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Uncle Johnny Lytton: Colorful Arlington Pioneer

This is a story from the Arlington Journal, January 20, 1933

Uncle Johnny Lytton, who has been an interested spectator of a large portion of the development of this community during the 52 years he has lived here, will celebrate his 87th birthday on the 27th day of next April.

“In passing down the great highway of life, I feel like my reaching this great age is due to the fact that I always looked straight ahead and kept both hands on the wheel, “ is what Uncle Johnny said this week when questioned about his long and active career in Arlington. (Editor’s note: Uncle Johnny was apparently full of platitudes!)

While a resident of Arlington, Uncle Johnny has seen the town progress from a small hamlet, infested with saloons and tormented by undesirables, to the present city of beautiful homes, churches, schools, and paved streets.

Lytton came straight from Talladega County, Alabama in 1881, and settled in Arlington. He was born in St. Clair County, Alabama, in 1846. After arriving in Arlington he bought two lots, the site being where D. D. Park’s store now stands on the Highway (the Bankhead Highway). Here he constructed a four-room house in which he lived for 39 years. He later built a 6-room house on the same spot. Later he moved to Greenville, living there four years and then returning to Arlington, for as he said, “I moved back to Arlington because I didn’t like the bloomin’ water in Greenville.”

During his lifetime here, Mr. Lytton has been engaged in quite a variety of occupations. In fact, he has done almost everything from undertaker to newspaper man.

Upon his return from Greenville, he formed a partnership with Bailey Smith and Frank Thomas, which built and sold houses. Smith later moved to Oklahoma and died. Lytton then worked for Rogers-McKnight, who dealt in general merchandise. Their place of business stood where the Milton Furniture Store is now located (northwest corner of Main and Mesquite Streets).

Prior to being associated with Rogers-McKnight, Mr. Lytton was Arlington’s first undertaker, working with Jim Hammack. When he left Hammack, he took the undertaking supplies, crude though they were, for his wages which he, in turn, sold to Rogers-McKnight.

He and Frank Thomas made many of the early caskets used in Arlington and these were all made entirely by hand. He helped to dig the stumps from the main streets of Arlington. He helped to bury many persons who were killed in the vicinity of Arlington during the days of the saloons, there being at that time three saloons here.

Lytton tells of a humorous occurrence that transpired during the early days when Arlington was a wide-open town. Joe Martin, a German, was standing downtown when a stray bullet from a saloon struck him in the neck. The German then called across the street to the saloon, “Look out over there; you might shoot somebody,” not realizing that he had been hit. Uncle Johnny, in speaking of those days, said, “I saw several others come out of the saloons who had been shot, but not with bullets; they were shot with old Rock and Rye.”

Arlington had three doctors at that time: Dr. Davis, Dr. Cravens, and Dr. Hutcheson.

Uncle Johnny, with the help of his brother, Charles E. Lytton, an employee of the Dallas News, published Arlington’s first newspaper in 1882, and the publication was known as the Arlington Argus. They printed this paper on an Army Press which was worked by hand.

He has been elected Alderman several times in Arlington, and aided Dr. Davis during the smallpox epidemic which struck Arlington in the early days. Camps were maintained for the victims on Village Creek. Only one death, he points out, resulted from the scourge.

“Dr. Davis will agree with me that we had a hard time financing the town even back in those days,” he said.

Uncle Johnny is a member of the Baptist Church and has been active in many enterprises that have aided in the development of Arlington and vicinity. He has four children living, Miss Nona Lytton, who teaches voice in Emporia, Kansas; Ed and Herbert Lytton of California; and Fred Lytton of Lubbock.