A collection of old newspaper articles, photos and graphics can be found here:
A 1938 DMN article below has a photo of the DeLord house.
Another 1930s era photo of the DeLord house remains was published in the Oak Cliff edition of the Dallas Journal dated March 27, 1936.
Within three or four miles of the town of Dallas, on the West side of the river, near Reunion, the reader may see (if he will take the trouble to go that far), a rare sight for this section of country, and one which we could hardly believe, if not aware of the facts, and which will convince anyone that Northern Texas is capable of producing almost any fruit raised in the tropics. Mr. Reverchon, who lives 1 1/2 miles south of Reunion, has in his garden, besides almost every species of garden vegetable known to this continent, fruits of almost every clime, such as grapes, of Italy and France, together with such as are common to Texas; Apricots, larger than the ordinary peach, Quinces of the best quality, Pears, Plums (almost as large as walnuts), Nectarines, Peaches of the most luscious kind, and equal to any grown in any part of the United States, Apples of various kinds, Almonds, both hard and soft shell, full size and growing upon trees from 10 to 15 feet high, Bananas, and a number of other fruits of the United States, the West Indies and Europe, of which we do not now remember the names. Besides the above Mr. R. has a rare selection of flowers of every variety, and his gardens are laid off and adorned in a manner equal to those of European and other cities.
- June 2, 1866, Dallas Herald, p. 2.
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THE STATE OF TEXAS,
To the Sheriff or any Constable of Dallas County-Greeting:
You are hereby commanded that by making publication of this citation in some newspaper, published in the county of Dallas, for four consecutive weeks, previous to the return day hereof, you summon, one Bonnin, one Lebatteuax, one Guillon, one Gruan, one Chambris, one Mme. de la Fontaine Solare and her children, who are nonresidents of the State of Texas, to be and appear before the District Court of the Fourteenth Judicial District of Texas, to be holden in and for the County of Dallas at the Court House thereof, in the City of Dallas, on the second Monday in December, 1890, then and there to answer to the petition of Charles Capy, Maxime Vacher, Angelle A. Vacher, nee Guillemet, Amand Guillemet, Mrs. Alexandrine Charles Camille Scholastigue Lecler Savarden and Marguerite Catherine Bosserau filed in said Court on the 20th day of September, 1890, against the said Bonnin, Lebatteaux, Guillon, Gruan Chambris, Mme. de la Fontaine Solare and her children for suit; said suit being number 8462, for partition, and alleging in substance as follows, to wit:
That Amand Guillemet and Angelle A. Vacher are the only heirs of Auguste Guillemet, deceased; that Maxime Vacher is the husband of Angelle A. Vacher and joins herein pro forma; that Mrs. Alexandrine Charles Camille Scholastigue Savarden is the sole heir of August Savarden, deceased; that Mrs. Marguerite Catherine Bossereau is the widow and sole heir of Abel Hyacinthe Dailly, deceased; that plaintiffs and defendants are tenants in common on the following land lying in Dallas County, Texas, being a part of the Enoch Horton survey and known as the west half of Section No. 12, meted and bounded as follows: Beginning at a point on the south side of said survey 285 varas west of the original southeast corner of said survey. Thence west with said line 475 varas. Thence north crossing the West Fork of the Trinity River 1900 varas to north line of said survey. Thence east with said line 475 varas. Thence south 1900 varas to the beginning, containing 120 acres.
That in the division of said land in proportion to the sum of money paid by each respectively, therefore, Charles Capy is entitled to 1 9/10 acres, Angelle Vacher is entitled to 17 9/10 acres, Amand Guillemet is entitled to 17 9/10 acres, Mrs. Alexandrine Charles Camille Scholastigue Lecler Savarden is entitled to 60 8/10 acres, Mrs. Marguerite Catherine Bossereau is entitled to 11 7/10 acres, Bonnin is entitled to 1 1/12 acres, Lebatteuax is entitled to 20-23 of an acre, Guillon is entitled to 5-23 of an acre, Gruan is entitled to 5-23 of an acre, Chambris is entitled to 20-23 of acre and Mme. de la Fontaine Solare for herself and children is entitled to 6 1/2 acres.
Wherefore, plaintiffs sue and pray for partition of said land among themselves and defendants according to the rights of each. Herein fail not, but have you then and there, before said Court, this writ, with your return thereon, showing how you have executed the same.
Witness J. H. Stewart, Clerk of the District Court of Dallas County, Texas.
Given under my hand and seal of said Court at office in City of Dallas, this the 22d day of September, 1890.
J. H. STEWART, Clerk, District Court, Dallas Co., Tex.
- October 7, 1890, Dallas Daily Times Herald, p. 6.
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OLD FRENCH COLONY.
Story of Its Foundation Near
Dallas in 1855.
UTOPIA WAS AIMED AT.
An Attempt to Exploit the Social
Theories of the French Econ-
HOW THE COLONY VANISHED.
Individualism Triumphant Over Formula.
Stories of Reunion and the Colonists.
How They Lived Beyond the River,
and How They Are Scattered.
Thirty-six years ago, come the 27th of April, one traveling from Dallas toward Fort Worth would have been attracted by a busy scene on the right, when a point had been reached about three miles from the river. In the center of an elevated plateau, this traveler would have seen a numerous company of laborers busily engaged preparing to erect houses. He would have heard the ring of the ax as it ate into the tree, the crash of the saw, the whir of the plane, the sound of the hammer and the clink of the trowel as a stone was shaped. If this traveler has been of an inquiring mind and had turned from his route for a closer inspection of this busy scene, surprise would have succeeded to idle curiosity. He would have heard these laborers talking as they worked, but talking in unknown tongue. A song may have been caroled, but all save its melody was meaningless to him. Had he asked a question of a workman, he would have been answered by a shake of the head or a shrug of the shoulders, the traveler would have passed on wondering. And well he might wonder! For he had seen, unknowingly, a notable sight. He had seen a colony of Europeans engaged in the beginning of an attempt to exploit the peculiar social theories of Francois Charles Marie Fourier. He had seen a company of communists, sans culottes, if you will, with their heads full of formulas engaged in an attempt to found a Utopia on the prairies of Texas. He had seen the laying of the foundations of the old French colony, Reunion.
On April 26, 1852, Dallas had a sensation somewhat different from those which usually furnished her with gossip. On that day, several wagons drawn by patient oxen, came into the town from the direction of Houston. There was nothing in the appearance of a train of ox wagons of a sensational character, for even then, the star of empire was taking its way westward. But the men who came with these wagons were different from the ordinary immigrants. They wore blouses, which gave them a womanish appearance to the strapping Texan pioneers, clad in their buckskin garments, trophies of their prowess in the chase. On their feet were wooden sabots, contrasting strangely with the leather shoes which encased the feet of the natives. Perhaps a bonnet rouge may have crimsoned the head of some of the strangers. For these men were of revolutionary brood. Their parents had probably seen Robes Pierre's guillotine at its busiest and they, themselves, had probably danced the carmagnole and felt their blood grow feverish as they chanted the Marseillaise with its "allons! marchons! pour la patrie." The curiosity of the citizens of Dallas was soon gratified with regard to these strangers. Mr. Guillot, said to be the first Frenchman who settled in Dallas, was living here. He could converse with the strangers for they were his countrymen; and it is likely that he told the curious who they were and what they proposed doing. The strangers did not tarry in the town. They passed on to the Trinity, crossed it on a rude bridge said to have been constructed by Mr. Cockrell, father of the Cockrells who live here now, pushed on across the bottoms and camped that night three miles beyond the Trinity. Their camp was the site of Reunion. They began work the next day. The first group of the French colony had arrived and Dallas county had received the nucleus of her foreign population.
CO-OP STORE AT REUNION
The story of the old French colony, or of Reunion, is almost like a leaf out of a romance. It was an attempt to establish communism, or, as the leaders of the movement put it, social democracy in America on a large scale. The peculiar school which the colonists represented was that of Fourier. Fourier was born in 1772, and early in life, became impressed with the conviction that social arrangements resulting from individualism and competition were imperfect and even immoral. He was an apostle of natural optimism, holding that the free development of human nature, or the unrestrained indulgence of human passion, is the only way to happiness and virtue. He held that society must be reconstructed on these lines and, as a means of reconstruction, advocated co-operative industry. Society on his scheme, was to be divided into phalanges, each phalange was to live in a common house and cultivate an allotted portion of the soil. The houses were to be built after a uniform plan. Agriculture was to be the principal industry, but the series and groups into which the members were divided, might devote themselves to such occupations as were most pleasing. It was not necessary to abolish private property, nor was the privacy of family life impossible. Each family may have separate apartments and there may be richer and poorer members. Out of the common product of the phalange, a certain portion is deducted to furnish each member with subsistence, and the remainder is distributed in shares to labor, capital and talent-five-twelfths to the first, four twelfths to the second and three-twelfths to the third. At first, his scheme attracted no attention, but when Fourier attacked the doctrines of other French socialists, the public became interested.
VICTOR CONSIDERANT, FOUNDER
In 1834, Victor Considerant became a disciple of Fourier, and to that discipleship is to be attributed the founding the French colony in Dallas county. In 1832, a newspaper was started by the school and was published till 1850, when it was suppressed. The name of the paper in its last years was the Pacific Democrat and Considerant was the editor. When Louis Philippe was dethroned in 1848, and Louis Napoleon chosen president, Considerant adhered to the republicans and was elected to the constituent assembly. In July 1849, taking part in a republican demonstration in favor of the Roman republic, he was forced to leave France and retired to Belgium.
All this time, the Fourier propaganda was being preached and was winning converts. Converts were easy to make after the coup d'etat of 1851, by which Napoleon assumed the title of emperor. The red revolution was not so far in the past that the people had forgotten the cry of liberty, equality and fraternity. Considerant was devoted to the socialistic principles of Fourier and he thought the United States offered a splendid field for the exploitation of those principles. In the state of unrest in France, he was certain of followers and he determined to make the venture. Accordingly, he visited America in 1853 in order to select a site for his colony.
When Considerant visited America, he met a Mr. Brisbane, now living in New York, and succeeded in interesting him in his colonial project. Mr. Brisbane, it seems, was acquainted with Major Merrill of the United States army, who it said is still living, and informed him of the project. Major Merrill, at that time, was stationed at Fort Worth and offered Considerant every facility to aid him in selecting a site. Various sites were inspected, and finally 12,000 acres of land were selected in Dallas county beyond the Trinity. Lands were also purchased in Uvalde county. Considerant returned to Brussels to organize a company to carry out his project. He was arrested on a charge of conspiracy, but was released, and in 1854, the colonization company was organized in Paris.
Among the stockholders were Mr. Brisbane of New York, Mr. Berkely of the Swiss congress, a brother of Marshal Bazaine and other notables. The capital of the company was very large and the mother colony was to be founded near Dallas, and from that mother the projectors hoped that many children would be born.
Considerant, at this time, published a book, "To Texas," pointing in glorious colors the advantages offered by the state and the success that a colony might achieve organized on the principles of Fourier. The book created a perfect furor among the socialists, not only of France, but of Europe. The disciples of Fourier in France, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany tumbled over each other in order to get in on the ground floor. The conditions made by Considerant's company were that the colonists should cultivate the land near Dallas, pay the company six per cent per annum on the capital invested, and divide the remainder as prescribed by Fourier. The company was to manage the affairs of the colony by a director and was to employ bookkeepers to look after the co-operative accounts.
The company soon had as many volunteers as it wanted-all ardent believers in the socialism of Fourier. The character of the colonists, too, was good. They were sturdy artisans, mostly, and staunch republicans all. The believed in liberty, equality and fraternity as cardinal principles and, if those principles could triumph in no other way, would not have objected to letting a little aristocratic blood as their fathers had done. Most of them had been at their mother's breasts when the guillotine was being worn out on the necks of the nobility at the close of the last century, and had imbibed republicanism from their birth. Many of them had left France when Napoleon the Little, became emperor, rather than endure his usurpation. In addition, had they not the formulas of Fourier, and could not a happy life be evolved from these formulas in free America?
"To Texas" bore fruit rapidly. The French and Belgian colonists rendezvoused at Antwerp and the Swiss and German at Zurich. From those places, they were to begin the journey to Texas. The plan was to send the colonists out in groups, the groups to meet at New Orleans and from there, proceed to Texas. Of course, the delays incident to travel deranged these plans. Some groups reached New Orleans before others and immediately pushed on to Dallas.
The first group to leave the Crescent city was one of which Ex-Alderman Louckx was a member. Mr. Louckx is living in Dallas now on Floyd street. Mr. Louckx tells an interesting story about his group's trip. They sailed from New Orleans for Galveston in February. After reaching Galveston, they proceeded by the bayou to Houston and took ox wagons from there to Dallas.
The passage of these foreigners through the country created a sensation. Mr. Louckx says fame out-traveled the oxen and that at every settlement between here and Houston, crowds of the natives were collected to view them. The weather was fine and the prairie bespangled with flowers. Mr. Louckx's group, as all other groups, was in joyous spirits. They took everything unknown for magnificent. Six weeks were consumed by Mr. Louckx's group in reaching Dallas. This was the avant coureur of the colony, which reached Dallas on April 26, 1855, and gave the inhabitants something to talk about.
As has been said, this group immediately proceeded to the site of the new Utopia. They found their 12,000 acres across the river but, save the trees and the flowers upon it, they found nothing else. But what cared they? Had they not the formulas of Fourier? And would not those formulas, religiously exploited, give plenty and happiness? So, the group began to build houses and to put those formulas into operation.
Group followed group in quick succession and soon a large number of colonists had arrived, among them Cantagrel, the director, and soon afterward, Considerant, the founder, and Joseph Bourgeois, the bookkeeper for the company.
The company had planned to send out groups representing as many different purposes as possible. There was to be an agricultural group, a mechanical group, a garden group and so on. The groups came fast, and soon everything was ready to test the formula of Fourier. Cattle were bought, wheat sown, a tin shop established, a turning mill and various other small industries put in operation. But, somehow the affairs of the colony did not seem to prosper. There was nothing in the formula of Fourier which said anything about the grasshoppers coming by millions and destroying the wheat. There was nothing in those theories, which, put in to practice, were to produce the ideal state, about prolonged drouths that made the prairie as dry as tinder and parched up the wheat. All these things the colonists experienced. The grasshoppers came and the drouth, too. The colonists saw their crops destroyed, they took in all with a good heart and joked each other, while the grasshoppers ate the wheat, about the seven plagues of Egypt.
But, though the formula of the socialist was not solving the problem of human happiness and prosperity at lightning sped, still the colonists had their social pleasures and they mad the most of them. Though the men had greatly outnumbered the women, yet the women came after a lapse of a few months.
The first woman to reach the colony was a Mrs. Despard. She was with the first group, and for a long time, did the cooking for the colonists. As soon as the first dwelling was built, however, Mrs. Barbier, who had stopped in Dallas while her husband and sons went on, came to keep Mrs. Despard company.
The colonists had a vocal music class of which Mr. Capy, now living in Dallas, was the director. They gathered in the ball room and forgot the formulas of Fourier, the grasshoppers and drouth while they sang the chansons of the dear mother country. They had no waxed floors, but there was the prairie with its green sward and many a fete champetre did these enthusiasts enjoy. They had a piano, too, the first every brought to Dallas county. It was brought by Mr. Bureau, secretary of the colony. Mr. Bureau's family came with him. They were all fine musicians and added no little to the pleasure of the colonists.
They had their weddings, too, and, strange to say, the first girl who married, chose not a colonist, but a Mr. Jones, then or afterwards, county clerk of Dallas. she was a Miss Dussau. The wife of Mr. Considerant gave birth to the first child. The first Fourth of July that came, the colonists celebrated. A large number of people from Dallas went over to see the celebration. The Fourier society at Lyons sent the colony a handsome silk flag which was used at all celebrations. The flag was afterwards destroyed by fire.
So long as the summer lasted, the colonists were reasonably happy, but with the coming of winter and the northers, their happiness vanished. The houses were of longs with great chinks in them, through which the keen wind whistled, and the Fourier formula seemingly had not contemplated cracks and wind. There was not room enough to accommodate the members of the colony, and they huddled together too closely for comfort. There was a house given up to the young men and they slept in little bunks, one above the other.
But the winter passed away and preparations for the new year were made. The colonists prepared for their wheat and various other crops, but it began to appear that, while the agricultural group should have formed the larger number of the colonists, there were but few agriculturists. It is said that there carpenters, florists, doctors, etc., in plenty, but the men who knew how to till the soil were in a minority. It is said that out of 500 colonists, there were not a dozen farmers. It is related of Mr. Cantegrel, the director, that in speaking of this state of affairs, he exclaimed: "Mon Dien! I am sent here to direct an agricultural colony and have no agriculturists to direct." The consequence was that the colonists soon found themselves with wheat on their hands which had cost them $3 per bushel, when their neighbors were selling the same wheat for 75 cents a bushel.
Then, too, individualism was beginning to assert itself. The desire to have some thing as an individual, something that could be used or killed or sold without calling a town meeting to discuss the matter, was making headway against the formula of Fourier. The Swiss contingent left and set up for themselves, across the Trinity at a place called Moon's Lake. The shrewder men among the colonists began to reason that, as they produced more than their fellows, there was not reason why they should not enjoy all they produced. So there was a drifting away of some of the best men. Nor were the colonists able to pay the 6 per cent interest. The disintegration of the colony had begun.
The final scattering came in 1858, about three years after the colony was founded. No one seems to know just how the crash came. There was no outbreak, no deliberating, the colony, consisting then of 500 persons, just melted away, some came across the river to Dallas, some few remained at the colony, some went back to France, some to New Orleans. Fourier's formula was forsaken. The attempt to found a Utopia in Texas had failed.
Some few of the old colonists and their descendants are in Dallas now, and from them, many interesting details have been gathered about the colony. These are: Messrs. Louckx, Capy, Boulay, Reverschon, Royer, Raymond, Michel, Boll, Loupot, Coiret, the Sontaire boys, the Barbiers and the Goetsells. Mrs. Christian, of Oak Cliff, and Mrs. Nussbaumer, were of the colonists.
Mr. Barbier is full of reminiscences of the old days. On one occasion, when he and Mr. Louckx were in their bunks in the bachelor building, lightning struck on that side of the building. The shock threw them out of their bunks and a steel-tipped stick under Mr. Louckx's bunk was shattered. Mr. Barbier's father had charge of the lime-kiln. At the time of the Cedar Hill cyclone, the old gentleman was at the lime-kiln and was seriously injured by the wreck of the kiln.
Mr. Raymond still lives near the site of the colony. Mr. Raymond married the eldest daughter of Mr. Sontaire, who is said to have been one of the only three farmers in the colony. Mrs. Raymond was one of the only three women in the colony who knew how to milk. The other two were Mrs. Sontaire and Mrs. Gouffre. Mr. Gouffre died in Dallas. He owned property just in rear of Sanger Bros.
Mr. Michel and Mr. Barbier did all the mason work for the colony. They directed the co-operative store and the director's house. These buildings were concrete and the first of the kind ever built in Dallas county.
Much interesting matter has also been obtained from Mrs. George Potter, nee Guillot, who lives at 113 Live Oak street. Mrs. Potter is the daughter of Mr. Guillot, who came to Dallas in 1848. Mr. Guillot was not a member of the colony, but he acted as interpreter for them. There is an interesting story connected with Mr. Guillot's coming to America. Some time in the '40's, a colony of French communists started for Texas. Their guide was a man named Gounant. Gounant was in the pay of the French government and was instructed to lead the colony into the wilds so that it might perish. He obeyed his instructions only too well, and lost the colony somewhere about Denton. The colonists suffered great hardships. Many of them died. Mr. Guillot had a brother-in-law in this colony and came to Texas to search for him. This colony discovered the treachery of their guide, tried him and condemned him to death. But some of them hesitated at this extreme step and, determined to mitigate the punishment. Gounant had a magnificent beard, and hair of which he was very vain. The colonists, in lieu of the death penalty, shaved his head and face and drove him into the woods. Gounant remained for some months in the wood. One day, a United States army officer came upon him as he was chopping wood. The officer was going to Fort Worth and was in some doubt as to the route. He inquired of Gounant, but the latter not speaking English very well, could give him no information. Gounant, however, was very smart and managed to catch the officer's meaning. He was an expert draughtsman and out of the rude materials, a hand soon made a sketch which gave the officer the information wanted. The officer recognized the man's talent and took him to Fort Worth and gave him employment. Gounant, in spite of his treachery, was received into the Dallas colony and became book-keeper.
A cousin of Mr. Guillot invested 600,000 francs in the colony.
Mr. Van Grinderbeck, who was one of the original colonists, returned to his home in Belgium when the dispersion took place. Mr. Van Grinderbeck was a great friend of Mr. Louckx, they having been reared in the same town. To Mr. Van Grinderbeck belongs the honor of having put in the first brewery plant at Dallas. He established his brewery in a house on the corner of Wood and Market. He made good bear, too, according to Mr. Louckx.
Mr. Bourgeois, who was one of the book-keepers of the colony, died in Dallas. He had a belief that the Trinity could be made navigable and often discussed the project.
Mr. Bureau, the musical gentleman, who brought the piano over, died of yellow fever in Houston some years after the colony dissolved.
Reverschon and Barbeaux were among the gardeners and florists. Mr. Reverschon is here in Dallas. Mr. Barbeaux died in Galveston.
Mr. Broissy was one of the colonists. He has a daughter yet living near the site of Reunion.
A notable personage who visited the colony was Madame Clarisse Vigereau. She was an author of note. One of her best known works is "Paroles de Crolyant, or Words of a Believer." She was the mother-in-law of Considerant and returned to France.
After the colony scattered, the company kept agents here for several years to wind up its affairs. The last of these agents was Mr. Thevenet, yet living in Dallas. He wound up the business along in the sixties.
Considerant, the founder, went to San Antonio after he saw his plans crumble, and remained there several years. His wife died there. From San Antonio, he returned to France, where his son now lives. Considerant was an intimate friend of Ledru-Rollin, who opposed Louis Napoleon for the presidency of the French republic.
Cantegral also returned to France.
Cantegral and Victor streets still recall the memory of these men to citizens of Dallas. And, it may be mentioned here that the people of Dallas spell the director's name incorrectly. It is "Cantegrel," not "Cantegral."
Though the colony as a colony failed and found no Utopia in its attempt to carry out the theories of Fourier, still it is certain that the individual members of it prospered. In spite of their wheat at $3 per bushel, which the neighbors were selling at 75 cents, most of the individual members got ahead. Some will see in this success of the individual a reason for the failure of the community. However that may be, nearly all of them managed to get ahead, and Dallas to-day, has no more thrifty citizens than the members of the old colony still living and their descendants. It is curious, too, that none of these members ever assign any reason for the failure of the colony. There seems to have been no dissensions. It was a fraternal community. It just simply scattered because it could not withstand the impetus of individualism. All these old members of the colony speak lovingly of Reunion. Their eyes glisten as they tell how the first house was built, of the first birth, of the first marriage, of the spring where they got water, of the thousand and one little things that made up the every day life of the colony. And yet, there is no regret in their tones. They seem to understand dimly that the problem of life, of society, of happiness, of prosperity, cannot be solved by the formula of Fourier. Still, Mr. Louckx yet likes to talk of Godin Lemaire, who was a friend of the colony, and who made a success of the co-operative plan in his great iron works at Guise, France.
The original colonists are rapidly passing away. Mr. Girard died the other day, and so did Mr. Henry, and the few yet remaining are advanced in years. Soon, Reunion will be only a tradition in Dallas.
One traveling westward from Dallas now would hardly notice the elevated plateau where Reunion was founded. The busy hum of labor that was heard there thirty-five years ago, is hushed. Cows wander where the joyous sons of France once gave their fetes champetres. The ball room has long since crumbled; the co-operative store is used for a barn. Of the many houses that once dotted that plateau, only four remain, and they have long since fallen into decay, as the sketches of them show. Reunion, with its enthusiasts who talked of the philosophers and yet knew not how to plow, has gone. The theory which Fourier spent his life in propagating, has failed. Individualism was too much for formula.
- January 25, 1891, Dallas Morning News, Pt. 3, p. 1
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NAMES OF COLONISTS
Roster of Party of Swiss,
French and Belgians Who
Came Here in Early Days.
ONLY A FEW HAVE SURVIVED
Settlement Was Established at West
Dallas, Then Known as Reunion.
Object of Long Journey.
Last week a reunion of the survivors was held to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the arrival in this city of the members of what is known as the original French-Swiss colony. In this colony were many men who had won distinction in Europe. Some of them came to the then new country of Texas because of the greater opportunities afforded by the New World. There were only a few survivors and at the reunion they sepent the days in talking over the days when this country was young.
The colonists came from France, Switzerland and Belgium. They settled at a place called Reunion, which is now known as West Dallas, and some of the quaint stone buildings which they occupied may be seen there today. In the original colony were the following:
President of the colony, Victor Considerant and wife.
President Cantegral and wife, one son and one daughter.
Mr. Bureau and wife, three sons and one daughter.
Mr. Bessard and wife, one son and one daughter.
Mr. Thevenet and wife and one daughter.
Mr. Farine and wife.
Mr. Delord and wife, one son and two daughters.
Mr. Cretien and wife.
Mr. Santerre and wife, four sons and two daughters.
Mr. Frishot and wife and one son.
Miss Leontine Frishot.
Mr. Dellasseux and wife and one son and one daughter.
Mr. Petit and wife and one daughter.
Mr. Chambord and wife and one daughter.
Mr. Bouge and wife.
Mr. Billiard and wife and one son.
Mr. Derigny and wife and one son.
Miss Adele Beeserou.
Mr. Louckx and wife and three sons and two daughters.
Mr. Michel and wife.
R. Guillot and wife and one son.
August Guillot and wife and two sons.
Mr. Guillemet and wife and two daughters.
A. Brochier and wife.
Mr. Protat and wife and two daughters.
Mr. Barbier and wife and two sons.
Mr. Henri and wife and two sons and two daughters.
F. Girard and wife and one son.
Mr. Raizan (was superintendent of the French farm at Houston).
Mr. Boulet and wife and one son.
Mr. Pinparet and wife and one daughter.
Mr. Bernard and wife and nother-in-law.
Mr. Gouffe and wife and one son.
Mr. Moulard and wife and one son and one daughter.
Mr. Reverchon and one son and one daughter.
Mr. Dusseau and one daughter.
Mr. Poldevin and wife.
Mr. Coiret and wife.
Mr. Peloux and wife and one daughter.
Mr. Candie and one daughter.
Mr. Royer and wife and one son.
Mrs. Despart and nephew.
President, Emil Burkit.
J. Nussbaumer and cousin.
H. Boll and wife and one son and two daughters.
J. Knepfly and family.
Mr. Willie and wife, two sons and one daughter.
Mr. Bar and wife and two daughters.
Mr. Frick and family
Mr. Van Derbosh
Mr. Van Grinderbeck.
Mr. Rose and wife and one son.
Mr. Goudaill and wife, one son and three daughters.
In addition to the foregoing, Alfred Allen, an American boy, was a member of the colony.
The names of the following who were married in the colony between 1855 and 1857 are furnished by Mrs. Lucy Veirin (nee Santerre).
Jacob Nussbaumer and Miss Dorothea Boll.
Henry Boll and Miss Lizette Knepfly.
A. Lanotte and Miss J. Graiset.
Mr. Boulay and Miss Pimparet.
Mr. Daily and Miss L. Bosseveau.
L. Louis and Miss Henriette.
The following were born in the French Colony:
Of the original colony, only fifteen or sixteen are now living.
- June 3, 1906, Dallas Morning News, p. 14, col. 1-2.
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Death of Last Survivor of Old
French Colony Revives Memories
Of Its Interesting Projectors
BY LOUELLA STYLES VINCENT.
One of the most venerable and interesting characters of Dallas county died Sunday night in her pretty cottage, 713 West Tenth street, Oak Cliff, where, for ten or twelve years, she has been awaiting the sunset.
In the early fifties, a colony of French people desiring freedom from monarchical abuses was founded on 12,000 acres (different accounts give different figures) of land along the Trinity river, west of Dallas, where Cement City is now.
A few years ago, this writer undertook to interview the survivors of the old French colony. There were five who gave interesting data, but all disagreed, more or less, at every point respecting history, facts, activities, plans, locations, leaders and character of leaders. Memories were widely divergent, when not positively conflicting.
Various encyclopedias give different dates for the colony, from 1852 to 1858, but it is known that M. Considerant was in New York in 1853 with Albert Brisbane, the most conspicuous American Fourierist, a friend of Major Merrill of the United States army, stationed at Fort Worth. It is known that Major Merrill did much to further the distinguished Frenchman's plans, and that colonists had arrived before M. Considerant returned for another group in 1853. Many arrived before arrangements were made for their comfort, and severe suffering ensued.
The leaders of this effort to set up a free community in a strange land, where all should be equal and share alike, life's blessings, were really famous personages. M. Considerant fell heir to leadership when Fourier died, and conducted "La Philange" with such success, that it was changed from a weekly to a daily, called "Democratic Pacifique."
Fourier, Considerant, Cantegral, Vigoreaux, Menier, Lechevallier, Henniquin, Savardan, Brisbane, Laverdant, though long since dead, still speak.
The adults of the 500 men, women and children who settled at La Reunion, were expert workmen, scientists, philanthropists, thinkers -- serious-minded pioneers in deadly earnest.
Cesarine Santerre Remond, who was interred last Monday afternoon in the old French cemetery, was born in Blois, France, September 12, 1839. When Cesarine was 16 years of age, the Santerres came to Texas, bringing six children, of whom Raphael was the youngest. After arrival, a seventh child was born, named Achilles.
Madame Remond talked animatedly of the voyage from France, of landing at Galveston and coming by steamboat to Houston, and still marveled at the wonderful springtime flowers along the way. She had a strong sense of humor and enlivened her reminiscences with accounts of laughable happenings, which made the tedious journey more endurable.
Made Trip on Foot.
The Santerre party hired a teamster with a wagon to bring their belongings from Houston to La Reunion -- the family walking the whole distance in wooden shoes. Madame spoke feelingly of the condition of her feet.
In this party, were Mr. and Mrs. Willis and their daughter, Swiss people, who understood neither French, nor English.
The water was very bad and made the Willises quite ill. The Santerres used whisky in their drinking water and escaped sickness. Rain poured until it was impossible to proceed through the deep mud. Five young men left them and forged ahead.
After the whisky gave out, the teamster deserted them. They were marooned two weeks at Anderson.
The prairie flowers dazzled them by their abundance and astonishing brilliancy of color, such as they had never seen before.
M. Emil Remond.
M. Emil Remond -- whom Cesarine Santerre married -- was born in France in 1840 and died, greatly lamented, in Dallas on May 21, 1906. M. Remond's articles on industrial subjects, for many years, appeared frequently in the local papers and contributed, in no small degree, to the development of Dallas. He was always urging the investigation and promotion of our natural resources. He was a useful and inspiring citizen, trusted, admired and beloved by all associates, and he left his indelible impress upon the community, for whose good he had so earnestly labored.
Madame Clarisse Vigoreaux, perhaps the most renowned woman in the old French colony, a high type of French culture, won many to Fourierism by her earnest and poetic work, called "Paroles de Providence." She paid a heavy price to fight for her convictions, and endured severe privations to demonstrate the principles she espoused. She only returned to France when it was proved beyond questioning that La Reunion was not feasible.
From all accounts, the most admired and beloved of all those dreamers was the gentle, kind, witty, merry, wise Dr. Savardan, who, in France, had been actively interested in large philanthropies, on one of which, he wrote a book called, "Asile Rural d'Enfants Trouves." In 1858, he wrote "Un Naufrage Au Texas, Observations et Impressions Recuilles Pendent Deux Ans et Demi Au Texas, A Travers Les Etates -Unis D'Amerique."
Printed in France.
"Un Naufrage Au Texas" was, of course, printed in France. This writer had the pleasure of reading it aloud and discussing the book with its owner, Madame Angello Alexandrine Guillemet Vacher. This lady was born in Algeria, where her father was in the French army. She came with her family to La Reunion in 1856, when a young child. Dr. Savardan's book advertised on the back, nine other "Ouvrages Du Meme Auteur."
Both Madame Vacher and Madame Remond spoke of Dr. Savardan with tenderest reverence and affection, and told many instances of his self-abnegating kindliness and his ever ready merriment and practical joking. A biography of this splendid man should be written and made accessible to students of Texas history.
Those people, their undertakings, their hopes and disappointments seem to have been forgotten -- to have disappeared, like a grain of sand dropped in the ocean -- but, they meant much to Dallas and to Texas. They are woven into the fabric of our state and have left fadeless impression upon Texas and Texas institutions. Who shall say their sufferings and heart-breaking disappointment were in vain, when we realize that they went into the making of the great Texas of which we, today, are the proud and happy citizens?
Madame Remond was, it is supposed, the last of those French colonists old enough to remember accurately, the coming and going of those adventurous visionaries. She was a colossal woman, physically and mentally; a woman of strong convictions and outspoken opinions, consistent and assured in every way. Why should she not be -- having from childhood associated with the great who fearlessly dared to do whatever they thought right?
She knew intimately, the families of Considerant, Cantegral, Reverchon, Bureau, Savardan -- the noble, the learned, the courageous, and she married Emil Remond; she was right to feel superiority and to hold her proud head high.
Madame Remond is survived by three brothers, Emanuel, Germain and Gustave Santerre, and a sister, Mrs. Lucie Volric and many other mourning relatives.
She sleeps peacefully in the old French cemetery, among friends and kindred, near the spot where La Reunion was watered by such floods of bitter tears. The descendants of those devoted men and women who believed their noble project had reached only failure, now happy, prosperous, influential citizens of Dallas, will exclaim heartily with Victor Considerant in the words of his volume, "Au Texas" ---
"Lumiere du buisson ardent!
Terre sacree, terre de realization!"
- August 12, 1923, Dallas Daily Times Herald, Sec. IV, p. 2, col. 4-7.
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OLD FRENCH SETTLEMENT NEAR DALLAS
HAD MANY SPLENDID CITIZENS
By W. S. ADAIR
There are at least two ways of looking at life, both for the individual and the community. One view is that the start must be made from nothing, and the way slowly won from one sure step to the next, by the dim lantern of experience. The other is that man is already perfect, and that in order to be propserous and happy, it is only necessary for him to get rid of the errors and prejudices of the past which oppress him. Both ways have been tried out at the Forks of the Trinity. Dallas took the plodding way; Reunion, the French colony, the other.
Practically every object that marked the site of Reunion has been absorbed by the earth, most of the records have perished, and even the memory of the place is greatly faded in the minds of the few survivors.
Victor Considerant, with Victor Hugo and others, was an exile in Belgium, for opposing the coup d'etat of Napoleon III. France had been full of Utopian dreams since the time of Rousseau, and Fourier had more recently made these dreams still more plausible and popular. Considerant, by way of escape from the endless wars of Europe, concieved the idea of a Fourier settlement, or phalanx, in America for Frenchmen. With that view, he came to the United States in 1854.
Fourierism had already secured a foothold in this country. Brook Farm in Massachusetts supported by such thinkers as Hawthorne and Margaret Fuller, is the best known test of the idea, though there was a settlement on a much more extended scale in Monmouth County, N. J. Albert Brisbane, in a series of articles in the New York Tribune in 1843, set forth for American readers the science of society as taught by Fourier; provideing for "the public ownership of land and public utilities, co-operation of labor, the equal distribution of the products of labor, the association of families, integral education, mutual guaranties of life, accident, sick, and old age insurance, unity of interest, and the distribution of honors according to usefulness." Horace Greely was himself one of the supporters of the New Jersey settlement.
In New York, Considerant was met by Albert Brisbane, who among other favors, gave him a letter of introduction to Major Lewis (?) Merrill, commandant at Fort Worth, which was then an army post. Making his way to Cincinnati, Considerant, by steamer, went down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers, and up the Arkansas River to Little Rock; thence to Fort Smith, and from there he traversed the Indian Territory and Texas on horseback, striking the old Preston Trail at Preston, on Red River, in Grayson County, and following the trail across Texas. Preston street in Dallas is a vestige of the old trail. In Texas, Considerant explored the Trinity, Brazos and Colorado Rivers, and finally selected as sthe site of his colony, a tract of land lying between West Dallas and Eagle Ford.
Writes of His Travels.
Following the example of Chateu-Briand, who in 1792, traversed the Mississippi River from source to mouth, Considerant wrote a book of something like 300 pages, entitled "Texas," giving an account of his travels, and setting forth his impressions with all the eloquence of Rousseau, combined with the picturing power of the German romanticists. He utters exclamation after exclamation at the vast reaches of savage forest, along the great rivers, becomes enthusiastic over the simple life of the Indians and speaks of the Choctaws taking lessons on the violin from a negro.
But what seems to impress him most of all is the marvelous fertility and depth of the soil of Texas. Rising on the broad wings of his theme, he tells those of his propsective readers who may be seeking a solution of the problems of every-day life, that they have only to settle on this willing soil and stay on it, and the thing is done. He speaks of meeting at Dallas, his countryman, Maxim Guillot, from whom he derived much valuable information about the country. "Texas" is more readable than Chateaubriand's "Ataia." George Cretien has a copy of it, and E. M. Browder, the lawyer, has a copy, and perhaps there are other copies in Dallas.
Upon his return to Belgium the following year, Considerant organized the American-European Society of Colonization, with Swiss, French and Belgian capital amounting to 500,000 francs. The society sent F. Cantagrel to Texas to buy the land and make arrangements to receive the colonists. He bought 320 acres in the Enoch Horton survey, 640 acres in the G. Coombes survey, 640 acres in the Anson McCracken survey, 320 acres in the Thackery V. Griffin survey, and 160 acres in the J. C. Read survey, making a body of 2,080 acres, which included the land now occupied by Cement City, the cement plants,the oil plants and several additions to West Dallas. The purchases included the bottoms north of the Eagle Ford road and some land on the north side of West Fork, and the mountains or hills south of the pike. The top of the first spur of the mountain east of the cement plant was selected for the town site. The bottom lands were divided into farms or gardens of 6.4 acres each.
The first party of colonists, accompanied by Considerant himself, arrived in Dallas in 1855. They crossed the Atlantic in a sailing vessel and were sixty days out. Landing at New Orleans, they re-embarked for Galveston. From Houston, they continued their journey in ox wagons, consuming twenty-six days on their way to Dallas. Under Phillip Goetsel, the first directory, the colonists began to build houses, either of wood or of rubble stone, and to clear the land for cultivation. A community store and a community restaurant were opened, and a school started. They brought with them the implements and machinery for spinning and weaving, the tools of the various handicrafts, and stocked the land with cattle, sheep and horses, and chickens, ducks and geese and turkeys; provided everything, in fact, to make the colony self-supporting.
Built a Brewery.
Mr. Monduel built a brewery and turned out the first beer brewed in Dallas County. The elder Reverchon, scientific farmer, preached dry farming fully fifty years before that method was again taken up and advocated it in this part of the county. He told the colonists that if they would plow the land deep in the fall and plant early in the spring, they could produce good crops of corn every year, and he showed them how to do it in the midst of one of the most distressing drouths of which tradition speaks. He also gave lessons in horticulture. He planted an extensive orchard near what is now Stop 27 on the interurban, and was the pioneer of the county in grafting and budding fruit trees. His orchard long outlasted the colony.
Adverse Winds Blow.
Recruits for the colony were selected by the directors in Europe, without much regard to their fitness for pioneer life. They came in small detachments during the first eighteen months, until there were between 350 and 400 of them. The survivors of the colony are not agreed as to the number. The recruits were chiefly from the artisan classes. The result was that they became discouraged before they could adjust themselves to an agricultural and pastoral life. To aggravate the situation, a dreadful drouth prevailed throughout this section, and with the exception of the few who followed Mr. Reverchon's method of dry farming, the colonists made very poor crops the first year, and for what they did make, there was no market. There was no money in the colony and the store and the restaurant found themselves doing a credit business.
When it began to appear early in the summer of the second year that the drouth was likely to continue, the artisans, already weary of a new role in work, began to seek employment at their trades outside the colony, and the end of the second year, found most of them at work at their various trades in Dallas and other surrounding settlements. The interest on the stock of the colony, which was 6 per cent, was not forthcoming for the first year, and the shareholders in Europe were beginning to inquire into the investment. At the end of the second year, they asked for a receiver. Messrs. Thevenet and Bessard were appointed administrators of the affairs of the colony. The colonists continued to leave the settlement as they became accumstomed to the ways of the new country, and only a few remained on the land.
The Civil War came on, during which, the colony was at a standstill except for a flurry occasioned by an attempt of some ill-advised Confederate recruiting agents to press the colonists into the service. The colonists had left Europe partly to get away from eternal wars, the only effect of which, it seemed to them, was to breed other wars. They were in position to take a disinterested view of the institution of negro slavery and had come to about the same conclusions in regard to it that the masso Americans hold today. Their position was one of strick neutrality. After one of their number, Francois Girard, had been shot in the hip by a member of the Confederate recruiting squad, the colonists armed themselves and, sending the women and children to a place of safety, took up a position in the dwelling of Mr. Bureau, declaring that if they had to fight, they would have it out then and there. Dr. Arch M. Cochran, captain of the squad, asked for a parley, which resulted in a peaceful settlement and the securing from the way Governor of Texas of exemptions for the colonists, who had not, in fact, become citizens of the United States.
During the war, the directors of the colony gave it up as a failure and instructed the administrators to close it up. They sold the cattle and sheep and some of the land, taking in payment, Confederate money, it appearing to the administrators that the Confederacy was going to win. But, by the time Mr. Bessard reached Europe with the money, the Confederacy was already on the wane, and the stockholders refused to accept the money, and in casting about to recoup themselves, they discovered that Mr. Thevenet had property in France, which they seized. The administrators were exonerated from any wrong doing in the matter, but for all that Mr. Thevenet was never able to recover his property.
Victor Considerant, born at Salins [?], France, Oct. 12, 1808, was a Captain of engineers in the French Army and served in the campaign against the Algerian pirates in 1830. He became a Socialist and a disciple of Fourier about 1831, and on the death of the latter, in 1837, was recognized as the chief apostle of Fourierism. In 1845, he began to issue at Paris, the Democratic Pacifique, a daily political journal. After the revolution in 1848, he was elected to the Assembly, in which he acted with the "Mountain" party. Upon the failure of Reunion, he became a citizen of the United States, and settled at San Antonio, whee he remained till in 1868, when he returned to France. He was the author of many books, the most important of which was "Destinie Sociale," in three volumes. He died at Paris, Dec. 25, 1895[?].
Julien Reverchon, botanist of international reputation, made a large collection of Texas plants, including many which up to that time, had been unknown to botanists. Asa Gray, American botanist, honored Mr. Reverchon by naming some of the plants for him, and thus perpetuated his memory in the permanent classification. Mr. Reverchon's collection of Texas plants is now in the Shaw Garden of St. Louis. Dallas has recently named a public park for the botanist.
Francois Cantagrel returned to France and there represented the Thirteenth Paris District in the Chamber of Deputies for ten years. He also was the author of many readable books. Dallas sought to honor him by naming a street for him, but spelled the name wrong.
Alyre Bureau was a musical composer of note. One of his pieces is in the music book used in the public schools. His daughter, Alice, an accomplished musician, owned the first piano that was heard in Dallas County.
Mr. Bureau, on his way from the colony to France, was stricken with yellow fever at Houston, and there died. Dr. Savardan was not only the best doctor in this part of the country, but a representative of French culture, what, in fact, the French call a savant. He was the author of numerous learned works. Pierre Girard was a soldier in the Crimean War, and witnessed the charge of the Light Brigade. Francois Santerre, scientific farmer, who did much to instruct the colonists in agriculture, was a soldier in the siege of Antwerp in 1830. La Pere Lagogue, a very old man, when he embarked with the colonists, was a soldier under the First Napoleon.
Emile Remond told the settlers that if they would only hold on to their lands, the rocks under them would make their descendants wealthy. He was so far correct that the cement companies have alrady made many fortunes out of these same rocks, and without reducing the size of the mountains, to say nothing of the returns for the gravel that has been sold off the grounds by the trainload for many years and for the gravel yet to be mined. Ben Long settled in Dallas, served as deputy sheriff, as Mayor, and as United States Commissioner. Mrs. Clarice Vigoureaux, mother-in-law of Considerant, was a musician, author and poet. Vreidag, architect, builder and author, settled in Terre Haute, Ind., and achieved a national reputation as an architect. He visited Dallas years afterward and attended the State Fair. Enginard was an engineer of note, and a man of varied accomplishments. Joseph Brunet established an ice factory in Austin, and his brother Eugene, an ice factory in Belton.
Their Influence on the Community.
Most of the educated members of the colony could speak English and they exercised a great influence on the Americans in this part of the country. Men like Col. John C. McCoy appreicated them from the start, welcomed them, and had them in their homes. The artisans who settled in Dallas and other Texas towns, were thorough in their respective lines, and there were no more skilled workmen than those Ameicans who learned their trades under them. Some of the colonists were the early music teachers and school teachers in Dallas. In fact, much of what the colonists brought with them in the way of culture and skill in the handcrafts was absorbed by the community, and it has been of lasting value.
George Cretien, who was born in the colony, is the oldest barber in Dallas. He began as an apprentice on the courthouse square in 1870. He says that he can well remember when it was held that cotton could not be profitably cultivated in Dallas County, and that the first cotton he saw in the county was in a field on Bryan street, just east of Ervay, in 1869. When he was born, the population of Reunion was greater than that of Dallas. He remembers the burning of Dallas by the negroes sixty-two years ago.
In connection with the French settlers, it may not be out of place to say that Maxim Guillot and his brother, Ellie Guillot, were the first. They started from New Orleans to go to California during the gold rush in 1849, and stopped at Dallas to rest. Maxim, who was a wagon and carriage maker, and an exceptionally fine workman, found so much work here that he concluded to locate. He was the father of Aug. S. Guillot, and the late Mrs. George Potter of Dallas, and of E. E. Guillot of Ardmore. Maxim Guillot's wagon and carriage factory, which was on Elm street, near Houston street, is believe to have been the first factory of any kind established in Dallas. Ellie Guillot settled in Denton and died there. Maxim and Ellie Guillot were not related to the Guillots who came with the colonists.
Following is as complete a list of the names of the colonists as can be secured at this late day. It will be seen that the initials of many of them are wanting:
Francois Considerant, wife, three sons and a daughter and mother-in-law, Mrs. Clarice Vigoureaux; Alyre Bureau, wife, three sons and daughter, Alice; Bessand, wife, son and daughter; Julian Thevenet, wife and daughter; Alexander Lanotte,; Farine, and wife; Francois Santarre, wife, four sons and two daughters; P. Frichot, wife and son; Deiser Frichot; Vincent Cousin; Re Dutaya; Pierre Girard; Luc Bourgeois; Bellinger; Boulay, wife and son; Charles Capy and wife; Emil Remond; Miss Leontine Frishot; Dr. Wilmet; Dellesseaux, wife, son, and daughter; Petit, wife, son and daughter; Chamboard, wife and daughter; Bouge and wife; Dellard, wife, son and two daughters; Derigny, wife and son; Miss Adele Besseron; Tourneville; Bonnerville; Regnoir; Duterall; Maryus; Sellier; Drevet; Le Lecrenier; Blot; Valentin; J. B. Louckx, wife, two sons, and three daughters; John P. Priot; Athanase Cretien; Denis Colin; Ferdinand Michel and wife; A. Brochier and wife; O. Brochier; Julien Halze; Protat, wife and two daughters; Monduel; Aymard; Pierre Girard, and three sons, Pierre, Joseph and Francois; Mansion; Joseph and Eugene Brunet; R. Tuillot, wife and son; August Guillot, and wife; Alexandre Barbier, wife and two sons; Paul Henri, wife and two sons; Raizen; Dominique Boulet, wife and daughter; Gordio; Dr. Nicholas; Dr. Savardan; Julien Reverchon, two sons and a daughter; Christopher; Savarant; A. J. Gouffe, wife and son; John Moulard, wife, son and daughter; Dusseau and daughter; Poldevin and wife; A. Colret and wife; Frique; Pierson; Doderet; Alexander Lonet; Come; L. Louis; Miss Henrietta Louis; Peloux, wife and daughter; Candie and daughter; Miss Godelle, Vilmain; E. Achard; Julius Royer, wife and son; Joseph Brunet; Forette; Monpate, two sons and a daughter; Remy Guillot; Lassagnac; Nativa Charpentier.
Emil Burkl; Jacob Nussbaumer; Henry Boll, wife, son Henry, and two daughters; Droxel; Stiffel; Yeuch; J. Peler; Schaerer; J. Knepfly and family; Reinhardt; Willis, wife, two sons and daughter; Bucher; Bar, wife and son; Witiker; Frick and family.
Van Derbosh; Ettein; Louis and William Van Grinderbeck; Rose, wife and son; Dr. Desmet; Goudsill, wife, son and three daughters; Vreidag.
Marriages in the Colony.
Jacob Nussbaumer and Dorothy Boll; Henry Boll and Miss J. Griset; A. Lounetta and Miss Pimparef; Boulay and Miss Pimparet; Mr. Dailly and Miss Besseveau; L. Louis and Miss Henrietta -------.
Births in Colony.
George Cretien; Gustav Santerre; Emil Cretien, Alfred Guillemet, Mathilda Coiret.
Survivors of the Original Colonists.
Mrs. Lucie Ouirin, Mrs. Cesarin Remond, Mrs. Nativa Capy, German Santerre, and Emanuel Santerre, all of whom live in, or near, Dallas.
- March 22, 1926, Dallas Morning News, Magazine Section
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ONCE FAILED HERE
A. W. Capy, Born in Dallas in 1863,
Tells Their Story.
Good as Citizens
Most of Population Then Was
Killing Indians and Hunting.
BY W. S. ADAIR.
"My parents, Charles and Nativa Capy, came to Texas with the French colonists who settled at Reunion, near the present town of Cement City, in 1855," A. W. Capy of 4811 Junius street, said. "The colony, which was an attempt to put into practice the theory current at the time in France that communism would bring about the happiest state of society, proved a failure, but whether because of a defect in the theory, or the absence of some of the necessary conditions of success, I shall not undertake to say.
"Some of the settlers went back to France, some remained on the spot, and some found employment in Dallas. My parents crossed the river and became residents of Dallas, occupying a house on the ground now occupied by the Jefferson Hotel, and there I was born in 1863. Of course, I heard all about the colony when I was a small boy, but I was heedless, not being interested, and what little of it lodged in my memory has become so dim as to be worthless as history. My mother, still living in Dallas, is one of the few survivors of the ill-fated colony. She is 83 years old and quite feeble.
"As I understand, the French colonists were the first to plant gardens and orchards in this part of the country, which they cultivated according to the intensive methods that had been worked out to meet the conditions in crowded Europe. The natives, who were mostly American frontiersmen, were interested primarily in fighting Indians and chasing buffalo. Whatever they had done in the way of cultivating gardens and crops was a secondary affair. The breaking up of the colony also supplied the country with mechanics who had been regularly trained in Europe, and were, for that reason, we may suppose, somewhat more expert than just anyone who may take to the saw and hatchet. Thus, while the skill of these gardeners, orchardists and mechanics went for nothing as far as the colony was concerned, it was a real contribution to the rising town of Dallas.
Built Homes of Stone.
"Instead of logs, the French colonists used the native white rock as building material. They did not know how to build a log cabin, but they did know how to pound the soft rocks into fragments and dust and then to solidify again the fragments and dust by means of lime water, making wood frames to hold the walls up until the mass would harden or set, in the same way that builders nowadays proceed in getting cement walls to stand. Rubble was the name by which such buildings were designated. Several of them stood as monuments to the French for forty or fifty years. There was one on Cochran street, about a block east of Lamar; another on the south side of Bryan street, at or near the intersection of Harwood, and a third, a two-story, hexagon shape, that stood back in the yard, on the south side of Ross avenue, between Lamar and Griffin streets, and long used as a rooming-house. But, they all have disappeared.
- June 20, 1926, Dallas Morning News, Sec. 4, p. 10.
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Saw Herds of Stock Driven
Longhorns Stampeded and Lives of
Citizens Were Endangered.
Reunion Was Settled in May, 1856,
Close to Cement City.
BY W. S. ADAIR.
"My parents, Athanaso and Augustine Cretien, came to Texas with the French colonists, who settled Reunion, near Cement City, arriving here May 10, 1856, seventy years ago this year," said George Cretien, 647 North Tyler street. "The colonists left France in January or February of that year, were sixty days on the ocean and thirty days making the trip in ox wagons from Houston to Dallas. Three months after their arrival, that is, on Aug. 11, I was born. My mother, who had been reading Uncle Tom's Cabin, the object of which, being in line with the sentiment that had moved the colonists to seek a home in the wilderness of Texas, made such a profound impression on her that she named me for Old George, the kindly negro character in that book. The French people at that time were without any of the prejudice that prevailed in this country against the negroes as a race. They viewed them as enslaved human beings with freedom justly coming to them.
End of Reunion.
"It is unnecessary to go into the history of the colony, since The News has already given a circumstantial account of its rise and fall. The horizon of my childhood must have inclosed a very beautiful country. I can still see the hills and prairies covered with greenery, gemmed with bright flowers and animated with cattle, horses, deer, turkeys and prairie chickens, and can see the people leaving the settlement, family after family. Some of them, upon realizing that they could not make a living in the colony, returned to France, but the majority of them secured employment in Dallas or Texas. Father, who was a carpenter, found plenty of work in Dallas after the great fire, which destroyed the town in 1860. I have no recollection of the fire further than that it was supposed to have been started by negro slaves, and I suspect that that theory of it reached me long after the event. While still retaining his home at Reunion, father moved temporarily to Dallas in the fall of 1861, renting a room from Maxime Guillot on the northwest corner of Elm and Houston streets. We lived there during the winter of 1861-1862, and moved back to Reunion in the spring of 1862. I recall only a few trifling incidents of our first winter in Dallas, such as the flight of a redbird across the river at the foot of Elm street and a dead calf, which seemed to me to be repose itself. We occupied our old home at Reunion until 1863, when we were the only remaining family, and the colony may be said to have ended when we moved to Dallas that year and took part of the dwelling of A. J. Gouffe, a Frenchman, on the northwest corner of Main and Lamar streets, the site of which is now included in the Sanger Building.
Original Village of Dallas.
"We lived with Mr. Gouffe until father could build him a dwelling on the south side of Main street, between Market and Austin, which we occupied six or seven years. In 1868, the village of Dallas was confined to the courthouse square, with a number of dwellings irregularly scattered through the post oaks on the three sides of it. There were four streets, one on each side of the courthouse, each just one block in length. Footpaths and roads wound away in all directions from the town through the woods. The ground was a fine sand, light enough in dry weather to be tossed aloft by the slightest breeze, and sticky enough in wet weather to bog man, beast or wagon. It must have been infected with the qualities of the famous black waxy soil a little farther out. There were ponds here and there through the woods, which were full of ducks and geese in winter. I played on the margin of the pond at Main and Austin streets, and, since it was just across the road from our house, it has a conspicuous place in my memory. The movement of great herds of cattle began about 1870. On their passage from the south, they were converged at Dallas, as being the best place to cross the river, which they waded or swam, according to the requirements of the stage of the stream. Herds of 2,000 or 3,000 wild longhorns were driven right through the village without protest, so far as I know, from the people. Sometimes they would stampede, tearing down fences and overrunning yards and gardens, to say nothing of endangering the lives of the inhabitants.
Village Gets Wild and Woolly.
"Dallas was a quiet, law-abiding a community as could be desired until outsiders began to pour in in anticipation of the railroads, which were heading this way. Then, it began to fill up with saloons, gamblers and dance halls, wild men and wilder women. But even then, it was no worse and no better than any other boom frontier settlement. It seems that is takes all that sort of extravagance and waste of exuberance, properly, to launch a metropolis."
- September 12, 1926, Dallas Morning News, Section 3, p. 14
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Added June 18, 2004:
Early Settler Revisits
French Colony Ruins
When Emanuel Santerre, now 88 (shown at the right), visited the last ruined building of the French Colony of La Reunion, near Dallas, he recalled gay parties and pretty girls. The walls of the last building, shown at the left, are crumbling, and weeds now grow where happy French colonists once danced.
Bent by Age,
Santerre Recalls Gay
Parties, Pretty Maids
Who Danced at House
Overrun by Weeds
By Paul Crume.
Tanned and age-gnarled Emanuel Santerre, 88, last survivor of the old French Communist colony of La Reunion, chuckled over his memories when he went back to the last ruined building.
Though bent by age, he scrambled through the barbed wire fence along Westmoreland road. Before him, was the rectangular stone house built more than fifty years ago by Leon DeLord, one of the immigrants in wooden shoes and loose blouses, who established the colony in 1855. The old man, in duck work clothes and rough shoes, slogged up the hillside to the foot-thick walls, which were crumbling, the ruined doorways and windows.
"Been to many a dance here when I was a boy," he chuckled. "Yes, sir. Good fiddle music and lots of pretty girls."
His sun-crinkled eyes scanned the walls. A portion of the north wall had collapsed, smashed in by a storm in 1933. The roof was gone, the cellar partially filled. Tangled vines grew over the ruin. Mesquite bushes fringed the foundation. He stripped the seed from some waving wild barley and crumbled them in his hand.
"Not even any stock around to keep the grass grazed down," he said reflectively.
Lived in Dugout.
The name of "Old Frenchtown" came easily to his lips. He remembered the day Leon DeLord and his son, Alphonse, started building. They had lived in a dugout near the site of the Trinity Portland Cement Company plant. A man named John Gentry and his son had built the walls. They made a wooden shell like concrete forms and filled it with limestone and mortar. Mr. Santerre remembered that they dragged logs to the river bottom with oxen and piled them around a mass of limestone. The logs were fired. Three days later, the builders came back to gather their lime.
Mr. Santerre said the DeLords built the house after the colony of Fournier Socialists had broken up. The DeLords were "well fixed" and there was laughter around the stone fireplace in those days. But, Leon DeLord and his wife died and were buried in the French cemetery near the cement plant. After that, Alphonse sold the house to Doc Freeman and sailed for France. Mr. Santerre did not remember Freeman's initials.
"Lord, youngster," he said. "That's been a long time ago. I was just 5 years old when my family came over in 1855."
Needed More Farmers.
After the break-up, most colonists moved to Dallas. No one has lived in the house for thirty years. It stand on property now owned by the Dallas Episcopal diocese. Historians say the agricultural colony failed because there were no more than a dozen farmers among the 250 immigrants, but Mr. Santerre knew how to farm and still lives on part of his original large tract. Gazing over the tree-studded hills, he pointed out two places where he had lived before moving to his present two-story house on the Irving road. Once, he said, he laughed when told men would fly over the chalk hills in airplanes, and now he has a son, George, who can fly.
He took a last look at the old house.
"Well, you've met an old man. Yes, sir."
- July 24, 1938, The Dallas Morning News, Sec. II, p. 1, col. 4-6.
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Work Starts Wednesday
On Houses at LaReunion
Dust will begin to fly Wednesday on the site of the old LaReunion colony with the start of construction of the first 1,000 of 3,000 temporary war houses to be built here, George V. Walsh, assistant regional director for development of the Federal Public Housing Authority, said Monday.
A contract for the construction was signed with Robert E. McKee, El Paso contractor, whose bid of $1,498,000 was low among seven submitted at the regional offices of the FPHA in Fort Worth Saturday. But McKee had not waited for the signing of the contract to start his construction plans rolling, Walsh said. Immediately after the bidding Saturday, the contractor began the work of obtaining materials and assembling a crew for the huge project.
Eight hundred of the first 1,000 dwelling units will be built on the LaReunion site, north of the Commerce Street Cutoff and west of Westmoreland. The other 200 will be built at Grand Prairie. McKee's contract calls for 500 of the dwelling units to be completed in forty-five days from Tuesday and the entire 1,000 in sixty days.
Possibility of some delay in the start of the Grand Prairie project lay in a suit in Federal Court by L. J. Goodson and J. W. Singleton, owners of five and a third of the eleven and three-fourths acres condemned for the project to block the construction on that tract.
Federal Judge William H. Atwell, Monday, continued the suit until Thursday, after hearing charges by K. A. Crowley, attorney for Goodson and Singleton, that the land was not being condemned for public purposes, but for the benefit of North American Aviation, Inc., whose employees would live in the dwellings.
Frank B. Potter, assistant United States District Attorney, replied that since North American was engaged in building war planes for the Army and Navy, and since their employees must have a place to live, the government must provide housing and therefore, it was a public project.
When Singleton testified that the Goodson-Singleton tract, for $5,800, was paid in June, was worth $24,000, Judge Atwell commented it was unusual and hard to believe that the land could appreciate so much in value in three months.
Judge Atwell instructed Potter to produce Thursday what evidence the government had on that question and suggested the government's contract with North American might throw light on the subject.
- September 21, 1943, Dallas Morning News, Sec. II, p. 12.
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