CARUTH BROTHERS Store Downtown Dallas

15 January 2018 09:03 น. Family Histories , ,

Located Next to Courthouse Downtown Dallas, Texas

IT IS WIDELY KNOWN that the pioneer Caruth family played an important part in the start of University Park. Also familiar is the decisive role of the gift in 1910 of some 520 acres of land by W. W. Caruth, Sr. to Southern Methodist University, which secured the location of the university in Dallas. Less generally known is the fact that other acreage once owned by the Caruths figured prominently in the beginning of Highland Park, the first of the two park cities to be created. The founder of Highland Park was John S. Armstrong. Of the raw land he bought in 1906 for his real estate subdivision, 420 acres lay between present Armstrong Avenue and Mockingbird Lane. These had been acquired originally by Dr. John Cole and his son, John H. Cole, as headrights from the Republic of Texas.

William and Walter Caruth, who came to Dallas from Kentucky in 1852, bought these 420 acres from the Coles in 1862. They paid $3,840, or about $9 an acre. Ten years later William deeded his interest in this property to his brother, Walter. Then in 1889 Walter Carnal sold the tract and 72 additional acres to the Fidelity Real Estate and Trust Company of Dallas, headed by Sam P. Cochran as president, for $150,000 “cash in hand paid.” This was a price of about $300 an acre.

On their arrival in Dallas the two Caruths opened a general store that stood for most of its years one block from the courthouse at Main and Record. William and Walter sidestepped the question of whose first name should appear on the store sign by having the sign read: “W. Caruth & Bro.” According to an inventory preserved by a grandson, W. W. Caruth, Jr., the stock ranged from a keg of gunpowder and a bucket of coffin nails to several barrels of whiskey and one silk vest. The partnership lasted until 1881 when Walter Caruth retired, bought a nine-hundred-acre farm on the eastern edge of East Dallas, and built a two-story white frame house, “one of the finest residences in the city.” This site now on Greenville Avenue at Belmont later became the second home of the Hockaday School and is now occupied by the Hockaday Square apartments.

The buying of Dallas County land by the Caruth brothers began simultaneously with the start of their general store. Their first purchase was a section of land “on the prairies” six miles north of Dallas. Later purchases expanded this into a large plantation extending from White Rock Creek on the east to beyond Preston Road on the west. There was a typical Texas frontier farmhouse—a one-story structure with native oak logs for joists, hand-hewed shingles, and clapboard siding—on this property when the Caruths bought it. This dwelling still stands on the Caruth homeplace grounds at Central Expressway and Northwest Highway. It is one of the oldest, perhaps the oldest, antebellum homes surviving in Dallas County, In 1858 the parents of the Caruth brothers, John and Catharine ( Henderson ) Caruth, were persuaded to move to Dallas, settling on this farmplace where they lived until their deaths. This first Caruth farm home was famous in pioneer days for its hospitality to travelers between Dallas, McKinney, and points beyond. In 1875 a more commodious farm home was built adjacent to the log structure, An impressive, two-story mansion, it is more easily seen today from highways surrounding the homeplace.

It was in this larger house that William and Mattie’s second son and only child to live to adulthood, William Walter Caruth, was born in 1876. He married the daughter of R. H. Stewart, pioneer Dallas wholesale merchant and banker. Seventy-four years later, in 1949, he died in the same house, in a room across the hall from the one in which he had been born.

W. W. Caruth was quoted as saying that it was largely through the foresight of his father, William Caruth, that large additional tracts of land were bought adjacent to this homeplace at what was long called Caruth’s Switch, after the H&TC Railroad was built through the property in the 1870s, At William Caruth’s death in 1885, the family land holdings were extensive and became the nucleus of what has since been expanded into the greatest land estate in Dallas County. This remarkable growth has been directed by his son W. W. Caruth, Sr. and his grandson, W. W. Caruth, Jr., present head of this vast real estate empire.

Although members of the Caruth family have made generous contributions personally, or through philanthropic foundations, to the betterment of life and living in Dallas, the greatest single gift remains that given by W. W. Caruth, Sr. to SMU. It was announced at a crucial moment to Dr. John O. McReynolds, chairman of Dallas’s committee working to secure the location of the university here. The gift consisted of one-half interest in all of the building lots carved out of a section of land, or 640 acres, bounded by Lovers Lane, Preston Road, present Northwest Highway, and Airline Road ( the greater part of present University Park), plus 100 percent interest in 200 additional acres on the east of the present SMU campus. The gift was unrestricted by the donor. During the depression the university felt obliged to sell most of its interest in this property to provide funds for faculty salaries and other operating expenses. The market value today of what amounted to a gift of 520 acres to the university has been estimated in excess of $25,000,000.

Courtesy Dallas Yesterday by Sam Acheson, 1977. Photo family monument at Oakland Cemetery, Dallas TX.