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Where did Thomas L. Marsalis go?

Posted by Jim Barnes 
Jim, this is all supposition on my part but I went back thru all the known data on T.L.(including the Dallas Hist. Online and the Mem. and Bio. Hist. of 1892)and I am not sure that T.L. was in such dire financial straits prior to the 1893 panic. In 1877, at age 25 his business was making over $750,000 annually. By about 1882 his sales were $1,500,000 annually. By 1884 he and John S. Armstrong were partners and grossing at some point over $20,000,000 and apparently contributing momentarily in various ways to growth of Dallas. By 1887 the two had such wealth they began to diversify (such as forming Dallas Land and Loan Co. which apparently they owned and so were the only shareholders.) and they began to invest in largely uninhabited and unincorporated Oak Cliff. By 1887 the Armstrong/Marsalis partnership ended.( Armstrong invested much of his money in meat packing and by 1906 was able to start buying land and developing H.P.)Now as to T.L. I think he probably was a wheeler-dealer type of entrepeneur with big dreams. His business practices were apparently very different from what is allowed today. This was the era after Reconstruction and Texas was wide open with practically no regulations or governmental type oversight. People like T.L. had left the rural South, equipped with whatever year of education or tutoring available to them, certainly no BA Degrees, to make their fortune. At various times during the years 1877-1893 T.L. invested much of his own personal wealth into his vision for Oak Cliff. At one time over $500,000 in land, $100,000 in the Park Hotel and mineral baths. In one report well over $1 million was listed as invested out of his personal worth. Some of these investments included street improvements, building a complete water works system which served the area until the city began to outgrow it, building an electric light plant, land for a resort park on which he built a 3 story dance pavilion and a summer opera house, and of course land for residential development. One of his 4 warehouses had a rr track running thru it and some where along the way he set up the Dallas and Oak Cliff RR Co. I have counted at least 6 "Companies" where he was proprietor and president. I THINK he probably used some of these in the sense of "robbing Peter to pay Paul"--probably (and I am not justifying the practice) justifying it in his own mind by the belief that his money owned them and had formed them anyway. The only reason I say this is a possibility is because of your previous posting-- in 1891 he buys 302 acres from Snodgrass for $41, 925 and in 1892 he sells the same to N.O.C.Co.(which he had formed and owned ) for $330,000. Now Jean's article says that in Oct. 1891, the PREVIOUS year, he had made "temporary" assignment of the Oak Cliff Land and Loan with its $300,000 liability and $1,500,000 in assets. It seems that he carried on with his other interests too because in 1892 he offered to improve and sell his water works plant or rent 45 fire hydrants to the by then incorporated Oak Cliff.
I think he probably did over extend himself and then the panic of 1893 came. However it would seem that he had enough of his accumulated wealth left to move his family up North.
One other intriguing thought : I saw that in 1889 some Philadelphia investors bought 377 acres for $500,000 for what was to become Highland Park. This idea was also cancelled by the 1893 panic.Ummm, wonder if they were acquainted with Marsalis and Armstrong (who, along with his son in law and another, did develop HP beginning about 1906) ?
New York City's Department of Records and Information Services, Municipal Archives, reported to me in a letter dated 8/18/04 that they searched their records for the years 1916-1920 and have found no record of the death of Thomas L. Marsalis in the borough of Manhattan.
This is an unexpected result. I'm not sure where the search should head next.
A second search for a T.L. Marsalis, Sr. death certificate in Manhattan was negative.
T.L., Jr. was married to Lillian Davenport. According to the DAR she was the daughter of Julius B. and Alice Sturgis Davenport of New York. This Davenport line originated in Connecticutt.
I am in possession of a sales invoice and related monthly statement from the Thurber Whyland & Co dated January and March 1885 and 1886. Any idea who may be interested in obtaining these items?
Jim Wheat
T. L. Marsalis: "died in 1922"
November 16, 2004 06:15AM
T. L. Marsalis, One of
Most Active Builders
of City, Arrived 1872
One of the pioneer builders of Dallas was T. L. Marsalis, who came here from Louisiana about the time the Houston & Texas Central Railroad completed its line into Dallas in 1872.
In his early business enterprises, Mr. Marsalis was highly successful, and his name now figures prominently in the history of the city. Marsalis avenue in Oak Cliff is named for him.
He was the developer of Oak Cliff, and it was in part through his efforts, that the right of way for the interurban to Fort Worth was obtained for the electric line. After a long absence, he came back to Dallas from New York to assist in getting the right of way.
One of his first achievements here was the opening of an addition in East Dallas. He was associated in the grocery business with the firm of M. D. Garlington & Co., and after that, established a wholesale grocery business. His store was at Elm and Murphy streets.
He disposed of his grocery business and began the development of Oak Cliff as a residence section. He built a steam railway line through that district to Tyler street and through West Dallas. This line was changed to an electric line in 1894. S. D. Armstrong was first associated with him in the wholesale grocery business and bought him out when he undertook the Oak Cliff venture.
Although the developer of Oak Cliff, Mr. Marsalis realized no lasting monetary reward for his endeavors there. He closed out most of his interest in 1892 and moved to New York, where he re-entered the mercantile business. He came back to Dallas in 1900 and helped obtain the interurban right of way for Cleveland, Ohio, capitalists. A few years later, he returned to New York, where he died in 1922.
- October 1, 1925, The Dallas Morning News, Sec. 3, p. 17.
How did you find that? And the solution to the mystery veteran in the iron lung, too? This is a serious question: are you poring over old copies of the News at the library?
Jim Wheat
"Mrs. Tom Marsalis Dies in New York" (1926)
November 16, 2004 07:08AM
[transcribed verbatim]
Mrs. Tom Marsalis
Dies in New York
Mrs. Tom W. Marsalis, wife of the late Tom W. Marshall of Dallas, died at her home, 227 Riverside Drive, New York, relatives in Dallas have been advised. She is survived by a son, T. W. Marsalis, Jr., of New York, and a sister, Mrs. J. T. Berry of Dallas. Mrs. Marsalis was the aunt of Mrs. T. P. Roberts and of H. E. Henry, also of Dallas.
She lived in Dallas for many years before taking up her residence in New York. Mr. Marsalis was among the builders of Dallas, having been one of the organizers of the J. W. Crowdus Drug Company, and was connected with a number of the older and larger firms of this city. Among the larger projects undertaken by Mr. Marsalis was the early development of Oak Cliff. Marsalis avenue in that suburb bears his name.
- April 14, 1926, The Dallas Morning News, Sec. I, p. 8.
Jim Wheat
Re: T. L. Marsalis: "died in 1922"
November 16, 2004 07:30AM
"How did you find that?"
via the Newsbank Dallas Morning News Archive, Vivian.
Pretty slow downloads with dialup -- DSL or cable is the way to go.
Details on the archive here:
Access (Dallas Public library card # required) the archives here:
Jim -
How do you get to the Newsbank?
The archives page says that articles are available only since 1985.
Thank you, Jim. SO she was listed as Mrs. Tom "W" Marsalis ? The death date matches because she is not on the 1930 census, however she is on the 1920 census along with her daughter and is listed as a widow. This conflicts with the 1922 death date for T.L., Sr. but at least we know they were still in N.Y. City. Both your postings from the Dallas paper were a huge surprise and much appreciated and bring some much desired closure.
Thanks Jim Wheat,
This case really needed a break and these are two great little items.
Sharon, would you like for me to run a check with the New York City Death Index, for 1922?
Jim (Barnes), since I can't post to your post I'll answer yours via mine. I am so excited about Jim Wheat's finds. I still have all the necessary N.Y. look up info so will request a new search. Just can't understand why Mrs. T. L. was already listed as widow in 1920---unless they had separated and the info for the census came from neighbors who decided the widow business. Another mystery !! I'll post when I hear from N.Y.
One more thought--remenber the posting I obtained from "Jean" that had T.L. on the 1900 census in Dallas ? Jim Wheat's obit says that T.L. returned in 1900 to Dallas to help with the interurban right of way to Cleveland AND that he returned a few years later to NY where he died in 1922!!Now he is on the 1910 NY Census so I'll check the 1920 Dallas Census.
Jim Wheat
T. L. Marsalis : "He died two years ago" [1919]
November 18, 2004 05:59AM
Sharon, I lean toward 1919 as being the year he died.
Thomas L. Marsalis Was One of
Really Strong Men of This
By W. S. Adair
One of the really strong men of early Dallas was Thomas L. Marsalis, builder of Oak Cliff, but he was so modest and retiring, that perhaps half the present population of the city have never heard of him. He came to Dallas with that energetic band Corsicanans when the Houston & Texas Central Railroad was completed to this city in 1872, removing to Dallas, when he came, a wholesale grocery business, which he had established at Corsicana. Associated with him in the concern was Moses D. Garlington and H. F. Underwood. At that time, Mr. Marsalis was 21 years old.
Shortly after settling in Dallas, Mr. Garlington withdrew from the firm to engage in the wholesale produce business. Marsalis and Underwood, who continued the grocery firm in 1875, erected a brick building on the northeast corner of Main and Lamar streets, now part of the E. M. Kahn Building. Three years later, Mr. Underwood retired from the company and Mr. Marsalis formed a partnership with W. C. Howard, who had established a wholesale grocery business at Fort Worth. The stock of Mr. Howard was brought to Dallas, and the two grocery houses were merged under the firm name of Marsalis & Howard, in a brick building on the northeast corner of Camp and Lamar streets. The building later was occupied for twenty-five or thirty years by Doc Chamberlain as a saloon.
Postoffice Removed.
Toward the end of the
Jim Wheat, you and Sharon are doing some terrific research. I need to sit back and wait for you blood-hounds to corner our fox.
We have so many dates of death for Thomas L. Marsalis that we may need to have a vote to decide the issue. (joke)
The 227 Riverside Drive address for Mrs. Marsalis is interesting. In the early Twentieth Century, and still today, this is a high rent and high society location, with a terrific view across the Hudson River to New Jersey, demonstrating once again that the currently prevailing legend that Thomas L. Marsalis died in impoverished obscurity are more wishful than accurate.
Unfortunately 2 searches of Manhattan deaths for years 1916 thru 1920 turned up nada. Perhaps he died in a neighboring borough like the Bronx.
Jim Wheat
Grave of Allene Marsalis, 1874 - 1878 (1928)
November 24, 2004 08:04PM
Dallas Has Its Own Trinity Churchyard
Unknown to Hurrying Thousands
A Half Forgotten Burial Ground
Slumbers in the Heart of the City
Here, In The Masonic And Odd Fellows
This could be T. L., Jr. : Ancestry.com has posted that Thomas LAFAYETTE Marsalis is listed in the Harvard University-Boston, Mass.-1913 Alumni Directory. His home address was 115 Broadway, New York City and occupation was Finance.
We know that the 1910 census has Jr.,aged 26 and a Stock Broker listed with his parents who were on Riverside Drive.!920 census has him married and living in N.J.
Perhaps "Lafayette"is the answer to the "L" of our Thomas L., Sr. and would make perfect sense considering the Miss./Louisiana background of the family.
The absence of any mention of any graves for Mr. or Mrs. Thomas L. Marsalis at Dallas' "Masonic Cemetery" lends strong support to Greg Jaynes' report that only the one infant Marsalis is buried at that Dallas location.
The "W.P.A. Dallas Guide and History" is certainly a great resource for historical information, but its report that Tom Maralis himself was buried in the old downtown cemetery appears to be an error.
Re: T. L. Marsalis Jr.
November 29, 2004 11:57AM
If Thomas L. Marsalis, Jr. were a graduate of Harvard University, then the University archives might have some very good records regarding him.
Harvard was proportionately no cheaper than it is now, only harder to get "scholarship" funding back then, demonstrating once again that the family was probably afluent.
The "Lafayette" middle name is great little find.
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