According to his death certificate, Calvin C. Low was born in Indiana on August 15, 1863. The story goes that he and his parents were traveling by covered wagon when both parents died of a fever, and Calvin was raised by Indians. We don’t know if he had any brothers or sisters, since little Calvin was too young to recall any of the details.
In 1880s Calvin was in the northeast Dallas County area, which at that time was called “Rylie Prairie,” about fifteen miles southeast of downtown Dallas. He fell in love with Ina Bell, born September 23, 1871, youngest child of Harriet Harding and John Armstrong Rylie. When she was only about sixteen years old, she ran off with Cal and her father disowned her.
Their first child, born in February 1889, was named Harriet after her mother. The second was Nora Mae, born February 5, 1891, when the Dallas City Directory shows them living in a tent on the northwest corner of Bellview and Mulberry Streets. An 1890 city map shows this as the intersection between Akard and Lamar. The 1891-92 Directory shows Calvin as a streetcar driver living in a tent on the south side of Lawrence and J.Z. Lanier (now Hatcher Street).
The Lows had a real roof over their heads, at 778 Commerce, by the 1893-94 Directory, and the family had added Linnie Bell (Lil), born in January 1893. By 1895 they had moved to Glory, Lamar County, where their fourth child, John Wesley, was born October 10, 1895. He was to be the first Dallas boy killed in action in France, on May 11, 1918.
The 1900 census shows the family in Ellis County, with a new child named Annie Laura, born in August 1899. Jasper “Buddy” was born in 1903 and they were back in Dallas in 1905, living at 138 Louise, when Beatrice “Ruby” was born in July. My grandmother, Zelma Inez, was born November 19, 1907, then came Marie Estelle “Crickett,” about 1910. Crickett had epilepsy and was sent to a nursing home in Taylor County, where she fell down some stairs and died September 6, 1935.
Calvin, also known as Cal, Callahan, and Kelly, was then a peddler selling fruit and vegetables door-to-door with his horse and wagon. The Lows moved almost every year. They settled down in 1918 through 1921 at 1008 Royal, when Cal was selling clothing and secondhand goods at 2520 Elm Street.
When Ina Bell died February 11, 1932 of encephalitis, they lived at 1316 Pennsylvania Avenue. Several stories ran in the Dallas papers with headlines reading “Dallas’ First Gold Star Mother Dead,” “Taps to be Sounded at Grave of First Gold Star Mother.”
Calvin died four years later, February 29, 1936, of influenza and pneumonia. It wasn’t until January 2000 that his headstone was etched with his name, almost sixty-four years after his death. He is beside his love, Ina, at the Forest Lawn Cemetery on Harry Hines at Walnut Hill Lane.
I had Calvin “C” Low put on the headstone because that was the way his death certificate and death notice in the paper read, but I believe his middle initial was “L,” according to the 1900 census and old city directories, and also stories written about his son, John, in newspapers and history books.
All of Calvin’s and Ina’s children and many of their grandchildren are gone; I am one of their many great-grandchildren.
By Sue Bucy for Proud Heritage, Vol. III by Dallas County Pioneer Association, 2002.