Henry S. Ervay, the Reconstruction mayor, became a hero in Dallas. He was born in 1834 in Elmira, New York. He was the oldest in a large family of ten children and grew up on his parents‘ farm in Mercer County, Pennsylvania. Henry moved to Texas in 1858 at the age of 24 where he worked as a conductor for the new Butterfield Stage route between St. Louis and San Francisco.
As a young man Henry Ervay had his share of adventures. In 1859 he joined one of William Walker‘s expeditions in Nicaragua. A freebooter and gloryseeker who had seized control of Nicaragua in 1855, Walker was one of numerous opportunists in the pre-Civil War years who attracted southern men to their schemes by promising to establish slavery in the lands they conquered. Walker had some backing from an American company that transported California-bound American immigrants across Central America. In 1857 Walker was driven out of Nicaragua, but he attempted to regain his power several times.
In 1860 his entire command was captured, and Walker was executed at Trujillo by a Honduran firing squad. Henry Ervay was among the men rescued and taken to New Orleans by the British Navy. In 1860 Ervay came to Dallas County and found less exciting employment in a gristmill north of present-day Carrollton, on the Elm Fork of the Trinity River. In 1861 he purchased the controlling interest in the mill, and a year later, on May 25, 1862, married Maria L. Hickman, also of Dallas County.
In September 1863 the Ervays moved into Dallas, where Henry worked with the Confederate quarter- master during the Civil War. Wounds received in the Nicaraguan adventure kept him from active duty in the Confederate Army. After the war he ran a livery and sale stable in Dallas and in April 1870 was appointed mayor of Dallas by Governor Edmund Davis. Mayor Ervay’s orderly refusal to give up his office upon the governor’s command and his conduct during the incident earned the “increased respect ... and warmest approval of the people.” After his somewhat lively term as mayor of Dallas, Henry Ervay served on the city council from 1873 until 1882.
Maria H. Ervay ran a boardinghouse where professional and businessmen took their meals. John C. and John M. McCoy lived at their law office and dined with Mrs. Ervay, and when friends and relatives of the McCoys visited or traveled through Dallas, they stayed with Mrs. Ervay.
Courtesy When Dallas Became a City.
Photo: Vintage postcard of W. Ervay Street with top of Temple Emanu-El at end of street on left.