NOTE: I wrote this piece for the Dallas Times Herald in 1985. I was 31 years old. I’m now a healthy 67-year-old struggling to do all the right things during a worldwide pandemic. After reading this, you won’t be surprised to learn that I’m fully vaccinated and wear a mask.


Photo by David Tharp

For all we know, Callie Cantrell told bawdy stories after sipping one cordial too many. Or, she spent hours in her church pew, wearing black bombazine and a dour expression. Perhaps she sang sweetly and baked delicious cakes.

Because Callie was an exemplary Victorian woman, hers was a private life…

Photo courtesy of Sherri Taggart

Henrietta Taggart (1842–1915)

On a February morning in 1878, two years after moving to Dallas with her husband and two small daughters, an exhausted Henrietta “Hattie” McCoy Taggart sat down by the fire to write to her mother back home in Indiana:

Oh, Mother, this is a weary dreary world … I have…

Photo circa 1910. Courtesy of Peggy Hall

Zula Beatrice Whaley


James Larry Poston, 13, attached his new telescopic sight to a .22-caliber rifle and showed his grandmother, Mrs. Zula B. Farley, how it worked. The gun discharged, killing Mrs. Farley.

On Christmas morning 1959, The Dallas Morning News published this terse account of one family’s tragic exchange of gifts…

Photo by David Tharp

Azelee (1866–1915) Imogene (1887–1919)

Azelee Woodliff and her daughter, Imogene, died within four years of one another, both having succumbed to tuberculosis. They are buried in single graves in separate sections of Dallas’s Oakland Cemetery.

As with so many women who lived and died in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the domestic…

Photo by David Tharp


Very early on a winter morning in 1936, half-clothed occupants of Mrs. Brown’s boarding house staggered from their rooms and hurried outside to escape smoke emanating from a second-story blaze. Luckily for them, it was a balmy 60 degrees in Dallas.

The mostly male boarders at 1714 N. Harwood…

Photo by David Tharp

Mr. and Mrs. Jones

In 1910, Dallas residents had endured 31 days of August with a single day of scant rain. The first day of September brought no relief: The temperature that Thursday hit 102 degrees.

William “Willie” Jones, a fruit packer for a produce company that stretched four blocks on Elm Street, arrived…

Photo taken in 1939

Mary Venable Blythe (1871–1951)

Mary Venable Blythe, always known by that trio of names, entered the world February 3, 1871, in her grandparents’ home in Gonzales, Texas. Life began some years later, the moment she sat down at the piano and made music.

Music informed every aspect of her life: She would not marry…

J.B. and Sallie Addington, early 1900s

J. B. Addington (1858–1919)

Casual in shirt sleeves and vest on his own Worth Street porch, James Benjamin Addington sported the walrus mustache and pocket watch signifying his place in the larger world. …

Marcia Smith

The former newspaper reporter and English teacher is the author of the book, The Woman in the Well and Other Ancestories.

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