Oak Cliff history: How Jimtown Road became Clarendon Drive

The intersection of Hampton and Clarendon today: Photo by Danny Fulgencio
The intersection of Hampton and Clarendon today: Photo by Danny Fulgencio

At Clarendon and Hampton, there’s a tire shop, a 7-Eleven, a taqueria and Midway Auto Supply. During rush hours, Hampton’s six lanes are choked curb-to-curb with cars. It’s hard to imagine how this place looked when it was settled in the 1870s as Jimtown.

A country druggist named Jim Bumpass built a store on the northeast corner in 1879. He established a post office on the road to Duncanville, then called Cedar Hill Road, which was where Hampton is now.

It is no wonder they wanted a change. For one thing, the Dallas Morning News ran a syndicated column from 1926-1927 called “The Jimtown Weekly,” which printed jokes in the form of satirical news from a hillbilly town.

Jimtown was a small farming community, and Jimtown Road, now Clarendon, was built along the Santa Fe Railroad right of way.

The town had a wagon yard, livery stable, a union church and a one-room school.

The newspaper made fun of Jimtown in 1913 for “taking on real city airs” after residents voted 24-10 in favor of a town ordinance prohibiting livestock from roaming.

Jim Bumpass died in 1903, the year Oak Cliff was annexed into Dallas. And Jimtown was annexed around 1915.

But that wasn’t the end of the story for Jimtown. In 1927, the city began making plans to extend Jimtown Road eastward from Edgefield. The city also eventually would widen the existing road, between Edgefield and Hampton, with homeowners yielding 30-80 feet of their property.

With all the talk of widening the road and making it a thoroughfare to Beckley and Ewing, neighbors decided they wanted to rebrand.

Seventy-five nearby property owners petitioned the city in 1929 to change the name of Jimtown Road. They didn’t pitch an idea for a new name, but they wanted something that sounded more dignified.

It is no wonder they wanted a change. For one thing, the Dallas Morning News ran a syndicated column from 1926-1927 called “The Jimtown Weekly,” which printed jokes in the form of satirical news from a hillbilly town.

But then in 1931 the paper ran an editorial, “A plea for Jimtown Road,” accusing neighbors of being fussy for proposing the name Jamestown Road. The writer asked if we should change the name of Turtle Creek as well. It’s funny. Turtle Creek does sound rather backwater out of context as the chi-chi Dallas neighborhood we know it to be. The column ended by sarcastically suggesting the name High Hat Hollow.

Neighbors were afraid the name Jimtown Road could hurt property values, and “we live in the city and are entitled some name usually applied to a street in the city and not a road in the country,” wrote Walter J. Tatom in response to the column.

Jim Bumpass became postmaster of Jimtown in 1878.
Jim Bumpass became postmaster of Jimtown in 1878.

Bumpass’ widow was interviewed a few days later and said that when her husband applied for a post office, there was already a place called Jamestown, Texas, and that’s how it came to be Jimtown. But she said her husband worked hard to make Jimtown what it was, and he sometimes was called Jimtown himself.

Petitioners tried to convince city council to retain the name of Jimtown Road in a last-ditch effort filed July 9, 1931. But council voted a few days later to rename Jimtown Road to Clarendon Drive, between Ewing and Westmoreland.

It’s unclear where the name Clarendon comes from, but it could be named after the town of Clarendon, Texas, which was an important trading post in the old cattle-driving days. Or like Clarendon, Va., it could be named for the first Earl of Clarendon, a 17th-century English statesman. That seems more dignified.

The Jimtown store was torn down in 1940, and old-timers continued to call Clarendon by its old name, Jimtown Road, into the ’60s and ’70s.

Perhaps Jimtown wasn’t the worst of old Jim Bumpass’ patronymic problems. After the turn of the century, his family name appears with a different spelling. A 1941 obituary for his heir announced the passing of Nat Bumpas, son of James Bumpas.

An original map of Jimtown from 1878
An original map of Jimtown from 1878

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  • Barbara M. Chapman

    Until he died in 2004 at the age of 103, my daddy still called the area Jimtown.

  • Hdz Family

    Wow, my house was built in 1925 during the Jimtown Road Era. NEAT!! 🙂

  • Jrhdz

    Thats cool i live on clarendon dr