Gano Street which abuts City Park in South Dallas, is named for one of the more remarkable Dallas pioneers. Gen. Richard M. Gano was a minister of the gospel, physician, farmer, rancher, banker, and native of Bourbon County, Kentucky. Born in 1830, he appreciated two of his native county’s most famous products—beautiful women and fine blooded horses. But as a lifelong prohibitionist, the general had no use for liquors, including the whiskey heard round the world under the name of the County of Bourbon. There is a question as to whether General Gano cut a wider swath as a soldier or as a preacher.
He took up land on Grapevine Prairie in Tarrant County within sight of the present-day city of Grapevine, Lake Grapevine, and the acreage for the proposed new regional airport. His initial frontier homestead is still standing and in use.
When trouble started popping up on the northwestern frontier of Texas in the advent of the 1858 raids by the Comanche Indians in Parker and Wise counties, Gano helped a defense force pursue the redskins. The campaign lasted a number of weeks, and when the company returned home the citizens of Tarrant County presented a costly sword to Gano in recognition of his leadership, and also elected him Tarrant County representative in the legislature at Austin.
Gano resigned from the legislature in January, 1862, to enter the Confederate army as a captain of cavalry. He rose through the ranks to brigadier general and served with the Army of Tennessee in forty two engagements, beginning the spring of 1863 at the Battle of Chattanooga. He later commanded Texas cavalry units along the Red River. In all, he served in seventy-two engagements “but was never taken prisoner” and “was successful in all but four.” His left arm was broken by a mini ball and “while in service he had five horses shot from under him, three of the animals being killed.”
After the Civil War, Gano returned to Texas, settling in Dallas County where he resumed farming and “stock raising,” as ranching was then termed, in Texas. One of the first Texas cattlemen to import fine-blooded cattle into the state, he later developed a ranch to breed and train harness horses.
In 1866, Gano, who had joined the church in Kentucky by profession of faith, began his own active career in the ministry of the Christian Church. At the end of the next quarter century it was stated that “he had been very successful, having baptized about 4,000 people, besides establishing a large number of churches.” Among these was the First Christian Church of Dallas.
Gano came from a long line of ministers. His great grandfather, Rev. John Gano, established the first Baptist church in New York City. He also served as an army chaplain during the American Revolutionary War, Chaplain Gano was said to have been “an intimate friend of Gen. Washington.” One account is that at a critical point in a battle Chaplain Gano personally rallied the American forces in which he was serving, but he was admonished by Washington for having exposed himself to too much personal danger.
Another account tells of Rev. John Gano having baptized General Washington in the field by immersion, as “Gen. Washington had become dissatisfied with the baptism which had been administered to him by his own church” ( the established Church of England). The baptism by immersion of General Washington was performed in the presence of about forty people, according to the same account. “Very little was said about this, as the Rev. Mr. Gano transgressed the rule of his church by baptizing anyone who was outside the pale of his own denomination, but felt that he could not draw church lines too close in the Army, and so all were baptized by immersion who desired.”
General Gano’s own father was John Allen Gano of Bourbon County, Kentucky, who, during an active ministry of sixty years in the Christian Church, was credited with baptizing 10,000 men, women, and children as “an earnest and able co-laborer of Alexander Campbell and other leaders of the reformation” associated with the rise of this denomination.
General Gano retired from active business in 1882, although he retained directorships in several of his more important corporate connections. A contemporary sketch of Gano’s career mentioned that he had also excelled “in worldly matters, making a success of whatever he touched, including real estate, farming, stock-raising and banking.”