed). The editorial was reprinted from the Houston Tri-Weekly Telegraph (which had run it ten days previously, on April 24); its appearance in the Dallas paper is even clearly prefaced with the following: “The Houston Telegraph, in speaking of the killing of Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward, says…” — so it’s unclear why so many historians and authors mention this editorial as being the product of The Dallas Herald.

The editorial was unsigned, but it was probably written by William Pitt Ballinger, whose previous flame-fanning tirades against the president in the pages of the Telegraph must have caused even hard-core Confederate-leaning brows to raise. I’ve transcribed the full editorial below. For whatever reasons, the Dallas Herald omitted the first and last paragraphs — probably because of space limitations, but one would like to think that even a pro-Confederacy newspaper would think it best to leave out a phrase such as “The killing of Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward may be more wonderful than the capitulation of armies.” Yikes. Imagine a mainstream newspaper printing something like that following the assassination of President Kennedy.

Below is the full astonishing text of the editorial that originally appeared in the Houston Tri-Weekly Telegraph on April 24, 1865. The stark reality of historical events and the contemporaneous tenor of the times can look a lot different when seen from a distance of 150 years.


We publish to-day the most astounding intelligence it has ever been our lot to place before our readers — intelligence of events which may decide the fate of empires, and change the complexion of an age. The killing of Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward may be more wonderful than the capitulation of armies.

With the perpetration of these deeds we can have no sympathy, nor for them can the Southern people be held any way responsible. While Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward had by their malignity created only feelings of detestation and horror for them in the minds of our people, and while in their death the finger of God’s providence is manifest, it is still impossible to look upon an assassin with complacency, even though he frees us from the threatened yoke of a tyrant. We look upon his as God’s instrument, and as such leave him with his maker, praying for infinite mercy to succor him in his hour of need.

God Almighty ordered this event or it could never have taken place. His purpose in it as His purpose in the surrender of Lee’s army, remains to be seen. The careful observer of the history of this war is struck with nothing more than with the fact that no great event has been foreseen by the actors, and that an Almighty hand has shaped the entire course of events. What this event will lead to no man can foresee. We are all instruments in His hands for the accomplishment of His purposes. The ways of Providence are inscrutable, utterly past finding out. It behooves us His creatures to look on in wonder and to act the part of duty according to the lights before us. That duty leads us to be true to our faith, true to our cause, and while it forbids our sanction to unlawful violence — to assassination — it commands us to accept all things as ordered by a Supreme Power, to bow to the exhibitions of that power, and to obey the manifest teachings of His will.

What will [be] the result of these tremendous events, no man can foresee. Theories will present themselves to every man’s mind. We have a dozen all equally probable, and all equally uncertain. Let us wait in patience for the next scene in this terrible drama.


Top image is an engraving of the assassination in Ford’s Theatre from Harper’s Weekly, April 29, 1865.

Editorial is from The Houston Tri-Weekly Telegraph, published April 24, 1865 (Vol. 31, No. 13). You can view a scan of the original newspaper via the indispensable Portal to Texas History, here (it is at the top right of the page, last column). Reprinted without the first and last paragraph by The Dallas Herald ten days later on May 4, 1865 (Vol. 12, No. 36).

Editorial is probably by William Pitt Ballinger, a Galveston attorney. His editorial screeds for the Telegraph are mentioned in the just-published Loathing Lincoln: An American Tradition from the Civil War to the Present, by John McKee Barr (LSU Press, 2014), p. 53 — read an excerpt here. Read more about Ballinger — the “brilliant attorney and political insider” — here.

An interesting article titled “The Last Newspaper to Report the Lincoln Assassination” is here. The article is about The Houston Tri-Weekly Telegraph, but it looks like The Dallas Herald was even SLOWER to report the news.


“We received on Saturday last [April 29] the dispatches containing the assassination of Mr. Lincoln and Mr. Seward, by a letter from Maj. Stackpole to his family at this place, and published them in an extra. There was some little discrtepancy and an omission in them as published then, which we find corrected in the Houston Telegraph’s dispatches which we publish to-day.” (Dallas Herald, May 5, 1865)


Copyright © 2014 Paula Bosse. All Rights Reserved.

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