This is one of an occasional series of reports on people, events and places in Marion County’s past.
From the family histories of Union Missionary Baptist Church (UMBC) comes the story of how Jane Johnson Endsley, born a slave in Jefferson in 1848, made it big in Dallas. While spending her childhood on a plantation in Jefferson, she attended the “African Church” that preceded UMBC.
Jane married Moses Callaway in 1862. Moses had also been born a slave in Tennessee. After the end of the American Civil War, Jane and Moses were married and moved to Rowlett, near Dallas, and became sharecroppers.
Jane was a keen businessperson and ultimately acquired a 100-acre farm there. They had eleven children. After Moses’ death in the late 1880s, Jane continued to manage their prosperous farm, which was assessed at a value of $15.150 in 1882.
She regularly delivered her own cotton to the local cotton gin. On one occasion, a white man attempted to steal her bale of cotton by grabbing it as it emerged from the gin. “Without thinking” Jane struck him with the cotton hook she was holding, splitting the man’s skull.
According to family accounts, a white man who witnessed the accident apparently took the blame for it, thus protecting her from prosecution. In 1894 she married C. F. Franklin. After eleven years of marriage they divorced, and she married Alonzo Jones.
That marriage also ended in divorce. She entered into her fourth and final marriage to H. E. Endsley, a tailor, in 1914. Around that time, she sold the family farm in Rowlett but kept the timber rights to the land and set up a railroad-yard coal and log business in the heart of Dallas.
Jane Endsley ran the business with the assistance of her sons, Joe, Lube and Emmett. The family company provided much-needed fuel for many Dallas residents and was considered the largest business of its kind in the city.
The Endsleys acquired another portion of land close to the site of the present State Fair of Texas. Their wealth enabled them to build a fine home on Collins Street, with a veranda stretching the length of the house front, and to purchase a new Model T Ford.
With other friends, Jane Endsley founded the Macedonia Baptist Church, which later grew to a 5,000-member congregation known as the Good Street Baptist Church. In the 1920s, she helped establish a women’s lodge called the Household of Ruth, for which she rented a building.
The lodge provided funeral insurance for African Americans, who could not acquire insurance from white companies at the time. The Household of Ruth also offered them a network of “trusted friends” in time of need.
Endsley had the only telephone in her neighborhood for a long time and welcomed her neighbors to use it. During the Great Depression, she and her youngest daughter, Maggie, worked to feed hungry, homeless people.
She also spent time “ministering to the sick and elderly.” Endsley never learned to read or write but apparently developed her own shorthand. In the 1990s, her descendants still had regular family gatherings and maintained records of the family roots.
She died at her home on Collins Street in 1933 and was buried in the family plot in Rowlett.
Dallas Morning News, October 27, 1986.
Teresa Palomo Acosta
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