Streetwise: The Five Sisters of the South Side

annie signThese days residential real estate developers often give streets random names to evoke pastoral visions—such as “Silver Creek Avenue” (even though there is not a precious metal or a stream within miles) or “Misty Meadow Boulevard” (even though there is no precipitation or grassland within miles)—or to support the equally random name of a subdivision (such as “Round Table Terrace” and “Lancelot Lane” in a subdivision named “Camelot Estates”).

But in earlier times street names had some logic behind them. For example, streets often were named for a prominent person. John Peter Smith, Daggett, Jarvis, and Hulen streets are self-explanatory. Lancaster Avenue is named for John L. Lancaster, whose Texas & Pacific railroad in the early 1930s transformed his namesake street with a new passenger terminal, a new freight terminal, and three new underpasses. Or streets were named for a destination. For example, Belknap Street led to Fort Belknap in Young County. Camp Bowie Boulevard led to . . . wait for it . . . Camp Bowie.

On the other hand, sometimes a subdivision developer or a sales agent gave himself a little immortality by naming a street after himself, as in Clarke and Bunting avenues in Hi Mount or Sargent Street in Beacon Hill or Bailey Avenue in William J. Bailey‘s Bailey addition on the near West Side.

And sometimes streets were named for the relatives of the developer. And so it was with five streets on the near South Side. They are named for the wife and five daughters of a man who didn’t even live in Fort Worth but whose story is one of great triumph and tragedy in early Texas.

alford street namesIn 1949 the edition of the Star-Telegram celebrating the centennial of Fort Worth said that five streets were named for the wife and daughters of G. F. Alford: wife Annie and daughters Annie, Henrietta, Ruth, Hallie, and Linda. The newspaper pointed out that the names of Hattie and Leuda streets are corruptions of the names of Alford daughters Hallie and Linda.

alford 85 cdIndeed, by the time the five namesake streets appeared in the 1885 city directory, “Linda” and “Hallie” had become “Leuda” and “Hattie.”

alford all 5 names sanborn 1893This 1893 Sanborn map shows the five Alford namesake streets. Of the five, Annie Street does double duty, named for both Alford’s wife and a daughter. (Ruth’s first name was “Stella,” and Stella Street is just two blocks north of the former Ruth Street, but Stella Street is not in Alford & Veal’s addition, so I am afraid to say that it, too, was named for daughter Stella Ruth.)

Some history: Confederate General George Frederick Alford was the son of Colonel George G. Alford, who had fought under Winfield Scott in the War of 1812 and under Sam Houston in the Texas Revolution of 1836. George Frederick was born the next year in New Madrid, Missouri, but the family soon moved to Texas, and George spent his early childhood on Alford’s Bluff, the family’s plantation and steamboat landing on the Trinity River in Trinity County.

alford river landingsAlford’s Bluff was 349 river miles upstream from Galveston but another 311 river miles from the northernmost landing at Lockridge’s Bluff in Navarro County, which was another 226 river miles from Dallas.

In 1847, when George was ten, his parents died, and he returned to New Madrid to live with an aunt. But he soon became restless and ran away from home. According to Biographical History of Dallas County, for three years young George lived with “semi-savage Indian tribes of the far western lands,” learning their ways. Then he struck out once again—on foot—traveling to the promised land of California, a trip that took six months. In the town of Shasta he was appointed deputy court clerk. In 1857, when he had saved enough money, he returned to New Madrid to marry Annie Maulsby, a former schoolmate. In 1859 the couple moved to Alford’s Bluff on the Trinity River.

There Alford became, the Star-Telegram would write in 1903, “one of the wealthiest cattlemen, planters and slaveowners of Texas.”

alford 63 legislatureWith money comes influence. In 1859 Alford was elected to the Texas Legislature.

alford children ofYes, George Frederick Alford knew great fortune. But he also knew great loss. George and Annie Maulsby Alford would have ten children. At least four of six daughters, including Georgie Barfield in 1862, would die before their fourth birthday.

After the Civil War began, Alford fought for the Confederacy, taking part in the Battle of Mansfield and the Battle of Pleasant Hill in Louisiana in 1864.

After the war Alford was again elected to the Texas Legislature in 1865. But soon afterward a flood of the Trinity River put his plantation under twelve feet of water, washing away most of his fortune.

alford 73 cottonIn 1866 Alford resigned from the legislature and moved from Alford’s Bluff to Galveston, where he remade his fortune in cotton, groceries, banking, and foreign exchange. He and William G. Veal, with whom Alford would develop Alford & Veal’s addition in Fort Worth, were members of the Galveston Cotton Exchange.

alford annie maryIn 1867 the first of the five sisters of the South Side died. Daughter Annie Mary Alford died in Galveston. She is buried in Old Galveston Cemetery.

Then came the financial panic of 1873—the same panic that delayed by three years the arrival of the railroad in Fort Worth. George Frederick Alford lost his second fortune.

 alford 73 stillbornThe year 1873 brought another loss—emotional, not financial. The Alford infant who was stillborn in 1873 may have been daughter Mary George Alford, who, records show, was born and died that year. Of seventeen people listed in the Galveston weekly mortuary report, eleven were one year old or younger.

After the panic of 1873, by 1875 Alford found himself $400,000 ($8.7 million today) in debt.

alford stella ruthBut the year 1875 was not done. That year Alford suffered still another loss. Daughter Stella Ruth died in Galveston before her first birthday. She, too, is buried in Old Galveston Cemetery.

In 1877, with three children buried in the local cemetery, Alford moved his family from Galveston to Dallas, where he remade his second fortune in real estate, banking, and railroads in Texas and in silver and lead mining in Mexico. It took him nine years, but he repaid his debtors one hundred cents on the dollar.

alford 87 north texas developmentAn 1887 article mentions Alford’s “judicious investments in North Texas real estate.”

alford 88 railAlford also was president of the Dallas, Archer and Pacific Railroad.

alford 1903 birthdayIn 1903 the sixty-eighth birthday of the “well-known Texan” was news even in Kansas City.

That year Successful American magazine wrote: “General George F. Alford of Dallas, Texas, still wears a Confederate uniform. He has never taken it off since he put it on in the early ’60s. He is much observed on the streets.”

alford 1907 obitGeneral Alford died in 1907. His obituary says he was survived by two daughters. They were the two sisters whose namesake streets are misspelled:

alford linda 1900 censusalford linda grave

Linda Alford Edmonson (Leuda Street) was the wife of Dr. Milton Edmonson. She is buried in Missouri, where her parents were born.

alford hattie hallieHallie Alford Evans (Hattie Street) died in Minneapolis and is buried there.

alford TADToday on the near South Side, of course, the Alford family would not recognize their namesake addition and streets. The railroads and South Freeway wiped out some streets in Alford & Veal’s addition. Some streets have lost their identities in mergers with other streets. Only Annie, Leuda (Linda), and Hattie (Hallie) streets survive. Ruth Street is now “Tucker Street”; Henrietta Street is now “Bessie Street.”

I could find no biographical information on Henrietta Alford, the fifth of Alford & Veal’s addition’s five sisters of the South Side.

alford george 1General George Frederick Alford, who won so much and lost so much in early Texas, is buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Dallas. (All headstone photos from Find A Grave.)

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