If there had been a rhyme or reason — timeline — for posting the history of Oak Cliff, this would have been the first one. Actually, it would be the second part. The Army removed the Indians in the area, and using incentives, they had settlers move in on the land.
William H. and Mary Hord settled on the land west of the Trinity on the banks of Cedar Creek (that runs through the Dallas Zoo).
HORD’S RIDGE, TEXAS. Hord’s Ridge was on Cedar Creek at the site of what is now Oak Cliff, three miles south of Dallas in central Dallas County. As early as 1837 William S. Beaty claimed land a half mile east of what was to be the settlement of Hord’s Ridge. In 1841 the Leonard and the Coombes families settled to the west and northwest of the area. William Henry Hord arrived from Tennessee with his family and three slaves in 1845 to be part of the Peters colony. Hord had originally traveled to Texas in 1839 with a group of volunteers who served under Gen. Thomas J. Rusk in a campaign in East Texas against Cherokee Indians. By the end of 1845 the farming community had a population of eighty to ninety and a gristmill that had been constructed by Aaron Overton on Five Mile Creek. Overton’s mill, the only one in the area, could process 100 bushels a day. The Hords operated a boardinghouse across the Trinity River from Dallas, and Mary Hord, William Hord’s wife, offered English lessons to area children. Hord’s Ridge continued to develop into the next decade. Residents attempted to make it the county seat of Dallas County in 1850 in an election against Cedar Springs and Dallas. The first election eliminated Cedar Springs, and Dallas won the second election, 244 to 216. In 1879 the Dallas, Cleburne and Rio Grande Railway finished laying track on the route from Dallas to Cleburne, which crossed the southeastern corner of Hord’s Ridge. The Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe built into the area in 1882, and in 1889 a station opened at Sparks, on the other side of Cedar Creek from Hord’s Tavern. Hord’s Ridge maintained its identity until 1887, when Thomas Marsalis and John S. Armstrong bought a large parcel of land on the southwest bank of the Trinity River, including the Hord homestead, and named the area Oak Cliff. In 1903 Oak Cliff was annexed by Dallas.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: William L. McDonald, Dallas Rediscovered: A Photographic Chronicle of Urban Expansion, 1870-1925 (Dallas: Dallas County Historical Society, 1978). Bill Minutaglio and Holly Williams, The Hidden City: Oak Cliff, Texas (Dallas: Old Oak Cliff Conservation League, 1990). David S. Switzer, It’s Our Dallas County (Dallas: Switzer, 1954).
Matthew Hayes Nall
Came Here by Wagon.
Judge Hord came to Texas in 1845 from Tennessee. With him, were his family and two negro slaves. The trip was made in ox carts. The land on which they settled was obtained under grant from the republic of Texas. It consisted of about a square mile along Cedar creek, west of where Lancaster avenue now lies.
The first home built there was a one-room log cabin. It was later added to and continued to be the Hord home until the late ’80’s. At that time, Judge Hord disposed of his property to T. L. Marsalis, original developer of Oak Cliff, as a part of the city of Dallas. In order to escape the crowding of neighbors incident to expansion of the city, he moved to a newer home farther away from the center of activity.
In the early days, the main trail to West Texas ran past the Hord home. During the California gold rush of 1849, thousands of adventurers traveled past the house on this trail and made it a stopping point at which to obtain water and other supplies.
The Delaware Indians, at that time, had a village of about 1,000 persons at the mouth of Cedar creek. It is said they would often come to the Hord home and attempt to trade skins and honey for Judge Hord’s little golden-haired baby.
These historic old houses are only a few of the many that were erected in Dallas county by the early settlers in the ’40’s and ’50’s. Some of the others are still standing and have histories as fascinating as the ones discovered by Mr. Kamacker. Others have fallen in the path of progress and now are only memories in the minds of pioneers, who recall the days when they were centers of home life and civic activity for the first white inhabitants of North Texas.
– December 20, 1925, Dallas Daily Times Herald, Sec. III, p. 1.
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Until recent years, the log cabin of William Henry Hord sat on land in front of the old animal shelter near the Dallas Zoo. To make room for parking, the cabin was moved to a new location on Cockrell Hill Road between Illinois and Kiest.
Coombs Creek runs through Oak Cliff about two blocks west of Westmoreland off Illinois.
Overton Road is south just past Kiest off I-35 before Ledbetter (Loop 12).