|A CRUMBLING BIT OF
My job description does not include peeking into boxes, but every once in a while, I cannot resist the urge. During an idle moment last week, I thought it would be fun to identify a beat up old artillery shell on a shelf in the warehouse. I found a clearly marked accession number and went to our card file to see what information we had. Unfortunately, all I found was that it was a gift from a Mr. Berry Cobb in 1939. I also noticed that Mr. Cobb had given us several other items, including a very small fragment of stone from the Alamo. This sent me on a rock hunt.
I am the first to admit that I am easily distracted. While looking through boxes of stone artifacts, I found something that completely took me off tract. At the bottom of one of the boxes was a crumbling old red brick that someone had carefully wrapped in green velvet. I thought to myself, "What in the world is this?" I turned the brick over and found a little cardboard note: "A brick from the house owned and occupied by Wilmer McLean in which General U.S. Grant U.S.A and General R.E. Lee C.S.A. met and agreed upon the terms of surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia on the afternoon of Sunday, April 9, 1865." As a native Texan, I am embarrassed to say that I forgot the Alamo.
All our records indicate is that we received the brick from Professor John Harrington in March 1953. How Professor Harrington obtained the brick is not revealed, but a little research gave a few hints. After the Civil War, Wilmer McLean went bankrupt. The house, now known as the "Surrender House," was sold at public auction to Mr. Nathaniel H. Ragland who lived there until his death in 1891. His widow sold the house to Myron Dunlap of New York, who with some investors, wanted to move it to Chicago and display it at the World's Columbian Exposition in1893. This plan fell through because of a lack of interest and investors. The investors then came up with a plan of completely disassembling the house brick by brick and board by board and moving it to Washington, D. C. as a permanent Civil War museum. They managed to get the house completely taken apart before they ran out of money. There it sat for over fifty years exposed to vandals, collectors and Mother Nature. In 1940, Congress created the Appomattox Court House National Historical Monument, and a meticulous reconstruction began. This work came to a screeching halt on December 7, 1941 when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. Work on the McLean House did not resume until 1947. Finally on April 9, 1949, before an estimated crowd of twenty thousand people, the "Surrender House" was dedicated and opened to the public. Somehow, through all of this, one crumbling old red brick ended up with the Dallas Historical Society. I thought you might like to know about it.
Finally, I really did not forget the Alamo. That fragment is here somewhere. When I get another idle moment, I am going to find it.
Company Town to Ghost Town
Saturday, October 10, departs 9 a.m.
Built as a coal mining town by the Texas and Pacific Coal Company, Thurber, Texas later became a center for brick factories. The Depression of the 1930s closed the factories, leaving Thurber a ghost town. Today, it is home of the W. K. Gordon Center for Industrial History of Texas. Come explore Thurber and Texas' industrial past. Lunch at the Smokestack Restaurant.
DHV & Dallas Historical Society Members: $55
If we may be of service to you in the future with discovering our past feel free to contact, visit or join the DHS.
Sincerely,The Dallas Historical Society