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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.