Ted A. Campbell teaches church history at SMU Perkins School of Theology and does prestigious things such as write books about Methodist doctrine and spend time in Oxford editing John Wesley’s letters. For recreation, he obsesses over the history of Lake Highlands, specifically Forest Meadow, where he lives, Moss Farm and Town Creek, which he has incorporated into two brief, yet illuminating, YouTube videos. Thanks, Professor.
When did you first start digging into the history of Lake Highlands?
Starting on a Saturday morning in June 2010. I told my wife, ‘You know, I don’t know anything about the history of this area.’ So I got on one of the apps that show you where the historical markers are located. It was a hot-as-fire June day, and we went around Dallas and Richardson. I just started piecing things together. That’s what historians do, putting all the chronology down. Within a year, I was able to piece together where our house was and who owned the farm there.
I came out with [the videos] in May 2011. It has become a great interest of mine since then. Councilman Jerry Allen named me to the Landmark Commission in 2011, and I served on that for two years. That was interesting because it introduced me to a range of stuff that I’d never encountered before. We don’t have any historical landmark districts in the Lake Highlands area, and we should. There are some things we need to work on. The McCree Cemetery and the Fields Cemetery on Skillman probably should be protected. I think there should be some kind of historical marker for the neighborhood Hamilton Park. That’s very historically significant.
How is it historically significant?
In the year I was born, 1953, Dallas held a bond election that expanded Love Field. They expanded it in such a way that they had to bulldoze a black neighborhood that was down near there. It left professional, middle-class African-American people in Dallas without housing. They had nowhere to live. It was very unfortunate. So black leaders got together and started pressuring the city, and they worked very fast because by October they established Hamilton Park as a neighborhood that was geared toward black professionals. It ended up being right next to Texas Instruments when TI moved out there four years later in 1957, so a lot of people went to work at TI. It was immensely successful. It was a civil rights issue that became very economically viable. I think that’s a significant part of our history. I don’t think it needs to be a historic district necessarily, but it needs to have a marker of some kind.
How was working on this project similar to or different from your professional work?
It’s a little different. I’ve worked in England, and I’ve done American church history as well, but going to the Dallas Records office and looking up who sold what property and photographic records, that’s all new to me — and interesting.
I’m also an amateur photographer, which is what comes out in the video. There’s almost no real video. You know Ken Burns right? He uses so many historic photos, and I love that. We’ve got tons of them for Dallas. But I think viewing a historic photograph lets viewers say, ‘That’s not me; that’s long ago.’ So what I want to do is a photographic thing — a visual history, is what I call it — where you don’t let the viewer get away with thinking it’s only in the past.
Did you find anything interesting about your own home?
The one thing I found is that the very space where our house is, was originally owned by a family named Houx. There was a woman whose maiden name was Houx who sold the property in 1964. So 50 years ago this property was still in the name of the original family. She sold it to a guy who owns nurseries. You know where the Kroger is on Forest, near Forest and Greenville? That lot used to be a nursery, but then he sold it to the developers.
I kind of got interested in that family. They’re buried in the Mount Calvary Cemetery near High Five, north of LBJ. What I found was a very sad story. One of the graves in the cemetery is Amanda L. Houx. Her death date is June 30, 1847. She and her husband had come down the Shawnee Trail from Missouri, and they had just arrived. Then you go down the row and find her son’s grave, and you see he was born June 30, 1847. So she died during childbirth, and she was pregnant when she came down the trail. Just imagine. And she was 18. Then the husband died just three years later and left the son as an orphan. He was adopted by John Thomas, who was one of the first judges in Dallas. So the kid ends up in a kind of fortunate position, and the judge was able to secure this property for him. But it’s a sad story.