A Guide to the History of Richardson, Texas

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Richardson History Mistakes Corrected

During the course of research for my Sesquicentennial History of Richardson, Texas, I came across several factual errors that have been perpetuated in print, on websites, and even on Texas Historical Commission markers. Here are six of the biggest mistakes, where they are found, and the correct information.

  • Richardson was chartered in 1873.
  • Richardson was named for E. H. Richardson, or George Richardson.
  • The original town of Richardson was 101 acres in size.
  • Blewett Cemetery was established in 1855.
  • Sam Harben started The Richardson Echo in 1900.
  • R.I.S.D. was founded in 1854.
  • Airman Apprentice Kirk D. Greenawalt died in combat in Vietnam

  • Richardson was chartered in 1873.Mistake

    Although the Texas State Legislature passed a resolution commemorating "the chartering of the city of Richardson on June 26, 1873," the truth is that even after Richardson became an incorporated city in 1925, it was not until 1956 that it had an actual charter--a legal document that identifies a municipality's form of government and spells out how it is meant to operate. Until that time, Richardson was a "general-law" municipality. All that happened on June 26, 1873 was that a deed from the railroad trustees granting or "dedicating" the H.&T.C.'s right-of-way, identified as "Railroad Reservation" on the town map, was recorded in the Dallas County clerk's office (Deed Book U, 216-17). The trustees did not transfer title to the town itself until May 23, 1874 (see Deed Book 88, 551-3), which explains why no town lots were sold until after that date.

    Unfortunately, the notion that "Richardson was chartered in 1873" has been perpetuated on the City of Richardson website and also the Richardson Convention and Visitor's Bureau. as well as Wikipedia, along with several other websites that have simply copied this information without doing any fact-checking to see if it's true, which it isn't.

    NOTE: Since the above paragraph was written, the City of Richardson website and Wikipedia article about Richardson have been corrected.

    CorrectThe correct thing to say is that Richardson was founded in 1873, incorporated in 1925, and chartered in 1956.

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    Richardson was named for E. H. Richardson, or George Richardson.Mistake

    On July 25, 1951, The Dallas Morning News published a feature article written by journalist Kenneth Foree, entitled "Century of Life on Same Farm." In this article, Foree erroneously claimed that Richardson was named for a railroad contractor named E. H. Richardson. This article was reprinted in The Richardson Echo on July 27, 1951. The Dallas Morning News repeated the mistake on March 28, 1973 in a report on Richardson's upcoming centennial. Where Foree got the idea that Richardson was named for a contractor who didn't even exist is a mystery.

    Unfortunately, this mistake has been perpetuated not only in two previous published histories of Richardson but also on a Texas Historical Commission marker, made of metal, at City Hall Plaza.

    In an earlier Richardson Echo article about the history of Richardson (Feb. 3, 1950), Mrs. Pearl Stults claimed that Richardson was named for H.&T.C. President George Richardson.

    As it happens, no one named George Richardson ever served as president of the H.&T.C. The president of the H.&T.C. in 1873 was Henry Dodge. If the new town had been named for him, it might have been called "Dodge City!"

    CorrectThe truth, which ironically was published in The Dallas Morning News in 1890, is that Richardson was named for the Secretary of the Houston & Texas Central Railroad, Alfred Stephen Richardson. The contractor who built the railroad line from Dallas to Denison (which went through Richardson) was a man named Ed Hyatt, whose initials, by chance, are E. H., but his last name was not Richardson.

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    The original town of Richardson was 101 acres in size.Mistake

    All previous published histories of Richardson, whether they appeared in newspapers or in book form or on websites, have said that when Richardson was founded, it was 101 acres in size. This is incorrect. It was actually 121 acres. Interestingly, this was the result of a mistake made by whoever drew up a property deed describing the size of a tract of land that made up part of the new town and also the man who used it to draw the first map of Richardson, civil engineer Theodore Kosse (for whom the town of Kosse, Texas is named).

    In April 1873 the trustees of the Houston & Texas Central Railroad bought two pieces of land that became the new town of Richardson. They purchased 81 acres from Bernard Reilly and 20 acres from William J. Wheeler and his wife Fannie.

    When the Reilly-to-trustees deed was drawn up in April 1873, the lengths of the east and west boundary lines were erroneously given as 38 chains and 26 links--a chain being equivalent to 66 feet and a link to 7.92 inches--which comes to 3,024.66 feet, instead of the correct length of 30 chains and 68 links, which comes to 2,525.16 feet. Interestingly, the north and south boundary lines--26 chains and 40 links or 1,742.4 feet--were not incorrectly given. In 1883, a corrected deed, filed for record in Dallas County, explained that when the 1873 Reilly deed was made, "the entire length of the whole town tract containing 101 acres of which 20 acres is included in a deed from W. J. Wheeler instead of the length of the 81 acres is given." Consequently, when Kosse drew the first map, he used the combined measurements from the Reilly deed and the measurements from the Wheeler deed. The result: A map that shows a townsite that is 20 acres larger at the north end because Wheeler's 20 acres came from the Dye survey on the south end.

    So, the deed was corrected, but was the map also corrected? Apparently not. Nor does it appear that the H.&T.C. ever compensated anyone for the extra 20 acres they ended up with.

    CorrectSo, the size of the original town of Richardson, thanks to a mistake made by a deed writer and compounded by a mapmaker, was 121 acres.

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    Blewett Cemetery was established in 1855.Mistake

    Although the Blewett family was for decades one of the most prominent early families of Richardson, today the only tangible evidence of their presence is the old Blewett family cemetery, located on the northwest corner of present-day East Arapaho Road and Grove Road in East Richardson. According to an article in The Richardson Echo, the first person buried there was "Uncle Baxter Blewett, who was killed near the end of the war between the States and [his body] returned here for burial." A Texas Historical Commission marker on the site contradicts this statement, saying that the Blewett Cemetery was established earlier, when George and Nancy Blewett's daughter, Ann, died on March 14, 1855, which seems to be verified by Ann's grave marker in the small, one-acre plot, where George L. Blewett, his wife Nancy, and eight more of their children are interred, along with members of other prominent pioneer families. As it happens, neither the newspaper nor the historical marker is correct.

    CorrectIn truth, the Blewett Cemetery was not established until 1887 when James R. Blewett arranged for the bodies of his father, his older brother, and six other people to be exhumed from their original graves in the old Spring Creek burying ground, a.k.a. the Routh Cemetery or Stagecoach Cemetery, and then reburied where they lie today. A report in The Dallas Weekly Herald, August 20, 1887, described, in rather graphic detail, how this was done.

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    Sam Harben started The Richardson Echo in 1900.Mistake

    In a speech that Samuel Park Harben, better known simply as "Sam," gave to the Richardson Rotary Club in 1950, the then seventy-two-old editor, printer, and druggist informed his audience that fifty years earlier, as the twenty-two-year-old son of Dr. R. P. (Raymond Park) Harben, he began publishing the town's third newspaper, The Richardson Echo, on October 12, 1900, printing the first issue on a George Washington hand press in the back room of the Harbens' family-owned and operated drugstore.

    CorrectThe truth, however, is that the first issue of The Richardson Echo was not published until October 12, 1901.

    Although Sam Harben's misstatement was almost certainly not a deliberate error, it was an error nonetheless and one, apparently, that neither Sam nor anyone else noticed because in the very same issue that reported his speech to the Rotary Club, there was another article celebrating his supposed fifty years on the job, when in fact it was actually forty-nine! Unfortunately, the mistake was repeated in print in 1959, when Sam retired, after which, starting with Volume LVIII, No. 29, dated May 21, 1959, the new editor began including the words "Established Oct. 12, 1900" in the little box that always appeared on page four, giving the name of the paper and its editor, along with subscription rates and federally-required post office registration information. After Sam died in 1960, a small box on the right-hand side of The Echo's masthead proclaiming that the paper had been "published Since Oct. of 1900," began to appear.

    So, how could the man who actually started the paper make this mistake? Here's how:

    As far as it's known--and except for the issues of July 11 and 18, 1930, which were both numbered Volume 29, No. 52--up until April 1932 all issues of The Richardson Echo were correctly identified as to volume and issue number, but that year, and again in 1935 and 1936, someone changed the volume number in mid-year. The result was that by July 1936, the volume number printed on each issue was three numbers off! This begs a question: Was this done deliberately, or was it an honest mistake on the part of the typesetter? Unfortunately, that's an unanswerable question. Equally unfortunate is the fact that no one, not even editor Sam Harben, noticed the error!

    In March 1940, apparently someone did notice the mistake, and also made an attempt to correct it by reverting to the previous year's volume number. But the volumes were still two numbers off. In December 1940, when it was realized that the volume number still wasn't correct, a second reversion was made, but the numbers were still off by a year. Unfortunately, no third reversion was ever made. The result was that in October 1950, everyone concerned thought the paper had reached its golden anniversary, but it hadn't. Consequently, when Sam and his staff celebrated the occasion and congratulations came pouring in from the Mayor of Richardson and others, it was all premature. The paper's actual golden anniversary, which apparently passed unnoticed, was in the fall of 1951, So, if Sam Harben made a mistake when he said that his paper was started in 1900, and 1950 was erroneously celebrated as The Echo's 50th anniversary, it's no wonder!

    Sam apparently also forgot that in 1900, he was living and working as a druggist in Bagwell, Red River County, Texas, where his father, R. P. Harben had opened a drugstore. This fact is confirmed by the 1900 federal census. In addition, for most of the first few decades of its existence, The Echo was published every Friday. October 12, 1901 was a Friday. October 12, 1900 wasn't.

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    R.I.S.D. was founded in 1854.Mistake

    The Richardson Independent School District's website states that it "was founded in 1854 to educate the children of local farmers, small business owners, and others who had settled near the railroad just outside of Dallas." (See R.I.S.D. General Information.) Although it can't be denied that R.I.S.D. has had the job of educating children for quite a long time, it not only doesn't go back as far as the website claims, it couldn't. First of all, the town of Richardson did not exist in 1854, and wouldn't, until 1873. Therefore, there could not possibly have been a Richardson School District, independent or otherwise, in 1854! Likewise, there was no railroad at that time for anyone to settle near.

    What did happen in 1854 was that the Texas state legislature passed "an act to establish a system of common schools." A dozen years later, during Reconstruction, the state legislature passed another law, effective in 1867, which authorized each county to form "school districts of convenient size, and number the same, so that each district may be known by its number." Each district was to have three elected trustees. Sometime after the town of Richardson was founded in 1873, it was included in Dallas County School District No. 3.

    CorrectThe best available evidence is that the R.I.S.D. was formed in 1900, after the schoolhouse that the town had been using since 1874 burned down in February 1900 and a new school had to be built to replace it. One thing is certain however: The R.I.S.D. couldn't have been founded in 1854, as the district's website states, for all the reasons given above.

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    Airman Apprentice Kirk D. Greenawalt died in combat in Vietnam.Mistake

    A plaque in Richardson's Memorial Park includes the names of ten men who allegedly died during the War in Vietnam. Unfortunately, the plaque is not entirely accurate. One of the men listed--Kirk D. Greenawalt--did not die in combat while serving in Vietnam. Although he was in the service during the Vietnam era and he was from Richardson, nineteen-year-old Navy Airman Apprentice Greenwalt was killed, not in combat in Vietnam, but rather in an automobile accident in Yosemite National Park in 1975, more than two years after American troops were withdrawn from Vietnam and more than seven months after the takeover of Saigon by North Vietnamese forces. By rights, his name should be in the list of those who died in service outside of wartime. The mistake is probably due to the fact that his grave marker in Restland Memorial Park includes the word "VIETNAM."

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