Individuals and Families

By:  S. Michael Boyd

June 14, 2000


Elijah (Lige) James Harris was born May 12, 1872 in a log cabin in Dickson County Tennessee.  The 83 acre Harris farm was located just east of Charlotte, Tennessee.  In 1897, he married Nola Josephine Nicks.

 While still in Tennessee, Lige worked first driving a street car in Nashville.  Later when the Spanish-American war broke out, he worked in Cumberland Furnace making war implements.

 After their house burned down around 1905, they decided to move to Texas to farm.  In 1906, Lige and family took a riverboat down the Mississippi, transferred to the train and moved to Texas.  They were met at the train station by Lige’s sister Sallie and brother Mose who already lived here.

 Lige and family settled in the Naaman Community, now a part of Northeast Garland, Texas, in Dallas County.

Joe, Moses, Burgess and Sallie Harris, Lige’s siblings, had all moved to Texas, leaving their parents in Tennessee.  Most of Lige’s kids were to never meet their Harris grandparents.

 Burgess allegedly moved to Texas because his kids didn’t have to go to school and later moved to Arkansas when Texas made school mandatory.

 Lige first took up farming like most of his family but had service in his blood and took up community service by becoming the Fire Marshall in the fledgling community of Garland.  Fire was on the mind of most of the residents in those days as the downtown area had been completely devastated by fire in 1899 and again in 1902.

 In 1906 downtown Garland was a small community square surrounded by 2 banks, several dry goods stores, 2 barber shops, a tailor and, or course, the post office.  Just off the square was Garland’s finest, the Garland Hotel.  On down the street from the hotel going east was the Tobacco shop and Pool Room, a popular local hangout.  The sidewalks were made of wood and any fire would have quickly spread.

 By 1915, technology was quickly changing with more advanced delivery of electricity and of course, the spread of the automobile.  The tobacco shop and pool house had been replaced by the “ice house”, and the old post office on the east side of the square had been replaced with “Ford sales”.  By 1919, car sales were growing and the Ford dealership had to move around onto present day Main Street to make room for new car sales and parts.  The city even owned a Ford fire engine with 2 – 60 gallon water tanks to put out any local fire emergency.  A second engine would not be added until 1927 when the city began to pave the streets with asphalt.

 To further protect the downtown, Lige Harris was hired to be Fire Marshall.  He family always referred to him as a “Night watchman”, but when the City Council approved his pay each month ($25), he was simply referred to as Lige Harris, Fire Marshall.

 The State Fire Inspection maps referred to the position as “Night watchman” also as the maps noted:  “nightwatchman paid by the city and the merchants patrols the business section from 3:00 p.m until 5:00 a.m. and reports hourly at 3 (?) stations of Newman Clock”.

 The original city jail was shown as the “Calaboose” on the 1906 City fire maps and was located in the area of the present city jail, in the alley behind and near the Garland Hotel.  The Harris family always referred to the jail as the “Calaboose” but by 1919 the Fire Maps had begun to refer to the jail in the more modern term.

 Lige was shot down in cold blood while patrolling downtown Garland in September of 1924 and died a couple of days later.

 In early 2000, the Dallas County Commissioners voted to name the County – Sub – Courthouse, which is located approximately 200 feet north of the site of the original “Calaboose”, the E. J. Harris Building.

This article originally appeared in the Garland/Mesquite section of The Dallas Morning News  on August 18, 1995.


By Michael R. Hayslip

Myra Belle Shirley, later known as Belle Starr, was a local girl who probably made the 10-Least-Wanted List of visitors on many farms during the early days in northeast Dallas County.

Bob Robinson of Mesquite still remembers the grisly tales of his great-grandfather, W. T. Moore, an early settler in the Pleasant Mound community near the intersection of Scyene Road and Buckner Boulevard, who was familiar enough with Ms. Starr to keep a respectful distance and stay out of her sight. His great-grandfather claimed that farmers ducked for cover behind their plows whenever the notorious outlaw rode into view. “Sensible people were convinced that Belle Starr would just as soon shoot you as look at you,” said Robinson.

Born in 1848 in Carthage, Missouri, Belle grew up during the strain of pre-Civil War divisions there, laying foundations for a folklore mystique in which fact becomes blurred with fiction. Amidst the frequent clashes of Confederate guerillas and Federals, in one of which her brother was killed, she is credited with daring exploits to aid the Confederates. She is also supposed to have developed a passion for Cole Younger.

To escape the difficulties in Southwestern Missouri, and perhaps to thwart the two lovers, Belle’s father moved the family to Texas in 1863. Although her older brother had already settled near McKinney, the other Shirleys moved onto a farm at Scyene, now Mesquite, where Belle soon gave birth to a daughter. John William Rogers in The Lusty Texans of Dallas suggests that the child may have been Younger’s, but refuses to speculate on her legitimacy, since all but one of Belle’s marriages seem to be legally suspect. “At any rate,” Rogers concludes, “Cole Younger passed out of the picture and she became known as the wife of Jim Reed, by whom she had a second child, a son.”

For entertainment, the young mother frequented Dallas hot spots and left her parental responsibilities with family members back home in Scyene. She became a singer and an entertainer in a dance hall, later dealing poker and faro as a professional gambler. Frequenting saloons, where she always stepped up to the bar like a man, Belle customarily wore two revolvers, high-topped boots and a Stetson hat with an ostrich plume to complement her tight black jacket, chiffon waists and velvet skirts. She always attracted attention with her dashing appearance while riding her horse either side-saddle or astride, and was considered both a crack shot and an excellent horsewoman.

In his book Belle Starr, Burton Rascoe writes this account: “When the mood struck her, she shocked the women and more respectable citizens of Dallas by (donning Buffalo-Bill-type outfits and) riding at breakneck speeds through the streets of the town, scattering everyone to the sidewalk. The constabulary and the whole town were afraid of her; and she gloried in being pointed out as the Bandit Queen. She had nothing to fear as long as there was no warrant for her arrest.”

After Reed was killed near Paris, Texas in 1874, Belle ran a livery stable and was reported to prefer the steady company of outlaws, for whom she was presumed to have marketed stolen stock and provided refuge in times of trouble. But apparently she had also stolen horses herself in her spare time. The 1927 Garland News local retrospective of Mrs. George W. “Kate” James includes her own memory of Belle, probably from the early 1870s, as “one of the most daring and boldest horse thieves ever infesting this community.”

Due in part to the scarcity of law enforcement officers, the stealing of horses and cattle was prevalent, and none was covered by any insurance; consequently, livestock owners in the area formed vigilante committees to deal with the thieves by suspending them from a stout limb of the nearest tree. Mrs. James, who lived at the time in the Duck Creek community where Duck Creek crosses Forest Lane, remarked that “This method had good affect and lessened stealing perceptibly. We wonder,” she continued, “if that plan would stop some of the auto stealing today (1927).”

But Belle was never apprehended by the local vigilantes, and perhaps they were relieved.  Her demise came instead in 1889 after she had moved out to Indian Territory. According to historian A. C. Greene in Dallas USA, “she married into the notorious Starr gang, made a criminal haven of her farm, Younger Bend, and was later killed from ambush, possibly through accident by her own son.”

This article originally appeared in the Garland/Mesquite section of The Dallas Morning News on August 30, 1995.

By Michael R. Hayslip

Hoping that “third time’s the charm,” members of the Garland High School class of 1945 have petitioned trustees of the Garland Independent School District to name a school in honor of one of their schoolmates, Lt. Col. John William “Bill” Armstrong, lost when his plane went down over Laos in November of 1967.

The petition, signed this June at the 50th reunion of the class, joins similar documents signed during two previous years by GHS classes from 1943 and 1944, and so far as anyone knows, is an unprecedented action in town. Chuck Cabiness, vice president of the ‘45 class and Chairman of the Garland Sports Hall of Fame, forwarded the petition to school trustees, and indicated that the Armstrong memorial “. . .would honor all of the members of the classes who attended Garland High School during World War II”.

Military matters were front-burner items for wartime classes of the early ‘40s, when Garland’s total population was less than 5,000. Daily “necessities” were rationed, and in front of the gymnasium students amassed a huge metal scrap pile for defense manufactures. Records indicate that by their senior years in the city’s only high school, at least a half-dozen of each 90 to 100-member classes was already in uniform. The rest were waiting -- on their own or for somebody else.

But for his peers, Bill Armstrong symbolized more than the military; he was a hometown boy that made good. . . real good. Born in Garland on December 5, 1926, to Walter T. and Mary L. Armstrong, he was a grandson of Dr. J. C. Armstrong, a local pharmacist and physician in Garland for over 38 years. An uncle, Zelotes Starr Armstrong, had published The Garland News for several years and served on the Garland school board before moving to Dallas.

Beginning in Mrs. Florrie Allen’s first-grade class, which for decades introduced so many locals to the wonders of formal education, Bill Armstrong stuck through all twelve years with his classmates. Although he held after-school and weekend jobs through high school, he graduated valedictorian of the GHS class of ‘44. Meanwhile, he had also been co-captain of the Owl football team, editor of the class year book and class president for his final three years of high school.

W. H. Bradfield Jr., a ‘43 Garland graduate who later became editor of The Garland News, recalls that his friend Armstrong validated lofty goals and noble ideals of the day for leadership, accomplishment and service. “There was a fictitious high-school hero named Jack Armstrong on a popular radio show aired during the time,” said Bradfield. “Jack was a decent, capable fellow with a sense of responsibility who set a class standard of excellence by example.  Most of us believed that we had our own Jack Armstrong, except we called him Bill. I understand that later on some of Bill’s college classmates even used ‘Jack’ as his nickname.”

After a freshman year on scholarship at SMU, where he played freshman football, made  the Phi Eta Sigma scholarship fraternity and joined Phi Delta Theta social fraternity, Armstrong was appointed by Congressman Hatton Sumners, another Garland native, as the first from the city to attend West Point. In 1949 he graduated in the top 3 per cent of his class there and chose to enter the Air Force for pilot training.

During domestic assignments he returned to the academy to teach four years in the Military Psychology and Leadership Department and earned an MBA at the University of Southern California. His overseas duty included Pakistan; Turkey; England; Germany, where he met and married his wife Margaret; Korea, where he received the Air Medal and Distinguished Flying Cross after flying 127 combat missions, and Vietnam, where he commanded the 480th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing. For a time Armstrong also led the Skyblazers, the former European equivalent of the crack Thunderbird aerobatic exhibition team that performed stateside..

“There is virtually no limit to what Bill could have accomplished, in the military and beyond,” says Don H. Payne of Garland, himself a retired Air Force Major General who was Armstrong’s ‘44 high school classmate and later followed him as the city’s second appointment to the U. S. Military Academy.

Bradfield’s files still contain his last letter from Armstrong, dated October 22, 1967, and detailing a project the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing had mounted for Christmas time distribution of clothes, toys and other basic necessities among four orphanages and two hamlets near DaNang in South Vietnam. The Garland Kiwanis Club, in cooperation with Goodwill Industries, channeled its Christmas relief funds toward the effort, soon forwarding some 675 items of clothing and bedding. But by then Armstrong was unable to receive them.

On the night of November 9th Col. Armstrong, 40, and his GIB (guy in back), 25-year-old 1st Lt. Lance Sijan (pronounced sigh-john), had rolled their F-4 Phantom jet into a bomb run directed at the Ban Loboy ford on the Ho Chi Minh Trail in Laos. Slung under each wing were three 750-pound bombs, equipped with a newly designed fuse system set to detonate exactly six seconds after release at an altitude of 8,000 feet, allowing the bombs to pass through dense foliage and bury themselves into the surface before exploding.

Eyewitness accounts of the mission, coupled with Lt. Sijan’s statements to fellow captives made before he died in a North Vietnamese prison camp in January of 1968, appeared in Malcolm McConnell’s book Into the Mouth of the Cat, which was published in 1985.  According to McConnell, an old friend of Sijan’s, the bomb’s faulty fuse caused all six bombs to detonate almost immediately after they were “pickled” (released), exploding within a few feet of the plane. Although Sijan managed to eject himself as the flaming craft disentigrated and survived for more than two months with extensive injuries, the fireball’s glare had prevented either him or crewmembers of nearby craft from seeing whether Armstrong had made it out.

Inconclusive sightings and photos analyzed later raised the possibility that Armstrong might have survived the crash, but by 1974, without definite evidence to the contrary, he was declared legally dead. Meanwhile, life went on for the survivors. In 1976 the Sijan Hall Dormitory was dedicated at (now Capt.) Sijan’s alma mater, the Air Force Academy, and President Gerald Ford presented his Medal of Honor, recommended by returning POWs, to Sijan’s parents. A 3.72 acre park on Birchwood Drive in Garland was named to honor Col. Armstrong in 1988.

“I can think of no more deserving person,” said Marion D. Williams, a former school board president and Armstrong’s classmate of ‘44. “This would be an appropriate time for this type of recognition”.

Dr. Randy Clark, the board’s current president, said that matters of this nature are routed initially through the board’s Facilities Committee, now headed by Trustee Mike Boyd, for study and recommendations when name decisions are made. “I look forward, he added, “ to seeing all the information about Col. Armstrong.”

Published in The Garland Daily News on October 19, 1980, as part of a series by Betty Roberts.



The Carl Axe family settled in Garland in 1873. Carl had arrived in the United States in the late 1840s and lived in New Orleans. He was born in Germany in 1831. His family is known to have lived in Prussia as early as 1618 when the family name was Achrst.

Carl worked as a blacksmith in New Orleans. There he met and married Charlotte Mueller. They brought their young family to Texas.

A mistake on the land title brought Carl to Garland. Carl wanted to be a farmer and contracted to buy 320 acres in Dallas County. Because of the mistake, he took his second choice, land in Garland. The original tract he tried to buy was developed into the present Park Cities.

Carl and his brother Ludwig came to the area at the same time. Ludwig settled in Dallas. The brothers gave the lot, built the building and provided the organ for the first Lutheran church in Dallas County. The original structure of the Zion Lutheran Church was on Swiss Avenue. The church later was moved to Skillman and Lovers Lane.

The 320 acres located “on the waters of Duck Creek” were at the area of present day Garland Road and Axe Drive. Axe Drive is almost in the center of the property. The small branch of water that begins near Jupiter Road and joins Duck Creek at Glenbrook has been called Duck Creek Number Two and Axe Creek.

The original property included the area between Kingsley and the creek from Garland Road to Saturn Road. Later, additional land was added until most of the property from Garland Road to Fifth Street was owned by members of the Axe family.

Carl Axe died in Garland May 10, 1898. Charlotte died November 12, 1899. They were the parents of six sons and four daughters.

Charles Christian was born in New Orleans in 1869. He was thirteen when he came to Garland. He later had his own farm and built his farmhouse on what is now Cranford Drive, one street south of Kingsley.

Mrs. Gerald Cooper, Charles’ daughter, lives where the farm house stood. She has grandchildren and great-grandchildren living in Garland. Charles’ son Herbert also lives in Garland. Herbert has two children. A son lives in Garland and a daughter lives on the Plains.

William, another son of Carl and Charlotte, was born in 1876 in Garland and died in 1923. He had a farm on what is now Carney Drive. He had seven children; five still live in Garland. Ernest lives in Canton. The youngest son, Cecil, was killed in World War II.

The other children are Fred, William, Raymond, Clara Daniel, and Elizabeth Carney. Two of Will’s children live on Carney Drive on what was their father’s farm.

John, another son of Carl’s, moved to Hamby, near Abilene. The daughters and their families are scattered over the United States.

Axe Drive is named for the Axe family. Axe Memorial Methodist Church on Kingsley stands on what was once part of the Axe farm. The church was named in memory of Charles Christian Axe, who died in 1938, and his son, Charles, who was killed in World War II. The property for the First Lutheran Church on Saturn Road was also donated by the Axe family.

This article originally appeared in the Garland/Mesquite section of The Dallas Morning News on October 6, 1995.

By Michael R. Hayslip

Grace Davis Glaze, the lone surviving teacher from the old Handley School, and who was consolidated along with it into the Garland Independent School District, rang her first school bell in 1926. Now at 90, she proctors activity around the 200 wing of room units at the Rowlett Nursing Center, holding forth for friends, family and former students, some of whom have reached their mid-70s. She always looks spiffy, like she is about to start class. Sprinkling her commentaries with the lexicon of long ago, she laughs and jokes a lot, usually at herself, but no visitor leaves without a lesson, an assignment, or both.

Enrolled in this life on May 12, 1905, she was registered as Grace Davis, born in Lancaster to a farming family that later moved to Farmersville, where she started school.  Eventually the family came to Garland, where they expected Grace to get a better education, and she graduated from Garland High School in the class of 1924.

The self-styled “brat” of the Davis family soon matriculated at East Texas State Teachers College in Commerce in hopes that the faculty there could show her the ropes of teaching.  Apparently they did, because Grace still speaks of both the curriculum and faculty in lofty terms:  “Those professors of the time really knew how to train teachers, and they got me excited about it.  Later on, I got a masters degree from SMU, and I’m glad I did, but the main benefit from it was higher pay. The real content for teaching came from those years at East Texas (eyes squinted and finger pointed for emphasis).”

College graduation was something of an anticlimax, since teachers could teach in those days before their baccalaureate degrees were conferred, and “Miss Grace” Davis did just that, signing on in 1926 to teach at the Naaman School, then a county-operated neighborhood school located north of Garland. She claims they selected her because she could play the piano.  Wayde Brite (Cloud), “a wonderful friend with crooked stocking seams,” joined her periodically to teach elocution, but after a year she transferred to the Handley School, another county unit, situated west of Garland. Even then, she left on good terms with Clayborne Glaze, her principal at Naaman.

Settling in at Handley, she discovered some “mighty fine families” in the area who sent their children to her. “Teaching shaped me up,” she said, “and I worked hard at it. The two county school supervisors, Miss Moseley and Miss Watkins, were top-notch and demanding, but I mastered phonics under their influence. . . We had a good school; we scored high on all the achievement tests and almost all of the kids were a pleasure. Even some of the ones with mischief could be good students when they tried.”

When students ceased to be a pleasure, Miss Grace’s justice was sure and swift. “When that Irish temper rose,” said former Handley student Loyd Bryant, “her face would start to turn red, and everybody with any sense knew to take cover. . .I still remember the time she paid me a nickel to pipe down after she paddled me”.

“They really had to irk me before I grabbed the paddle,” responded Mrs. Glaze, “but when that happened, I just moved right up beside them and said ‘catch your ankles.’ Whap! Whap! Whap! That settled it. Girls got the same as the boys. My land! Some of those girls had more meanness than the boys!”

In matters of discipline, parents of the day expected and supported the teacher’s best efforts, according to Weldon Bell, another Handley alumnus. Once, he said, when Miss Grace was apprised of pecan pilfering by students at the nearby Rupard farm, she marched the whole group up the road and made them apologize to Mrs. Rupard..

With one good intention, however, she was thwarted by a parent who refused her plan to have the Garland Lions Club supply eyeglasses to enable his son to see the blackboard. “The man puffed up and declared ‘We don’t accept charity,’ “ reported Miss Grace, “so finally the boy quit school and found work driving a truck. He was later killed in a road accident, and I doubt that the poor boy ever saw what hit him.”

Outside class at lunch or recess -- held outdoors weather permitting -- Miss Grace maintained a special rapport with the students, who soon concluded that she had extensive experience with marbles. Both Bell and Bryant described Miss Grace as “a sharp shooter” who taught them not to underestimate an opponent.

Another practical lesson came from her recycling plan, which required students to separate uneaten food from their lunch bags each afternoon. The scraps were fed to nearby farmers’ hogs, and the bags were accumulated to kindle fire in the school’s wood-burning stove.  “That’s just sound thinking,” said Mrs. Glaze, “except that it worked too well. One cold day I overstuffed the stove with paper, and the high flames ignited the ceiling. If the farmer across the road hadn’t come running and put it out, we would have lost the whole building. Wouldn’t that have been a fine mess?”

By the mid 1930s the upper class (4th, 5th & 6th grade) Handley girls wanted a basketball team and asked the five-foot-tall teacher to coach. Mrs. Glaze recalls the girls as “excellent players,” and adds that they repeatedly bested the neighboring Centerville School’s team, coached by Clayborne Glaze, the Centerville principal she had met at the Naaman School.  The two married in 1939.

That was the year that the Garland ISD moved out to consolidate the dwindling Handley operation and its surrounding property-tax potential with the 11-year program of the Garland schools. Along with resident protest over new taxes, a question arose about the future of Mrs. Glaze, Handley’s sole remaining teacher. To resolve that issue Mrs. Glaze was added to the faculty of the Garland Elementary School at her existing salary of $150 per month. “Garland elementary teachers then were drawing $75 and high school teachers $125,” she said, “so I caught the brunt of some bad feelings from the others. I just wish they could all have gotten the $150."

Aside from brief forays into 4th and 7th grade classes, Mrs. Glaze spent the balance of her career among the first three grades, primarily the third. From the single Garland Elementary School on 9th Street she was reassigned to the W. C. Daugherty Elementary School, where she taught until her retirement in 1965. She continually honed her specialty as a reading teacher, and still maintains that “it’s not enough to have children recite a sentence that says ‘the dog is black’.   That’s just calling out words. I want ‘my children’ to identify the sentence that tells what color the dog is. That builds comprehension. At times I have even asked students to draw me a picture of what the sentence says, just to make sure they have the idea.”

Always quick on the trigger of praise, Mrs Glaze recounts some of those with whom she worked in the GISD, she says “Mr. (E.D.) Bussey and Mr. (H.D.) Pearson were wonderful superintendents; Alma Minick and Routh Roach were inspired teachers in the system. Whole families, like the Bells, the Bryants and the Merrimans, adopted me at Handley, and even more offered support after I transferred. And the children, so many I can’t even call all their names, did so well they made me proud. Today’s students may be better read, because they have better library access, but they can’t top the character and the brains of the ones I had.”

As a valedictory she mused, “I’m sure glad I never got fired.”