The earliest pioneers I know in Oak Cliff were Will and Clara Basham. They came to Oak Cliff around 1900. They first lived in the area near Lake Cliff Park, restoring homes, selling them, finding another to redo and sell. After several homes in that area, they moved westward to a new development, Winnetka Heights.
Records show they were the first owners of several houses in the neighborhood because they would build to a point, move in and finish out the houses, start another, move and the cycle continued for years. I know they built many of the houses in the 200-300 block of N. Clinton, although I’ve been told of others.
Clara was an older sister to R. J. Reitz, my grandfather. It was Will that got RJ a job as a lineman for “Baby Southwestern Bell, ” a.k.a. ATT, shortly after he married. R.J. and Anna started restoring houses, too, around the area of the Bishop Arts District before they built their home at Winnetka and 8th St. in 1912. They already had two small children and the house was almost finished when “Papa” put a “For Sale” sign out front. “Mama” had the last word, and she had moved for the last time.
R.J. became the first electrician in Oak Cliff. Houses in the the older parts of Oak Cliff and even some in Winnetka Heights were built without electricity. Even though they had a surrey “with the fringe on top,” RJ walked Oak Cliff with his pull wagon full of tools to take care of the jobs requested, while Anna stayed home with the children and became the secretary to the business answering the phone. Later, he bought a four wheel wagon, pulled by a horse — and the family continued to grow. It was OK because the streets in the neighborhood weren’t paved anyway. It was several years later when his growing sons helped him buy a pick-up. His four sons all became electricians early in life, learning from their father, and ended up with well-known companies, WFAA, or working on Boulder Dam. Several grandsons even became electricians.
Will and Clara continued building homes until they moved to Ft. Worth in later years. But, after death, they were returned to Oak Cliff and are buried in the Oak Cliff Pioneer’s Cemetary near Townview Magnet.
“Papa” died in 1954, yet Anna was able to stay in her home until her early 90’s. The house remains in the “family” and is occupied by a grandson, Mike and his wife Janice.
In all, six generations of Anna Reitz have lived in Winnetka Heights. Will, Kristen, and Kieran are the sixth. In all, I’ve counted 22 direct descendants from 5 generations of RJ and Anna who have lived in Winnetka Heights.