Dallas Historical Society

Gaston Family Papers

Descriptive Summary

Creator: Gaston, William Henry
Title: Gaston Family papers
Dates: 1830s-1990, undated
Abstract: W. H. Gaston was a key figure in the early development of the city of Dallas, especially in the areas of banking, real estate, and in his involvement with the State Fair of Texas. The Gaston Family Collection contains the papers and records of members of the Gaston Family, and, in particular, those of W. H. Gaston. The types of materials found within the collection include property records, financial documents, legal documents, correspondence, newspaper clippings, printed materials, books, and visual materials.
Identification: A.90.4, M.90.5, L.90.3, P.90.4, V.90.5
Quantity: 11 Boxes (10 under A.90.4, 1 under V.90.4-V.90.12), five Library items, Periodicals, 1 Museum Object; 4.22 linear ft.
Language: English
Repository: Dallas Historical Society

Biographical Sketch

W. H. Gaston was born on October 25, 1840, near Prairie Bluff, Alabama. He served as a captain in the First Texas Infantry regiment of Hood's Texas Brigade, Army of Northern Virginia, during the Civil War. After being discharged in 1865, Gaston returned to Texas to farm. He moved to Dallas in 1868 and formed the only operating bank in the city with A. C. Camp that same year, funding it with $20,000 of his own gold. The bank went through a variety of mergers and changes throughout the century, operating under such names as National Exchange Bank, Gaston National Bank, Commonwealth National Bank, and Mercantile National Bank, before finally merging with City National Bank on December 31, 1929, to become First National Bank of Dallas, which was recognized as one of the "top 100 financial institutions in America" at the time.

W. H. Gaston's most notable achievement was his involvement in the development of the State Fair of Texas. When the fair was initially organized in 1886, Gaston spent $16,000 on eighty acres of land which he then gave to the organization in exchange for stock. As of 1904, Gaston had spent $35,000 of his own money in ensuring the continuation of the organization, and he also served as its president seven times. Gaston wrote that he "never sought notoriety for what [he] [had] done to keep the Fair alive," and he felt that he "[could] afford to rest with the consolation that [I] have helped to donate to the State of Texas one of the grandest Fairs in the United States."

W. H. Gaston died of pneumonia on January 24, 1927, and in his obituary's he was described as "the 'Discoverer' of East Dallas" and "one of Dallas' first millionaires and city builders." His business activities included banking, real estate, the exchange industry, the railroad industry, and electric utilities. In another notable instance, Gaston gave Texas & Pacific Railroads right of way through 400 acres of his land in order to induce an East-West line through Dallas, which helped spur the development of the city. Fair Park Auditorium was originally considering being named after him, and his efforts for the city of Dallas led to the naming of a street and park in his honor.


Robert W. Glover, "GASTON, WILLIAM HENRY,"Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fga63), accessed June 24, 2014.

Scope and Contents Note

The Gaston Family Collection contains the papers and records of members of the Gaston family, mainly those of W. H. Gaston. The types of materials found within the collection include property records (such as abstracts of title, deeds, contracts, maps, plats, and surveys), financial documents (such as statements, promissory notes, checks, accounts, and receipts), legal documents, correspondence, newspaper clippings, printed materials, and certificates (such as membership, stock, and amnesty).

There are seven series in the collection: Property Records, Gaston Records, Printed Materials, Library, Museum, Periodicals, and Visual Materials.

The first series, Property Records (1848-1926, Undated), is divided into two sub-series: Records and People.

The first sub-series, Records (1848-1926, Undated), contains abstracts of title, contracts of lease and sale, deeds, maps, plats, mining claims, property status forms, releases, statements, surveys, transfers, trustee's sales, vendor's lien, and vendor's lien notes. These records correspond with W. H. Gaston's involvement in real estate.

The second sub-series, People (1885-1922, Undated), contains a mixture of the types of property records found in the first sub-series that were able to be arranged in the context of how they were originally stored.

The second series, Gaston Records (1830s-1990, Undated), contains correspondence, promissory notes, account statements, agreements, certificates, bills of cost, contracts, receipts, legal documents, memorandums, booklets, tax forms, and materials related to an addition at Exposition Park, the First National Bank of Dallas, Gaston Park, the Jefferson Davis Monument Fund, and the State Fair of Texas. These records expound upon W. H. Gaston's business and civic activity, especially in the areas of banking and real estate.

The third series, Printed Materials (1896-1929, Undated), contains a biographical notebook of W. H. Gaston and R. K. Gaston, the statement of facts concerning J. E. Orem vs. M. K. & T. Ry. Co. of Texas, a National Exchange Bank deposit book and a property booklet belonging to W. H. Gaston, booklets related to Fair Park Auditorium and the Adolphus Hotel, and a short story that relates an unidentified author's experiences during the Civil War.

The fourth series, Library (1907-1971), contains five books: "The Journal of a Grandfather," by W. E. H. Gramp; "American Red Cross Textbook on Home Hygiene and Care of the Sick;""A History of the Texas Rangers Association;""Narrative of the Captivity of William Biggs Among the Kickapoo Indians in Illinois in 1878," by William Biggs; and "Memories of the Lost Cause and Ten Years in South America," by J. M. Polk.

The fifth series, Museum Objects (1902), contains the top section of a golden medal, from an envelope inscribed "Captain W. H. Gaston, member of Hood's Texas Brigade, The Southwest National Bank Dallas, Texas."

The sixth series, Periodicals, contains periodicals, although they have not yet been located.

The seventh series, Visual Materials (Undated), contains photographs and postcards depicting such subjects as W. H. Gaston's home, W. H. Gaston and others on a hunting trip, the "Elite Restaurant" in Dallas, the Dallas Shakespeare Club, and Bishop A. C. Garrett.

This collection offers insight into the areas of banking, real estate, the State Fair of Texas, W. H. Gaston's life, and the history of Dallas.


The collection is separated into 7 series:
Each series is arranged in alphabetical order, and then chronologically within each subject folder, unless otherwise noted.
Series 1: Property Records
  • Sub-series 1: Records
  • Sub-series 2: People
Series 2: Gaston Records
Series 3: Printed Materials
Series 4: Library
Series 5: Museum Objects
Series 6: Periodicals
Series 7: Visual Materials


Access Restrictions

Collection is open for research use.

Use Restrictions

Publication Rights: Permission to publish materials must be obtained from the staff of the Dallas Historical Society.

Copyright Statement: It is the responsibility of the user to obtain copyright authorization.

Sensitive Material Statement: Manuscript collections and archival records may contain materials with sensitive or confidential information that is protected under federal or state right to privacy laws and regulations. Researchers are advised that the disclosure of certain information pertaining to identifiable living individuals represented in this collection without the consent of those individuals may have legal ramifications for which the Dallas Historical Society assumes no responsibility.

Index Terms

Subjects (Persons)
Gaston, William H., 1840-1927.
Gaston, Robert G.,
Camp, A. C.,
Blaylock, Louis.
Subjects (Organizations)
First National Bank in Dallas.
National Exchange Bank, (Dallas, Tex.)
Gaston & Ayres, (Dallas, Tex.)
Security National Bank (Dallas, Tex.)
Texas & Pacific Railway.
State Fair of Texas--History.
Confederate War Memorial.
Fair Park (Dallas, Tex.)
Exposition Park.
Gaston Park.
Document Types
Printed materials.
Visual materials.

Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Collection of the Dallas Historical Society, Gaston Family papers.

Acquisition Information

Gift of Gertrude Gaston.

Processing Information

Collection/Papers/Records processed by Joseph Denton, June 24, 2014.

Description of Series

Property Records, 1848-1926, undated

Box Folder
1-4 1-60 Abstract of Title, 1908-1918, 1925-1926, undated
Folder 58, An attached note states that "these abstracts show grants from Sam Houston to John Grigsby."
Box Folder
4 61 Contracts of lease, 1883-1925
Contracts of lease
62 Contracts of sale, 1904-1913
Contracts of sale
63-64 Deeds - A through E, 1856-1915
Arranged alphabetically, by the last name of the person in receipt of the material being deeded.
Box Folder
4-5 65-71 Deeds - Gaston, 1864-1923
Arranged alphabetically, by the last name of the person in receipt of the material being deeded.
Box Folder
5 72 Deeds -- Gaston and Associates, 1873-1920
73-77 Deeds - G through W, 1866-1916
Arranged alphabetically, by the last name of the person in receipt of the material being deeded.
78 Deeds -- Incomplete, 1876, undated
79 Maps & plats, 1913, 1926, undated
80 Mining claims, 1884, undated
81 Property status forms, 1889-1892
82 Releases, 1881-1914
83 Statements, 1901-1922
84 Surveys, 1902, undated
85 Transfers, 1875-1897
86 Trustee's sale, 1890, 1903
87 Vendor's lien, 1887-1918
88 Vendor's lien notes, 1890-1914
Box Folder
5 89 Bray, 1886-1908
90 Burcum, Frank, 1918, undated
91 Carson, J. L., 1901-1902
92 Cole and Poyner, 1889-1897
93 Douglas, J. N., 1902-1903
94 Findley, J. W., 1888-1890
95 Gilbert, J. A., 1904-1905
96 Guthrie, Oklahoma, 1889-1891, undated
97 Henzler, Frank, 1890, 1898
98 Jack J. Wellorn, 1879-1890
99 Kirkgard, S., 1906
Box Folder
6 100 Lagow, 1890-1913, undated
101 Moberly, A. F., 1910
102 Moody Brothers, 1897-1905, undated
103 Reeves, Frank, 1894-1895
104 Sarah Perry Survey, 1885-1911, undated
105 Scott, J. B., 1887-1897
106 Thevenet, 1889-1890, undated
107 Tompkins, R. V., 1891,1893
108 Wright, G. C., 1913-1922, undated

Gaston records, 1830-1990, undated

Box Folder
6 109 Accounts and invoices, 1830s, 1896-1921, undated
110 Agreements, 1873-1911, undated
111 Amazon Fire Insurance Company, 1913-1914
112-115 Ayres, H. C. - Notes, 1900-1913
116 Bill of costs, 1876-1906
117 Certificates, 1874, 1883, 1921
118 Checks, 1876-1904
119 Citizens State Bank and Trust Company, 1914-1915, undated
120 Coleman, L. - Estate papers, 1855-1884, undated
121 Contracts, 1878-1920
122 Correspondence, 1856-1925, 1971, undated
Fair Park Auditorium considered being named after Gaston; Bronze bust of Gaston in the vestibule of the auditorium.
Box Folder
7 123-125 Correspondence - Gaston, 1873-1926, undated
Folder 123, Contains genealogical information for W. H. Gaston.
126 Daugherty, J. S., 1855-1908, undated
127 Documents, 1883-1914, undated
Includes the separation sheet for a medal that was filed under M.90.5.1
128-129 Envelopes, undated
130 Exposition Park addition, 1889-1906
Exposition Park addition
131-133 First National Bank in Dallas, 1950, 1952, 1986
75th Anniversary, annual reports, correspondence. Folder 133, Gaston formed Gaston and Camp with A.D. Camp, with $20k of his own gold
Box Folder
7-8 134-137 First National Bank in Dallas, 1898-1980, undated
Documents, history, mergers.
Box Folder
8 138-139 First National Bank in Dallas, 1956 ,1968-1984, undated
News releases, newspapers.
140-143 Fishburn, S. A., 1918-1920
Accounts, political activity. Folder 142, mainly a letter-writing campaign against Joe Bailey and Bailey-ism.
144 Gaston and Ayres articles of association, 1900, undated
145 Gaston Park, 1915
146 Gaston, R. K., 1849-1875, undated
Includes the deed to the first piece of land R. K. Gaston acquired in Texas in 1849, and his amnesty certificate from the United States Government following the end of the Civil War.
147 Gaston, W. H.—Obituaries, 1927
148 Legal documents, 1876-1903
149 Legal documents—Gaston, 1870-1922, undated
150 Memorandums, 1872-1903
Box Folder
9 151 Monument Fund, 1890, undated
Information on people involved in the Confederate War Memorial and a list of people who donated.
152 Newspaper clippings, 1912-1990, undated
Gaston and land donation to State Fair; Gaston spends of $35k on fair; Exchange Bank formed by Gaston and Camp; President of State Fair in 1902; The discoverer of East Dallas; Gaston gives Texas and Pacific Railroads right of way through 400 acres of his land.
153-155 Notes, 1871-1923, undated
156 Receipts of payment, 1872-1924, undated
157 State Fair of Texas, 1886-1936, undated
Includes a letter which details W. H. Gaston's involvement in the formation of the State Fair, used as advocacy for naming a new building on the grounds after him.
158 Stock certificates, 1875-1906
159 Tax documents, 1893-1921, undated
160-167 Tax receipts, 1870-1916
168 Tax receipts, J. M. Patterson lot, 1893-1901
169 Vermillion, W. R., 1910-1913, undated

Printed materials, 1896-1929, undated

Box Folder
10 170 Biographical notebook, undated
Pertaining to the lives of W. H. Gaston and R. K. Gaston, Annie Lone Gaston Reeves started the first bank in Dallas,
171 J. E. Orem v. M.K. and T. Ry. Co. of Texas, 1909
172 National Exchange Bank Deposit book, 1896-1899
173 Property booklet, undated
Contains detailed information about various properties of land related to W. H. Gaston.
174 "Souvenir Brochure of Dallas" booklet, 1929
Fair Park Auditorium.
175 "Texas Under Six Flags" booklet, undated
Adolphus Hotel.
176 "Virginia Hospitality", undated

Library, 1907-1971, undated

L.90.3.1 The Journal of a Grandfather, 1912
L.90.3.2 American Red Cross Textbook of Home Hygiene and Care of the Sick., 1933
L.90.3.3 A History of the Texas Rangers Association, 1909
W. H. Gaston was an honorary member of the association.
L.90.3.4 Narrative of the Captivity of William Briggs Among the Kickapoo Indians in Illinois in 1878, 1971
L.90.3.5 Memories of the Lost Cause and Ten Years in South America, 1907

Museum objects, 1907-1971, undated

M.90.5.1 The top section of a medal, no ribbon attached, 1902

Periodicals, undated

P.90.4 Periodical, undated

Visual Material, undated

V.90.5.1 Two men on a street, undated
V.90.5.2 Opening of Dallas-Oak Cliff Viaduct, undated
V.90.5.3 Bishop in front of the chapel, undated
V.90.5.4 On the hunting trail, undated
V.90.5.5 Portrait of Bishop A.C. Garrett, undated
V.90.5.6 In camp on a Gaston hunt, undated
V.90.5.7 The "Gaston-Hunters" in East Texas, undated
V.90.5.8 Dallas Shakespeare Club, undated
V.90.5.9-12 "The Elite" restaurant in Dallas, undated
V.90.5.13-18 W. H. Gaston's home, undated