Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 19, Number 2, Fall, 2007 Page: 24
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Thomas L. Marsalis Go?
The Man Behind the Myths
BY JAMES BARNES AND SHARON MARSALIS
T he image of Dallas includes a reputation
for brilliant and often wily business characters.
Thomas L. Marsalis may have been one of
Marsalis came to Dallas with the first railroad
in 1872, when he was nineteen years old.
He rapidly made a fortune in the wholesale
grocery business. In 1873 Marsalis married
Elizabeth Josephine (Lizzie) Crowdus, the
daughter of Dr. J. W Crowdus, one of Dallas's
wealthiest citizens and its future mayor. The
couple's three children, Allene, Laila, and
Thomas, Jr., were all born in Dallas. Allene
died in 1878 at age four and was buried in the
Crowdus family plot at the Dallas Pioneer
Marsalis was credited with helping to
establish the Dallas fire department, initiating
the paving of streets, helping to capitalize The
Dallas Mornitlg News, and acting as a Director
for the Dallas State Fair in its Semi-Centennial
celebration of 1886. But most of all, Marsalis is
remembered today as "the Father of Oak
Cliff." His real estate development of Oak Cliff
was a huge investment with its own steam railroad,
water supply system, and public streets
and parks.The Oak Cliff venture launched like
an economic rocket but rather quickly fizzled
back to earth as a financial dud. After his failure
with Oak Cliff, Marsalis disappears from
the pages of Dallas histories.
Amateur historians of the Dallas Historical
Society's internet "Message Board" have collaborated
on a two-and-half-year long
research investigation into the fate of Thomas
L. Marsalis. We herein offer corrections to
some often repeated, but inaccurate, myths
about his life.
24 LEGACIES Fall 2007
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Dallas Heritage Village. Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 19, Number 2, Fall, 2007, periodical, 2007; (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth35087/m1/26/: accessed November 30, 2020), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Dallas Historical Society.