Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 5, Number 2, Fall, 1993 Page: 4
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A Moderate Response
The District Judges of Dallas County
During Reconstruction, 1865 - 1876
By Randolph B. Campbell
ALLAS COUNTY HAD relatively few slaves in
1860 (only 1,074, constituting 12.4 per cent
of the population) and grew no cotton, but its mostly
southern-born voters strongly supported secession
and the Confederacy. Unlike neighboring Collin
County, which had a comparable number of slaves
and opposed disunion by a more than two-to-one
margin, Dallas voted 741 to 237 in favor of secession.
Men from Dallas County filled or helped fill
the ranks of at least nine companies of cavalry and
one artillery battery in the Confederate Army. During
the war, regional supply, recruiting, and transportation
operations of the Confederacy were based
in Dallas, and small arms were manufactured and
repaired at Lancaster.' For a county so close to the
frontier and so non-typical of the cotton South,
Dallas demonstrated remarkable commitment to the
"Lost Cause" from 1861 to 1865.
Given its dedication to the Confederacy,
Dallas County could not have experienced Reconstruction
without some degree of the controversy
and bitterness so common across the South from
1865 to 1876. Conservative whites in Dallas angrily
objected to many of the developments that followed
congressional takeover of Reconstruction, especially
the enfranchisement of blacks.2 Freedmen suffered
an alarming amount of violence, and Unionists
constantly felt threatened during the five years following
the close of the war. Nevertheless, there were
no riots such as those in Brenham and Marshall, and
few, if any, Unionists lost their lives or had to flee the
county. The African American population of Dallas
doubled between 1860 and 1870, suggesting that the
racial atmosphere, although far from ideal, was not
intolerable. By contrast, the number of blacks in
more racially troubled Bowie County actually declined
during the decade. In short, Dallas apparently
escaped the worst extremes found in some other
localities of Texas after 1865.3
Several circumstances help explain the relative
moderation of the reaction by conservative
whites to Reconstruction in Dallas County. First, the
county's small percentage of blacks and loyalist
whites who voted Republican had no chance of
holding power against the more numerous Democrats
once constitutional government was restored.
The return of political control to the kind of men who
had governed before the war was just a matter of
time. Second, Dallas County during the late 1860s
entered a period of rapid growth and economic
development that put the community well on the
road to becoming the commercial center of North
Texas. The promise of prosperity doubtless encouraged
conservative leaders to emphasize a moderate
course in politics in order to enjoy the benefits of
economic expansion. From the onset of Congressional
Reconstruction, John W. Swindells, editor of
the conservative Dallas Herald, urged local whites
to acquiesce in the new rules, register to vote, and
concentrate on building the community. "We say
Here’s what’s next.
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Dallas County Heritage Society. Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 5, Number 2, Fall, 1993, periodical, 1993; (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth35115/m1/6/: accessed June 16, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Dallas Historical Society.