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Arlington's First Property Owners - 1876 (Part 2 of 5)

The Plat of the Original Town of Arlington

Business lots had 25 feet frontage. Those on Main and Front Streets were 115 feet deep, while those on Center Street were 140 feet deep. Alleys were 20 feet wide throughout the town. The larger lots intended for homes were 50 feet wide and those facing on east-west streets were 115 feet deep, while those facing north-south streets were 140 feet deep. There was neither civil government nor zoning regulations, so owners were free to use their property as they pleased, including dividing lots, as we shall see. Main Street was 100 feet wide, the others narrower, the least of them Division Street at 60 feet width. Lots around the four edges of the plat were of variable depths, and some of them extra wide for compensation.

22 Original Purchasers

There were 22 persons who were original purchasers of lots in the new town of Arlington, from the first auction by the T & P Railway Co. on July 26, 1876, through to the end of 1876. The names of all of these persons are shown in a table in the first installment of this article. The balance of this article will describe these original purchasers, the lots they purchased, what they did with these lots, and subsequent events.

R. S. Johnson

It didn't take long for the development of Arlington to start. For the 1870 census newlyweds R. S. Johnson and Callie were in Freestone County, Texas getting their mail at Fairfield. He was a farmer among other farmers on the census page and had a personal estate of $100. Lots 1 and 2 of Block 48 were the first two lots on the west side of Center Street south of Main St., between Main and the Fort Worth and Dallas Road, now Abram Street.

On January 2, 1877 the Johnsons sold the east half of lot 2 to Rose and Ditto for $35 and it became the site of the general store and post office that James Ditto operated. This was probably arranged in advance.

The Ditto family members came from Alabama at various times. According to family tradition, James' younger brother John W. Ditto and their father Michael Ditto came before the Civil War. Michael is buried (unmarked) in the Johnson Plantation Cemetery. James Ditto, a widower with two young children Sallie and John was counted in the 1870 census in Guntersville, Marshall County, Alabama. His occupation was clerk in a store. At that time James' son Webster was living in Washington County, Mississippi with his sister Delia (Cordelia) and her husband James Preston Rose, both men working as farm hands. "Web" Ditto came on to Tarrant County and urged his father to follow. James, the children and the Roses came by train to the end of track at Eagle Ford west of Dallas and then by stagecoach to Johnson Station.

"Upon their arrival the father and son decided to go into the mercantile business, which they established one mile east of Arlington, and later when the railroad came through they moved their store near the spot where C. L. Knapp's Barber Shop is now located" (in 1931). It seems that the building was jacked up and moved to the town lot. In the custom of the day, it had a high front porch at the level of a wagon bed for easy loading, and a covered porch to provide a shady place to relax and invite passersby to come in and see the merchandise. Note: James Ditto is the great, great grandfather and James Preston and Cordelia Rose the great grandparents of Arlington Historical Society board member Martha May Martin.

Arlington's first three stores, on the west side of South Center Street—1877-1901, numbered from right to left: lots 1 & 3 are vacant; 2, 4, and 5 are occupied (all lots were in Block 48). Evidence indicates that this photo was likely taken in 1901 or shortly thereafter. George Lampe, who came to Arlington in 1899, owned the building on the far left, and ran an open-air blacksmith shop adjacent to it. This building is on Lot 5, and this lot was purchased by him from the T & P Railway Co. on April 11, 1901 (up until this time, it had been a vacant lot). The building in the center of the photo is on Lot 4, and it was also owned (in 1901) by George Lampe, having been purchased by him in 1880, from his brother Henry (who had purchased it in December 1876). The building on the far right (on Lot 2) is James Ditto’s General Store, which also included the Post Office. James Ditto's General Store had been at this location since early 1877.

Mrs. F. V. Lawrence said, "Those who besides ourselves lived near Hayter and who all 'moved' to Arlington, were John Ditto and family, Lewis Finger and family, Mr. and Mrs. Joe Tolliver, Mr. Watson and family, daughters Sally Pete and Hardy." The senior James Ditto, son Web and brother John W. Ditto and descendants are buried in Arlington Cemetery.

On July 16, 1877 R. S. and Callie Johnson sold the east 115 feet of lot 1/48 (the vacant lot to the right of the Ditto General Store) to Durelle Blake for $475, along with 45 feet of lot 2 behind the Ditto store, reserving the back 25 feet of both lots already sold to Mrs. Eager. The price seems high and apparently Mr. Blake did not make a go of it. By the time of the 1880 census, the Durelle Blake family was in Dadeville, Alabama, where he was a clerk in a dry goods store. He retained title to the property until August 7, 1885, when via an intermediary, Arthur Lott of Lincoln Parish, Louisiana, it was sold to Web Ditto for $250.

It seems that Mrs. Mary M. Eager (or Egger) had purchased the back part of lots 1 and 2 by a deed of trust and promised to build a house there. Whatever amount was paid for the deed of trust, R. S. Johnson made a warranty deed to her for $2 received on January 25, 1879. Apparently Callie Johnson soon died, for in the 1880 census R. S. Johnson was reported as a widower with their four children, farming in Parker County, Texas.

Mrs. Eager's home site was not as poorly placed, on the back of the lots, as it seems, since there was open space of an alley between lot 1 and the lots to the north of it on West Main Street, and an alley between her house and the lots to the west. And people got by with less then, often combining living quarters with a store. She wasn't done investing, buying lot 3/48 from W. W. McNatt for $100 on October 3, 1877. It appears to be a vacant lot on the photograph of three Arlington stores, for which the date is uncertain. She sold lot 3/48 to James Ditto for $75 on January 26, 1886 and the west ends of lots 1-2/48, presumably having a house there, for $100 on September 20, 1888. So with that, the three adjoining lots were under a single ownership and suitable for a larger mercantile enterprise.

Arlington’s first three stores (in the 1877-1901 photo on the previous page) would have been located between the alley just beyond the light-colored parked automobile and Abram Street (which is just beyond the circular Western Auto sign). In the original town plat, there were six full lots between this alley and Abram Street. The lots were numbered 1 through 6, starting from the alley and moving south to Abram Street.

As noted previously, Lot 1 was vacant. James Ditto’s General Store was on Lot 2. Lot 3 was vacant. The Lampe buildings were on Lots 4 and 5, and Lot 6 was vacant.

Note: “Knapp’s Barber Shop” is printed above the Coca-Cola logo on the sign beyond the street light—James Ditto’s General Store (Lot 2, Block 48) was located this side of that sign (i.e., the center portion of this 3-part building). Today, Arlington’s City Hall is on this site, between S. Center St. and Pecan St. (on the west), and facing Abram St.

Read Part 3