Welcome! Log In Create A New Profile


Coal/wood heating for homes

Posted by Dennis H 
Coal/wood heating for homes
September 20, 2020 11:31AM
A bit early in the fall to ask but I will anyway:
Which was the primary heating fuel for homes in Dallas before WW1?

Anyone ever see an older Dallas home that had a coal bin or coal chute?

When did natural gas take over for heating homes in Dallas?
I recall the house we had in Oak Cliff had gas floor heaters. I'm guessing it was built
in the 1930s, possibly the 1920s.
Re: Coal/wood heating for homes
September 20, 2020 07:46PM
Dennis, my mother's house on Waverly St. near Sunset HS in Oak Cliff had two gas floor furnaces, and was built in 1913. It also had a fake fireplace, one that had no flue, though there was a fake chimney as well. The floor furnaces could have been added at some date well after it was built, however. It also had gas valves in the living, dining, and bed rooms, and a gas heater in the wall in one bathroom, but not the other.

I have seen a house in Oak Cliff with an oil tank on the back porch for heating oil, though it was not in use. That house was similar in age to my mother's house, but located on Eighth Street near Tyler. I have heard of, but not seen, houses with coal chutes. Coal was a common fuel in Dallas in the early 20th century, and was from the coal mines west at Thurber. The gas and oil discoveries around Ranger provided fuel that displaced coal for the railroads, and probably for home heating.

Added in edit: The oil and gas fields around Ranger were developed in the teens and twenties of the last century, I believe.

A search of the archives will find a discussion of coal burning and houses with coal chutes in Dallas.

I have been told by a relative that my mother's house on Waverly was built in 1925, not 1913. However, I distinctly recall family discussions that said 1913. Since she was not the original owner, and I have not seen paperwork, neither date may be correct, actually. But, it was early 20th century, and Sunset HS dates from that time frame.

Dave McNeely

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 09/21/2020 10:48AM by old man from dallas.
Re: Coal/wood heating for homes
October 01, 2020 08:05AM
Dave, do you know if the house on Waverly is still there? Do you know the house number? The DCAD siate is fairly reliable with regards to year built information for houses (much better than Collin County). Also, since houses on a street or in a neighborhood tend to be built around the same time, you should be able to determine the correct year (or get close).
Re: Coal/wood heating for homes
October 01, 2020 09:09AM
sharkins Wrote:
> Dave, do you know if the house on Waverly is still
> there? Do you know the house number? The DCAD
> siate is fairly reliable with regards to year
> built information for houses (much better than
> Collin County). Also, since houses on a street or
> in a neighborhood tend to be built around the same
> time, you should be able to determine the correct
> year (or get close).

Hi Sharkins, The address is 403 S Waverly Dr. The last time I was by there some six years ago the house was still there. The neighborhood (Winnetka Heights?) is a historical district. Though there was some decline in maintenance during the 1970s and 1980s, I think beginning in the 1980s there was a fair bit of new ownership, and neighborhood maintenance improved considerably. Do you have a link for the DCAD? Or I can find it I guess.

Added in edit: DCAD has 1920 as the year built for the house at 403 S Waverly. It also shows heating as being "Central Heat Full," and that reminded me that my mother put in a furnace and air conditioning in about 1974 or so, replacing the floor furnaces and window units that were there when she bought the place some ten years before. The house had an attic fan (whole house fan in today's terminology), and if it was turned on at about ten p.m., and left until around eight a.m., then the house closed, it would remain reasonably comfortable for most of the day so long as the outside high temperature stayed below about 95 and it cooled off into the 70s at night. That fan was about 5 ft across, mounted with a horizontal axis, and was situated above the front porch in the attic rather than at the opening in the hallway between the attic and the living space.

Dave McNeely

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 10/01/2020 09:28AM by old man from dallas.
Re: Coal/wood heating for homes
November 12, 2020 12:45PM
Dennis H Wrote:
> A bit early in the fall to ask but I will anyway:
> Which was the primary heating fuel for homes in
> Dallas before WW1?
> Coal?
> Wood?
> Anyone ever see an older Dallas home that had a
> coal bin or coal chute?
> When did natural gas take over for heating homes
> in Dallas?
> I recall the house we had in Oak Cliff had gas
> floor heaters. I'm guessing it was built
> in the 1930s, possibly the 1920s.

Dennis, another point regarding early day use of gas in cities generally, but including Dallas: Synthetic gas was often used, piped to houses, commercial entities, and industrial sites just as natural gas is. Two main forms of the gas were "coal gas," produced by destructive distillation of coal, and "water gas," a by product of sewage treatment. These gases gained widespread use for lighting before they caught on for heating, and were much more heavily utilized in industry for firing boilers and other processes than they ever were for residential heating, but they were so used.

The gas lamps on city streets were more often fueled by synthetic gas than by natural gas, as were those in hotels, homes, and so on before natural gas became widely available. The incident where Quanah Parker and a companion were nearly gassed to death in a hotel because they blew out the gas lamp rather than turn it off with the valve involved coal gas, not natural gas, and that was in the 20th century. That particular negative to the use of gas disappeared with the use of cloth mantles, which could not be blown out.

Besides asphyxiation, another con for use of these gases for either lighting or heating was that they were corrosive due to impurities, and equipment failed more quickly than with the natural gas that replaced them.

In the 1990s I used to go to a remote field location in Mexico where the buildings were both heated and lit with propane. Students would always be amazed at gas lights, some of them going so far as to aver that they did not believe they were actually gas, and also disputed that the refrigerators' operation involved a gas flame ("You can't get cold from a flame, Dr. McNeely"winking smiley. But explanation of how the refrigerator worked sufficed almost always but not every time.

Dave McNeely
Re: Coal/wood heating for homes
November 12, 2020 10:19PM
I misspoke a bit in the above post. Water gas is a synthetic gas produced by passing superheated steam over coal or other hydrocarbon material. It was produced widely in the 19th and early 20th centuries as I said, however. The gas from sewage when used as a fuel is simply called methane (which it mostly is, as is natural gas). The gas from sewage is used as fuel, however, today mostly onsite at sewage treatment plants.

The gas from sewage has a very high hydrogen sulfide (rotten egg odor) content, and is quite corrosive. It also burns less completely than does natural gas, perhaps because of the hydrogen sulfide, even if supplied with ample air, and so produces more carbon monoxide.

Dave McNeely

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 02/10/2021 10:43AM by old man from dallas.
Re: Coal/wood heating for homes
November 12, 2020 11:16PM
I remember while living in a rural area of Adair County, Oklahoma in 1949 near the community of Bidding Springs, electricity was not available until after we moved to Oklahoma City. Propane was available and we had a SERVEL (may be spelled wrong) refrigerator that operated on propane, no light when you opened the door. We also had a MAYTAG washer that operated by a gasoline engine with a kick starter. Had a big warning sign, "DO NOT OPERATE INDOORS-DANGEROUS EXHAUST". Got a water heater and thought that was beyond belief, no heating water on the stove which at that time was wood fired. Just before we moved we got a propane stove and cooked food no longer had a wood odor, especially baked goods.

In the County Seat, Stilwell, there was a SERVEL Store. As the RURAL ELECTRIC ASSOCIATION (R.E.A) provided more electric power to the County, a NORGE and AMANA Store opened directly across from the SERVEL Store selling electric appliances and I believe they were owned by the same family.

Charged up the tractor battery on Saturday morning by running the old INTERNATIONAL HARVESTER, so we could use it to listen to the GRAND OLE OPERA on Saturday night. Had a PHILCO radio that operated on six volts. Had an antenna stretched from the house to the barn.

Had a crock pot with sauerkraut during cabbage season, which was canned for use during the off seasons, got a Jersey cow so the milk would have more butter fat to make better butter and cottage cheese, which was contained in cheese cloth and hung on the clothes line to drip off all the extra liquid. During the winter it would freeze, so it hung in the house above a wash tub.

I have heard country folk speak of the terrible task of picking (pulling) cotton. During season we raised strawberries, low to the ground and picking them left you hands stained for a week or more. They closed the schools during harvest time, everybody old enough to bend over picked.

All fruit and vegetables harvested went to Stilwell Packing at the County Seat, which I believe is still in business as I have seen Stilwel Brand frozen strawberries in grocery stores.

Milk was transported to the railroad station in Stilwell and transported to the dairy in Tulsa in 10 gallon milk containers. If you missed the 8:00 a.m. train, you most often had to throw out the milk as no refrigeration was available. I also remember the 11:15 a.m. train not stopping and the mail for the post office was thrown onto the station platform as the train sped by. Outgoing mail was hung along side the tracks in a large bag which was snatched by a device as the train passed. This was entertainment, kind of a boring area to live in.

We moved away when I was six, remember during the late fall and winter a lot of school children were forced to wear Asphidity Bags around their neck, usually a white tobacco bag and a braided cord made from cow or deer hide. It contained a bunch of dried weeds and herbs that was supposed to ward off the flu and colds. It was a pungent odor and I can only imagine how the school room smelled.

As the colder weather began, I remember the two fifty gallon drums appearing and realizing the hogs were about to be slaughtered. Always upset me as with any kid, I became attached to them and thought of them more as pets than a food source. Same thing a couple of days before Thanksgiving knowing one of the turkeys was going to make the sacrifice and become the star of the meal.

A great treat was going to Horseshoe Bend of the Illinois River between Stilwell and Tahlequah and fishing for catfish and camping overnight. Came home covered in chigger and tick bites. A lot of people used kerosene as a chigger and tick preventive, do not stand near the fire.
Re: Coal/wood heating for homes
November 13, 2020 09:50AM
hi Cop, Sounds a lot like my relatives in SE Oklahoma during the same time frame and up into the 1960s. By then I think all but one uncle who was just stubborn had electricity though. I don't remember when the reservoirs on the Illinois River went in, but by the time I frequented the Adair, Cherokee, Mays and nearby counties in Oklahoma, Horseshoe Bend was a part of one of them. Still good catfishing, though. My favorite fishing on the Illinois though was wade fishing for smallmouth bass further upstream.

Stillwell strawberries were a favorite when I lived in Tulsa in the 1970s. We didn't drive over just for them, but we were always over that way several times in the season, and would buy them from roadside farm stands. Far better than the stuff from California! But, when I moved back to Oklahoma in 2001, I was soon in Adair County for some field work. I thought I'd get some strawberries. None to be found. Then I tried the internet, and finally contacted the Agricultural Extension Office for the county. I was told that there was no longer any commercial strawberry production in NE Oklahoma. When I asked why, the agent said that the farms could not compete with California. I expect availability of labor also mattered, but he did not seem to agree. Same with Porter peaches. One orchard still remained at Porter in the early part of this century.

When I bought apples from the last remaining commercial orchard in nearby Arkansas (damn these old age memory problems), I was told that that was the last year the orchard would operate. I asked why, and the very old woman waved her hand across the hillside nearby with a housing development, mostly second homes for retreat, and said it was more profitable to grow houses than it was to grow apples.

Your boyhood home area of Oklahoma has some of the cleanest streams remaining in the U.S., and they were always clear and clean, with beautiful assemblages of many species of fishes, with some of the best smallmouth bass fishing in the U.S. Barron Fork of the Illinois, and Spring Creek in Mays County are the best. Many of the streams are now polluted with runoff from chicken farms, however, and instead of being clear and clean, a lot of streams are thick and green with algal growth. Tyson and the other giant chicken companies care nothing for streams, and the contract farmers do whatever the company demands. The governments of Oklahoma and Arkansas are unwilling to enforce pollution laws and regulations, and in fact, Oklahoma sued the EPA to stop national enforcement.

Well, this has little to nothing to do with Dallas, but you got me going on NE Oklahoma.

added in edit: Cop, I found this online, so evidently there is some production, probably locally consumed in its entirety. Another article I found but was unable to copy or even read completely because of a paywall said that the number of acres in production in the county could be counted on two hands with fingers left, and said that the producers were all relatively new to strawberry production.


Dave McNeely

Edited 1 time(s). Last edit at 11/13/2020 10:00AM by old man from dallas.
Re: Coal/wood heating for homes
November 13, 2020 11:10PM
Dave, right after I retired from the Police Department, my wife and I visited the old farm. I could not remember the new name of the Community of Bidding Springs and the road off of State Highway 51, so I stopped at the Sheriffs Office in Stilwell.

I told them we lived directly west of the old Golda's Mill, a famous landmark and on the National Register of Historic Places and was informed it was struck by lightening and completely burned and the remnants removed, only a portion of the native rock foundation remained. They did however give me directions to the Community of Wauhillau, formerly Bidding Springs. If I recall correctly, Wauhillau is in the Cherokee language, Hummingbird.

With the directions came a stern warning to be aware there was a lot of illegal marijuana being grown in the area and those producing the new CASH CROP did not like visitors. We visited during the winter, so I did not see any crops other than a lot of winter rye, cattle food I am sure as I did see several dairy producers in the area.

Found the old farm, talked to the older couple living there and they knew all the nearby farmers and families I remembered, most long gone.

I realized that Adair County was always considered the poorest county in Oklahoma, the availability of farm labor was very limited. The use of school children and other labor, even remember our Pastor helping with the strawberry harvest, as well as the school teacher.

The Sheriff told me that all the young people after graduating high school move away, either to college or jobs, as the job market in Adair County was just about non-existent. I saw that Stilwell Packing had built a much larger facility, but saw no vehicles in the parking area and no indication it was currently in operation. Makes me believe they only operated as needed, during harvest time.

My wife and I planned for years of moving to Lake Tenkiller when I retired. At the exact time I retired she began a long decline due to serious health issues, finally becoming completely bedridden the last 14 years of her life. It was a full time job caring for her and the thought of moving vanished as all her health care providers were in the Dallas area.

I do however plan on a trip by myself this coming Spring. My grandparents and parents built a cabin at Lake Tenkiller in 1959. Many fond memories. Kind of a drudge to drive from Oklahoma City as Interstate Highway 40 was way in the future and there were many small towns on U.S. Highway 62. Remember driving across the Arkansas River Bridge between Webber Falls and Gore that seemed to be 10 feet wide and 10 miles long, the impression of a kid.

Have never seen the Arkansas River Navigation System. I was told there are locks and dams between Tulsa and the Oklahoma-Arkansas border near Fort Smith, Arkansas and then on to the Mississippi River I assume.
Re: Coal/wood heating for homes
November 14, 2020 08:23AM
Dallas Cop, I am sorry that you wife suffered and that you lost her.

Interesting report. I have been to all the places you mentioned. During the 1970s, when I was doing field work in that area, I would on occasion stop at Golda's Mill, which at that time was still there and one could buy corn meal. The woman operating the mill would even grind the corn while you waited. That corn meal made the best corn bread I have ever eaten.

I believe that bridge you mentioned was the one that was struck by a barge train during a high water event some 15 or so years ago. Several cars plunged into the river and I believe some people died. It turned out that the tug captain was intoxicated.

According to this, there were last year (2019) only 3 strawberry growers in Adair County, so I suspect that all the berries produced go to the local Strawberry Festival, and that that event probably depends heavily on strawberries imported from out of state, like some other local crop festivals do in other places. For example, at Poteet, Texas, once the largest strawberry producer in Texas, the local strawberry festival, which attracts thousands of people from San Antonio, dispenses tremendous volumes of California strawberries. Similarly, the Apple Festival in Elliot County, Kentucky, brings in tons of apples from out of state.


Correction, it was the I-40 bridge that was hit and it was out of commission for a long time. People had to detour by way of the bridge you described, and that made for a slow traverse, as traffic had become very heavy on I-40 of course, and the old bridge could not handle the traffic, plus the traffic had to traverse the nearby towns.

Dave McNeely

Edited 2 time(s). Last edit at 11/14/2020 10:13AM by old man from dallas.
Re: Coal/wood heating for homes
November 14, 2020 11:20PM

The old bridge I mentioned was replaced during the Arkansas River Navigation Project. The bridge between Webber Falls (never figured out where the falls were) and Gore had two small buildings at each end. If a truck needed to cross and was wider than the lane, a bridge tender (that was the title I was told and I saw a death notice from Gore describing the deceased as a former bridge tender) would call the opposite end to another bridge tender who would stop traffic, allow the truck to pass, then allow normal traffic flow.

I assume the bridge was constructed during the Model T and Model A era and I guess they never visioned vehicles would be wider later in time.

Can you imagine if that bridge remained and was not replaced and during the period the Interstate Highway 40 bridge was out of commission the enormous amount of traffic that was re-routed, a lot of truck traffic.

I did see an article in either the Oklahoma City or Muskogee newspaper describing the business boom to Webber Falls and Gore during the re-routing of Interstate Highway 40 and it mentioned that there were so few gasoline and diesel providers that they would run out of fuel daily as well as the few eating establishments being crowded and busy like never before.

In 1961, myself and a cousin replaced the roof on a neighbor's cabin at Lake Tenkiller. During the task, we found that the metal edging needed to be replaced. We drove first to Gore, was directed to a hardware dealer in Webber Falls that may possibly provide some.

As we entered the store, my cousin saw a soft drink dispenser, one of those where you put in the coins, then slid the bottle to a place where a locking device was released, allowing removal of the bottle. I heard him say, "My gosh, Grapette".

At that time for some reason Grapette was not available in Oklahoma City. He asked the hardware dealer where he got it and was informed the Royal Crown Bottling Company in Muskogee provided it. The hardware dealer was unable to provide the metal edging we needed and again we were directed to another provider in Muskogee.

Our first stop in Muskogee was at the Royal Crown Bottler, my cousin purchased five cases of Grapette and had to pay the two cent deposit on the bottles in addition to the cost of the Grapette. A year or so later on a trip to Lake Tenkiller, he stopped at the bottler and cashed in his bottles. If I remember correctly Grapette returned to the market in Oklahoma City by then and again disappeared while I was in the service in 1966. I think Walmart purchased the brand name later and it is again available.

Great memories, love the Cherokee and Adair County areas, wish things had worked out where my wife and I could have retired to the area.
Sorry, only registered users may post in this forum.

Click here to login