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Arlington's free-flowing mineral water well — 1902, looking south down Center Street

Arlington Pioneer, Mrs. F.V. Lawrence, Writes of Early Days

A story from the Arlington Journal, May 19, 1933

In response to a recent request published in the Journal for Arlington pioneers to write their experiences of early days in Arlington, Mrs. F. V. Lawrence sent in an interesting article as follows:

In the spring of the year 1876, my husband, O. J. Lawrence, and I moved from Mansfield to a little place caller Hayter (pronounced Hyter), so called in honor of the Rev. A. S. Hayter, a Presbyterian minister. This little town consisted of a store for general merchandise combined with the Post Office. Mr. James Ditto, father of Mr. Webb Ditto (now in Arlington), was proprietor. Hayter was located a mile east of the Interurban Station, a short distance South of where Geo. Luttrell’s place now stands. (Editor’s note: Geo. Luttrell’s place was on E. Abram Street, about where the General Motors plant is located.)

We had a daily mail—just think of it. The stage coach brought mail and passengers from the small town of Dallas. The stage went to a place where soldiers had been stationed in an early day near the town of Johnson Station. (Editor’s note: Johnson Station was named for prominent citizen and plantation owner, Middleton Tate Johnson).

In July 1876, the Texas and Pacific Railroad was built through to Fort Worth. While they were working near us, I made biscuits and sold them to the men who were working there. When the new town of Arlington was located by the railroad, it was first called Johnson, but because it was so near Johnson Station, the name Arlington was chosen.

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, and Mr. Watson and family. There were two Watson daughters, Sally Pete, now Mrs. John Fort, and Hardy, now Mrs. Horace Copeland. I remember we bought splendid butter from Hardy.

In Arlington, James Ditto still had the Post Office and store of general merchandise. My husband made the rack of pigeon-hole boxes for the mail—the first used in Arlington. When we moved to Arlington there was only one well of water in the town. It was splendid water and it was hauled away by the people living thereabout. This well was located across the street from where “Bud” Douglas lives. (Editor’s Note: In a 1936 Arlington directory at the Fielder House, there is a Loyd Douglas at 413 No. Elm, and a W. M. Douglas at 310 N. Mesquite. Perhaps one of these is the “Bud” Douglas Mrs. Lawrence mentioned in 1933).

Dr. Conger was the first physician to come. Mrs. Conger was a fine musician. She taught music and she played the organ for Sunday School and church. Other doctors coming to Arlington were Dr. Morse, Dr. J. I. Fort, Dr. Tom Cravens, Dr. Milton Cravens, and Dr. W. H. Davis.

At that time the M.E. (Methodist Episcopal) Church had only “Circuit Riders.” These preachers filled the pulpit at four or five different places during the month. Two of these were the Rev. J. G. Warren and the Rev. J. T. L. Annis.

On the day of the town sale (by the railroad), my husband bought an acre on what is now North Center Street, L. J. Moreland bought an acre, and Mr. Daniel bought two acres. They fenced it in one enclosure.

Mr. Daniel was a teacher and taught somewhere in the neighborhood of where Thomas’ Chapel now is. (Editor’s Note: Thomas’ Chapel was a little southeast of the old Johnston Station, which was in the region of the present S. Cooper Street and Mayfield Rd.). Messrs. Jim and Mike Ditto went to school to Mr. Daniel.

Over fifty years ago Arlington had a very respectable band. I can recall the names of but few who played, but every man in town who could “Toot a horn” was in the band. John Huntington was a member, Frank Thomas played the tuba, and my husband had the alto horn. The band gave many entertainments. At one of these I remember that Pete McNatt sang “oh, Dem Golden Slippers.” He was a very small boy and was dressed in long yellow pants and black cutaway coat, looking very cute. Needless to say this number “brought down the house.” The band played on all important occasions.

The interest in music kept on. In choirs at the various churches, Frank Thomas led the singing and I played the organ. And we had good singing.

Then we gave something more elaborateOperettas. One of these “Cinderella,” was given, a large number of young ladies participating. Miss Jennie Mason, afterward Mrs. Swift, acted the part of “Cinderella,” Miss Mattie Mason afterward Mrs. Eaves, and Miss Lula Mason assisted. Miss Carrie George, now Mrs. James Ditto, helped in these programs. I gave quite a number of concerts featuring instrumental and vocal music. At one of these concerts, Miss Mattie Taylor (now Mrs. Rollin Porter of Los Angeles, Calif.) sang the beautiful song, “When the Leaves Begin to Turn.”

I taught piano in Arlington for forty years. I enjoyed it very much. My former pupils are scattered far and wide. They are in New York City, Montana, Florida and California, and also in Dallas and Fort Worth, and many in Arlington.

The first public school building was near the present site of the Christian Church. (Editor’s Note: The Christian Church was in the 200 block of E. Abram.) One of the first to teach in this building was Prof. Stark. Later came J. T. Teel, N. J. Clancy, Virgil Boulding. Miss Mollie Brown was the first lady teacher in Arlington. Other teachers who taught in the public schools were Miss “Rex” Rankin, Miss Lillie Coleman, and Miss Bena Kelly.

Later a much larger building was erected near where the agricultural college now is. It was bought by Profs. Lee Hammond and W. M. Trimble. They taught several years very successfully. Mr. Trimble later studied medicine. Then Prof. W. W. Witt taught for some years. Miss Eliza Hayter was an assistant teacher. This school afterwards became Carlisle Military Academy, then Grubbs Vocational College, and from this developed the North Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College. (Editor’s Note: And, of course, later, Arlington State College, and then The University of Texas at Arlington.)

I mentioned not having water for the people coming to town and no place to water the horses. A well was dug to a depth of eighty feet, but there was not enough water, so it was filled up. This well was in the middle of what is now the intersection of Center and Abram Streets. The Interurban track runs over the spot where this well was dug. The citizens decided to bore for an artesian well. The funds to pay for it were raised by public subscription. Every time the money gave out, another subscription would be taken, until water was found at a depth of something like fourteen hundred feet—good mineral water. When water was reached, the engineer blew the whistle one hour. For a long time it flowed, making a white path clear down the a little ravine into which it drained. At first the water was warm, very pleasant to drink. The pipes were destroyed by the mineral and now as you know, it is pumped out and its health-giving crystals sent far and wide.

Editor’s note: The artesian well described by Mrs. Lawrence in 1933 was drilled in 1891-2 in the very center of town, the intersection of Main and Center Streets. R. W. Collins of the firm of T. W. Collins & Co. saw the need for a public water supply for the little town of Arlington. Mrs. Lawrence’s description of the water from this well - “very pleasant to drink” - is at odds with most people’s opinion of the water. For the most part, citizens were very disappointed with the taste of the water because of the high mineral content. Mrs. Lawrence noted that the water flowed “making a white path.” This white path would have been due to the residue from the minerals in the water. At first the water was used mainly for the horses. There was some piping of the water to 40 or 50 homes, but even then it was used only for their stock and to water their gardens. Early on, about 1907, the value of the water for medicinal purposes was first recognized by Dr. Collins, who conceived the idea of building a sanitarium in Arlington (it was eventually built). Even into the 1930s and 40s the mineral water and crystals from it were sold to the public, much of it from a small structure erected over the well at Main & Center Streets.