Oak Cliff history: A look back at the old town of Lisbon

In the mid-1800s, Samuel Sloan settled what later became known as the town of Lisbon, along Five Mile Creek in South Oak Cliff. The original log house, now relocated to the Cedar Hill campus of Northwood University, served as the center of the this early community. Courtesy photo: Northwood University.
In the mid-1800s, Samuel Sloan settled what later became known as the town of Lisbon, along Five Mile Creek in South Oak Cliff. The original log house, now relocated to the Cedar Hill campus of Northwood University, served as the center of the this early community. Courtesy photo: Northwood University.

Just as Wheatland, Danieldale, Eagle Ford, Trinity Heights and the others were, the old town of Lisbon was incorporated into the City of Dallas. Before that, however, the settlers around this section of Five Mile Creek certainly carved out a colorful history.

In 1836, Republic of Texas commissioners appointed Arkansan Samuel Sloan to be part of a three-man team to lay out a road from the three forks of the Trinity River northward to the Red River. Then, in 1840, Sloan joined a troop of soldiers who came as an advance force ahead of a survey party. Sloan and his two brothers, Robert and James, eventually owned 4,000 acres south of the Trinity, awarded to them for their service in the Texas War for Independence. These landholdings extended all the way to Wilmer, Texas.

In 1846, Samuel Sloan’s family joined him. He assembled a log home near Five Mile Creek, just west of what is now Lancaster Road and Loop 12 and, according to Sloan’s daughter’s journal, Mrs. Sloan saw only two other women during that first year. The daughter also documented the extremely tall grasses (which covered what the diary called “the prairie land”) that were heavy with flies. She explained how the infestation caused extensive illness among the settlers, including her mother. It was only after the farmers burned the grasses that the sicknesses subsided.

Sponsored Message
Once the ability to survive in the area was secured, the Sloan residence became the center for all community and social activities, including impromptu church services whenever a traveling preacher arrived, no matter his denomination.

Once the ability to survive in the area was secured, the Sloan residence became the center for all community and social activities, including impromptu church services whenever a traveling preacher arrived, no matter his denomination. Another 10 years would pass before a formal church was established; it was 20 years before a church structure was built.

Sponsored Message

When James died under strange circumstances, his brother Robert sold part of James’ estate to William Brown Miller, where Miller eventually built the Millermore Mansion, now located at Old City Park. John W. Wright bought another portion, the acreage now known as Glen Oaks, one of the Old Oak Cliff Conservation League’s member neighborhoods.

Sponsored Message

By the time of the Civil War, settlers from the South (and some “Yankee” states, including California) had settled the area with most designations described according to their proximity to the Sloan House on Five Mile Creek, making it natural to create an official town. The first school was on the far north end of the settlement — on the other side of Interstate-35 E from Wynnewood Village where Woodin Boulevard and Brookhaven Drive meet. Named the N. O. McAdams School (because school board member McAdams donated lumber for the building), the structure was also used for church services. Then, when U.S. mail service began in 1870, the town officially became Lisbon, Texas.

Around the turn of the 20th century, the farmers began selling off some of their large landholdings as residential developers looked for housing sites, and new businesses caused the expansion of the once small “business district,” centered at Ann Arbor Avenue and Lancaster Road. The first regular elections were held in 1921 (mayor and city council). Light poles were finally put up on Lancaster Road in 1922, and in 1923 the town purchased its first fire truck. Natural gas service began in 1925, with limited phone service availability around 1930.

Sponsored Message

The proud citizens of Glendale, a community one mile south of Lisbon, considered itself a part of Lisbon until the developers arrived. After that, it strove to remain separate, touting its lovely 30-acre park owned by the Southern Traction Company that operated the southern Interurban electric rail line, a line that connected Dallas with Lancaster, Waxahachie and beyond. As was the custom in those days, home developers lured customers to their new additions by offering free rides on the Interurban. Salesmen showed potential homebuyers the lots and house plans before letting the families loose to picnic in the park, play baseball and socialize. Unlike the Glendale Park and public pool that most Oak Cliff Boomers remember, the place was then heavily wooded and had a natural swimming hole fed by Five Mile Creek.

Sponsored Message

Glendale actually had electricity service several years before Lisbon, using the power system that fueled the Interurban — a setup that also dimly lit the park at night. The Interurban rail line ran along Lancaster Road and connected Glendale and Lisbon, only one mile apart.

One of the most interesting aspects of Lisbon is that a single mother, Ada Jones, and her nine children operated the Freemont Bus Service from 1924 to 1931, covering a large part of Oak Cliff. And they operated in Glendale from 1926 to 1930. The company’s “jitneys” were driven first by the four sons before the girls joined them. Wearing khaki skirts and blouses, with brown shoes and wool stockings, these ladies became the first female bus drivers in Dallas — although the boys weren’t required to wear anything special. The family maintained a 6 a.m.-to-midnight schedule, also making special trips to transport riders to Glendale Park and Five Mile Creek, always passing the Sloan house.

Sponsored Message

While the Lisbon Cemetery on South Denley now holds a State of Texas Historical Marker, and the Sloan cabin has been donated to (and now resides on) the campus of Northwood University in Cedar Hill, the most prominent remnant of the later Lisbon era is the now massive Dallas VA Hospital on South Lancaster Road — built on former Sloan property. Like most of the early businesses, the old Lisbon Theater is no longer around. But Five Mile Creek continues to snake its way through the old community. Yes, Old Man River … I mean creek … just keeps on rolling along.

Written By
More from Gayla Brooks

The history of Abel Moreno and family

Of all the Morenos, the most recognized is the family’s other daughter,...
Read More
  • charles-smythe

    in the late 40s my family lived in the quantsid huts located between the VA hospital & Ledbetter rd. we lived at 4914 C Blue Bird Lane. the phone was a Mohawk exchange. Daddy got laid off at Neuhauf & got on at Chance Vought. we moved to Grand Prairie the weekend before I started the first grade. my brother went to the grade school on Lancaster until we moved.

  • Don B Cooper

    I met three women in a local bar and all three were from Lisbon. Two were very attractive but one had a man’s crew cut haircut. I asked one of the pretty ones to dance, and that’s when the ugly one stood up and told me that they were Lisbons. And now I know where they’re from.

  • Wanda

    I love this. The Sloan house sat on the south side of Loop 12 across from Bartlett St. I lived at 4818 Ramona across from where Owega dead ended into Ramona. I was about five when Glendale Pool opened and they developed the park by it. Prior to that everyone used “Old Glendale”. It was beautiful. There was a small parking area and a few picnic tables, but it was heavy with trees, fauna from the area and prairie grass which was sharp like a blade and very hard to cut down. Daddy called it Johnson grass. There were paths leading down to Five Mile Creek where people fished, swam and on real hot days, little boys went skinny dipping. I went seven years to that beautiful old Lisbon Elementary School. When I first started they still used the original old building but, if I recall correctly, they stopped using it when I was in 4th grade or maybe I just didn’t have any classes out there. They eventually tore it down. The main building had beautiful polished hardwood floors and door frames, wide stairways and the lunchroom was in the basement. I loved Lisbon. It was the best of times and places to grow up and I still have a wealth of precious memories and invaluable friends. Lynell Garrett Smith, Martha Bass Hunt, Brenda Kemp, Patricia Edmonson Vessels, Karen King Davidsaver, Gary Leverett, Theresa Morgan Mayfield, and more than I can list here. I think they would all say the same thing.

  • Doris

    I lived on Denly Dr right behind Lisbon Elementary school. I went there for 1st through 3rd grade. That would have been around 1965 to 1968 then we moved to the Western Park area. I remember going to the public pool there. It was at the corner of Denly and Ann Arbor and on the school ground. I remember the Lancaster-Kiest shopping center which was probably one of the first “malls”.

  • Roy Kronenberg

    Thank you for the clarification. I was always under the impression that it was at old City Park. I drove by the one you mentioned while over in the area and it didn’t look as I remembered, but then a lot of things don’t now days.
    Thanks again for the update

  • Gayla Brooks

    Roy, You are correct. The Miller cabin has been moved to Old City Park. I originally posted another answer, saying it was saved by Mr. & Mrs. Martin Weiss and given to a local DFW chapter, but I deleted that post and am writing this one…giving the correct information. I was simply mistaken by my first answer due to information overload!! Mr. & Mrs. Weiss did save another cabin, that of William Henry Hord.

  • Gayla Brooks

    Roy, The cabin was saved by Mr. & Mrs. Weiss and donated to the VFW. It’s on the VFW property that’s out on Loop 12/Cockrell Hill Rd. If you’ll email me, I’ll give you all the info. Thanks for posting.

  • Roy Kronenberg

    Gayla, didn’t they also move the old Miller cabin to Old City Park along with the Millermore Mansion? I went to elementary school at W B MIller across the street from the home and cabin. They would always take us across the street at Thanksgiving for a tour of the cabin, weather permitting

  • Danny Smith

    Another facinating chapter in the history of our “home town”, Gayla! Thank you again for your stories!

  • Gayla Brooks

    Thanks, Bill!! Glad you enjoyed the Lisbon story. It’s quite interesting. I had to leave out a lot. Space limits, of course. The Millermore Mansion is another interesting story. I am pondering a column on the place and someone in my family who has a story about the place. Guess we’ll see if that comes to fruition. FYI: My DAR chapter decorates the mansion each year before the Candlelight Christmas Tour.

  • Bill Melton

    In 1966, Millermore was about to be demolished. However, Bill McCalib and the Oak Cliff Chamber of Commerce and the Oak Cliff Historical ladies stepped in and the Mansion was moved to Dallas’ Old City Park, where it stands today as a beacon of Dallas History.
    Another wonderful story Gayla!