DALLAS FARMER’S MARKET Development

John Neely Bryan came to Dallas in the 1840s with the intention of establishing a trading post with the Indians. He picked the site for his first home near the Trinity River that had shale for a hard water crossing—now near the current Triple Underpass. He was aware of other towns in the United States that had used their rivers for transportation, and his vision was for this new town he called Dallas to be a trade center along the river.  A center where the farmer’s crops and merchants could easily transport their products.

Farmer's Market, Pearl at Canton 1938

Farmer’s Market, Pearl at Canton 1938

Much of Dallas County was so fertile that almost any family could plant and raise its own fruits and vegetables. The surplus raised by the local farmers including the fruit from the orchards was brought to town to be used for barter or sold for cash. The farmwife usually had her own butter-and-egg money. Many of the settlers from the La Reunion Colony had moved to Irving when the colony disbanded in 1855, and truck farming was their means of livelihood. The soil in that area was rich, and the creeks and wells produced plenty of water. The area near Seagoville in the southern part of the county was also turned into truck farms. Local families are still bringing their produce to the Farmer’s Market in the year 2002. The Lucas B&B Restaurant operated for many years using the produce raised on their own family farm.

The downtown area around the Courthouse was the site of small stands, built by new immigrants to put themselves in business. Louis Arons had a fruit and vegetable stand directly across Market Street from the Courthouse and was listed in the 1875 City Directory as a fruit dealer. He had arrived in Dallas a few years earlier from Germany and was making plans to have his own store when he could afford it.

As the streets were laid out in the first plat of the town, access to the river was important, but after several floods, droughts, and political maneuverings the residents of the town were ready for other means of transportation. Thirty years later, after the Civil War (1861-1865), men from the county came back to Dallas to try to recover their farms, build houses, and import and export goods. Plans then could be made for railroads to reach Dallas. The progress on building railroads had stopped because of the War, and it was not until 1872 when the first train arrived in Dallas, that this improvement in transportation was possible.

The railroads that had been under construction before the War were forced to reassemble the financing to continue the railroad from Houston north into the Dallas area. The Houston and Texas Central was first, followed the next year (in 1873) by the Missouri Kansas and Texas Railroad coming from the east making Dallas a crossroads community and giving it new and different focus. Warehouses and other loading facilities were built near the “tracks” instead of along the river. Also, with the advent of the railroads, a larger variety of fruits and vegetables could reach Dallas from far away places—oranges and lemons from Florida and lettuce from Colorado or California. A supply of citrus fruit was not available from Texas orchards until after the turn of the century. (The first grove of oranges was seven orange trees on a 75,000 acre ranch north of Edinburg, on a section of land granted to the Vela family by the King of Spain in the eighteenth century. The first commercial grove of grapefruit was planted in 1904, but it was not until ten years later that substantial development occurred).

Wholesalers were soon big business in Dallas, and their warehouses were built near the railroads to serve their purposes. Dallas was the distribution point for a large variety of goods coming in. It had the reputation of selling more farm equipment than any other market. Dallas was also noted for the buying and selling of hides; the leather industry broke all records. Descendants of those pioneers, for instance, the Padgitts and the Tenisons, who made a fortune by dealing in hides, are still living in Dallas. Wheat that had been produced locally for years could reach new markets by rail. Cotton was declared “King!” This was a prime area for the production of cotton, and with the coming of the railroads, the means to transport it for overseas shipment had finally been made available. Cotton buyers from England came to Dallas and brought with them the game of golf. It was introduced in 1896 in Dallas! Those commodities, along with cattle, which formerly traveled on their own four feet, became the cash crops for many. Dallas was on its way!

By 1900 the area between Harwood and the Central Tracks was well-served by rail lines and spurs. One spur ran along Marilla, in front of what is now the Dallas City Hall. One of the streets in that area is Cadiz, which starts at the Trinity River and extends to Harwood Street. This street shows up on maps of Dallas before 1875. This area became the Farmer’s Market for Dallas.

There were no zoning laws in Dallas until the 1920s, so it was not unusual to see a mixture of uses in a city block. In the City Directory for 1915 the 2000 block of Cadiz was occupied mostly by small houses. These residences were noted in the Directory as being occupied by blacks as they had “C” for colored after each name. Only two businesses, Harland and Harlan, wholesale grocers, and the Ornamental Glass Company were in the entire block. Two brothers, William Ellis and Harry J. Harlan built the Harlan Building at 2014-2018 about 1914! In 1987 the building had a fire, and in 1987-1988 it was the center of controversy when Landmark designation was sought for the building.

In a letter sent to the Landmark Commission by Mrs. Leta Mae (Harlan) Gantt, the daughter of Harry J. Harlan, she described her memories of what the building and her father had meant to her.

The Farmer’s Market in Dallas is still a vital part of the area and new housing is being built adjacent to the area in the Twenty-first Century!

Cortes y Proud Heritage, Vol. III by Dallas County Pioneer Association. Photo courtesy Portal to Texas History. Photo, Farmers Market around 1938.  Also, vanishing watermelons can be found here.