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David the Yardman: Former Slave?

Posted by adam 
David the Yardman: Former Slave?
July 18, 2006 06:42AM
Does anyone have any information about, or remember, the old African-American yardman, said to have been born a slave, first name of David, who, back in the 1950s, even on the hottest days of summer, used to push a large wooden push cart (about half the size of a old wagon that would have been pulled by two mules) from his modest home somewhere in South Dallas over the (Cadiz Street) bridge through Oak Cliff up the steep hill on Ewing Ave. to a house in the 1200 block of Harlendale Street, where he spent all day doing hard manual labor in the yard of just one customer's yard, for a modest fee, before pushing the handcart back home again?
I knew David well, talked to him a lot, when I was a small child, but didn't appreciate the ramifications of what he did and how he did it until much later. After I moved away from Dallas, my mother told me that a newspaper article had been written about him revealing how old he was at that time (I couldn't have guessed) and his possible slave origins. I think it said he was well over 100 years old at the time of the article (and I think he was still doing yardwork, but I didn't see the article). Any information about David or the article would be appreciated.
I lived on Woodbine Street in Oak Cliff during my early growing up years in the 50
Re: David the Yardman: Former Slave?
July 18, 2006 09:05PM
I will email you both a few articles that might be what you are looking for.
All the facts are the same in these articles, but his name was not Dave or David. This particular ex-slave, yardman living in Oak Cliff at the time...was named Will Scott, but seems to have gone through a few names.
I'll let you decide if it might be him smiling smiley
Carol Ann.... That's a great post!! What memories! I'm hoping someone will dig up the old newspaper article and post at least a transcript here for the board to read.
Do give us some more of your memories of OC in the 1950s, or anytime.
Bill Ferris
Re: David the Yardman: Former Slave?
July 18, 2006 09:43PM
I ran across an article about that man in a search I was doing in the DMN Newsbank. I forgot what I was looking for at the time, but the query pulled up the article. There are some fascinating articles about old Dallas history in the DMN archives. Kind of clunky to use though.
Re: Will Scott Photos
July 19, 2006 04:53AM
Thank you so much for the pictures of Will Scott. Interesting man. The facts are similar, but I am pretty sure that the man I knew was not Will. Another very kind poster to this board, Ralph F. Black, sent me a Dallas Morning News [issue 1973-06-02, Sec.D, Page 6] obituary of a man called David Peterson, a former slave, who was reputed to have been 122 years old at the time of death. From the other facts in the obit, I am virtually certain that this man, David Peterson, was the yardman named David that I knew. The age of 122 years seems incredible, but this was really an incredible individual. I am so happy I had the chance to know him and to see the way he handled his situation.
[Slightly off topic] Do any of you know if Dallas papers typically wrote an obituary for every note-worthy African-American who died in the 1950s and 1960s? Or, did that come later? I delivered both papers in the 50s and 60s, read both, and don't remember that many positive stories about blacks. But, maybe I didn't pay sufficient attention. Or, maybe I just forgot.
How do you access the DMN Archives? Is it online? When I was in high school in the 70s, I used to spend my Saturday afternoons, looking through the microfilm of the DMN, DTH, and Dallas Express at the Dallas Public Library.
Bill Ferris
Re: David the Yardman: Former Slave?(DMN Archives)
July 19, 2006 05:57AM
The DMN archives have been digitized. So not only can you use the internet to search keywords for articles, but they also have taken digital images of the articles themselves.
You can also read that entire day's paper in .pdf format too.
I have an SMU library card which lets me access the DMN Newsbank for free. I think with the Dallas Public Library you have to be on site to view.
I don't have any information about David, and certainly nothing as wonderful as the post about the rose bushes. However, wasn't there also a fellow with similar life who lived in the settlement along Hillcrest, or maybe near Lake Highlands? I seem to recall that he used a wagon with truck tires, pulled by a horse. I also seem to remember there being a DMN story about him at one time.
Frank Tolbert wrote an article about Will Scott and other former slaves, titled "Some Slaves I've Known." Scott evidently lived at the corner of Landis and North streets, hard by the Corinth Street bridge. Quite a bit about Scott's life there in a brief story. According to Tolbert, Scott was a yardman at well beyond 100 years old.
The article can be read in Tolbert's book, _Tolbert's Texas_," a compilation of some of his DMN columns.
In the same book is a column about Walter Harris, known locally as Pap, a fellow who was more than 100 years old in the 1970s, who lived in Celina, Collin County (now a far N. Dallas suburb). Harris continued to do farm work and work as a yardman in the 1970's at well over a hundred years of age.
Dave Mc
Re: David the Yardman: Former Slave?
July 19, 2006 08:37AM
I will have to go read that article from Ralph's findings. Thanks!
I came across many of Frank Tolbert's columns yesterday while trying to help Adam & Carol Ann. What a neat guy. Reminds me of that reporter on TV a few years back that lived in Glen Rose or was it Granbury? He did briefs about Texas History. Anyone know who I am talking about? I think we discussed him here a number of years back.
Rickie, You can access newsbank from home with a Dallas library Card.
This is a little tough for those of us living in 'exile'. Anybody have any thoughts on access for us out of state?
there was an old black man in lakewood in the 70s and 80s.
he would work in peoples yards and do odd jobs. people called him willie.
he would sleep in someones garage or servants quarters or in the alley sometimes.
people gave him handouts and food.
in the late 80s he sat down with a bottle of liquor between the glo cleaner and the 7-11 on a freezing cold halloween night and froze to death.
Partial text of article about David the Yardman.
Title: Rites for Ex-Slave, David Peterson, Set
Copyright 2004, The Dallas Morning News
Date 1973-0602
For personal use only: Not for atribution, sale, distribution, or publication.
Funeral services for David Peterson, a former slave who is believed to have been 122 years old, will be held at 3 p.m. Saturday [June 1973?] in Greater Emmanuel Baptist Church, 1706 Ave. B. Burial will be in Lincoln Memorial Cemetery.
Peterson, who might have been the oldest living American until his death, died Thursday in a Dallas hospital.
He once made a tape recording for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren in which he reminisced about his childhood under slavery. Part of the tape will be played at the funeral.
A government record from 1866 indicates that Peterson was born Nov. 22, 1850, according to a Parkland Hospital spokesman.
A Dallas resident since 1914, he once said he was born in Arkansas. When he and his family were freed, they moved to Shreveport, La.
During the past few years he lived in what looked like a tree house with his grandson, Ronald Hll. Peterson built the home himself in the upper portion of an unfinished garage apartment.
Survivors include a number of grandchildren, great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren.
What a sad story. I hope he was given respect in death.
Dave Mc
I wonder what happened to the tape recording played at his funeral. That would be a wonderful oral history of slave experience. Hope it is in historical archives in Dallas.
In the late 40s and early 50s there was an elderly black man with a wagon and horse or mule that did yardwork in West Oak Cliff. My Grandparents lived on W 12th off Hampton. The fellow would stop at their house and talk to my Granddad. They loaned tools back and forth as I remember them taking tools off and on the wagon. My Granddad has a lot of mule drawn plows etc. as he gardened with a mule on land he had rented between Twelth and Jefferson. He also had a milk cow on that same property. The name I remember was "Jarles". Hopefully someone can help me with this.
Re: Will Scott Photos
July 19, 2006 04:27PM
Linda, Ralph, Fred, Bill and all, I was absolutely overwhelmed with everyone
Re: Will Scott Photos
July 19, 2006 05:28PM
Carol Ann,
I'm sure I speak for many of us when I say that we've also had a special glow today because of you and your wonderful story about a very special man and a similarly special rose bush.
I knew a "Yardman," thank the Lord, but he was eternally more than that. His name was Paul Schotennius (my spelling is poor), he was born at Prague, Oklahoma ... sometime about 1895 (later, a resident of Buckner Orphanage) ... of African-American and Seminole parentage and he and his wife, Claudine, shaped my life. Paul also lived to be about 105 and was the ever-abiding support of our family.
Thank you, Paul.
Will you help me find him?
Many thanks,
PS. I'm not too good at placing folks in a locale.
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