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A History of the Belo Mansion & Dallas Bar Association

 

Click here to watch the video of the DBA & Belo Mansion - 40 Years.


THE A. H. BELO MANSION

THE BELO FAMILY HISTORY

Alfred Horatio Belo was born in Salem, North Carolina on May 27, 1839. He grew up in a devout Moravian community and was the eldest child of Frederick Edward Belo and Caroline Amanda Fries. Alfred’s father was a leading merchant in Salem having a very large wholesale and retail business. Alfred had three brothers and two sisters and attended The Bingham School, a preparatory school in Chapel Hill and graduated from University of North Carolina.

During the Civil War Alfred H. Belo served in every major engagement of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia from Manassas to Appomattox. He earned his colonel's rank as a member of the North Carolina Volunteers in the War Between the States. Wounded in the leg at the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863, he rejoined his command in time to receive a severe wound in the left arm at the Battle of Cold Harbor in 1864.

In 1865, saddened by Lee's surrender in Virginia, Colonel Belo and fellow officers rode west to continue the fight. Discovering that the Confederate cause was lost, at the age of 26, he eventually found his way to Texas, and tutored children of a planter in Waller County(Southwest of Conroe, Texas) for his room and board.

In August of 1865, Colonel A.H. Belo became a bookkeeper in Galveston at the most powerful newspaper in Texas, The GalvestonDaily News and one of the first newspapers to be distributed statewide by railroad. Soon Belo was put in charge of the business office and became a partner in the company now known as Richardson, Belo and Company. 

In 1868, at the age of 29, Colonel A.H. Belo met and married 22 year old Nettie Ennis (1846-1913), whose father, Cornelius Ennis (1813-1899) was Mayor of Houston (1856-57) and an incorporator in the Houston and Texas Central Railway which began in 1853.  The town of Ennis was named in his honor. They had two children, Jeanette (1871-1951) and son Alfred Horatio, Jr. (1873-1901).

In 1874 George Bannerman Dealey, a 15-year old immigrant from Manchester, England started work at The Galveston Daily News. In1881 after editor Willard Richardson died the company became known as A.H. Belo & Co. At age 23, Colonel Belo sent Dealey to North Texas to determine the best satellite edition of the Galveston paper. Dealey recommended Dallas and in 1885, Dealey was sent as general manager to oversee the establishment of The Dallas Morning News. Colonel Belo also arrived in Dallas in 1885.

The North Texas summers were hard on the Colonel, and the family frequently spent the summer in the Adirondacks, where the Colonel played whist as a partner of President Grover Cleveland.

 

THE BELO FAMILY HOME ON ROSS AVENUE

In 1888, Nettie Ennis Belo, wife of Colonel A.H. Belo, and now publisher of the fledgling Dallas Morning News, bought a brown frame house on Ross Avenue at the corner of Pearl Street. The recited consideration was $27,500 from Mrs. Belo's "separate property and estate." The site was part of a ten acre tract which Captain W.H. Gaston, a pioneer Dallas banker, had bought several years earlier for $100 an acre. Ross Avenue became the first elegant address in Dallas and its first paved street between Oleander (Ervay Street) and the H&TC Railroad (North Central Expressway).

Architect Herbert Miller Greene (1871-1932) having received his architect degree in 1893 moved to Dallas in 1897 and was commissioned by Nettie Belo to design a stately mansion at Ross and Pearl patterned after the Belo family home in Salem. The contractor for the neo-classical revival home was Daniel Morgan, who, in 1893, completed the Dallas County courthouse now known as "Old Red."

Construction of the Belo home was believed to have been completed about 1900. Alfred Horatio Belo, Jr., at the age of 27 and his bride, Helen Ponder married in 1900 and lived in the home with his parents. They had two daughters. Helen Belo [m. Morrison] was born in the home in 1902. The Belo home became a city showplace, as the family was active in civic and cultural affairs.

Colonel A.H. Belo died on April 19, 1901 at the age of 69 in Asheville, North Carolina and was buried near his boyhood home atWinston-Salem. He was with the Dallas Morning News for 36 years. Upon his death, President Cleveland said, “I feel it to be a personal loss, as he was a friend to whom I was warmly attached as a chivalrous, high-minded man, and an exceptionally able, fearless and conscientious journalist.  His death is a loss to the entire country.”

Alfred, Jr. then succeeded his father to the presidency of the News. Alfred Jr. died in 1906 at the age of 33 of meningitis.

Colonel A.H. Belo’s widow, Nettie Ennis lived in the home with her daughter-in-law, Helen Ponder Belo and two granddaughters until her death in 1913 at the age of 67. 

In 1922, Helen Ponder Belo was forced to leave Dallas and move to North Carolina because of ill health, marking the end of occupancy of the mansion by the Belo family after only 21 years. 

In 1926, a 50-year lease was negotiated between Helen Belo Morrison (Colonel Belo’s grand daughter), George Loudermilk and Will Sparkman to use the property as a funeral home - Loudermilk-Sparkman Funeral Home. Extensive remodeling occurred that year and in 1936, an addition to the rear of the home was built as was a chapel on the eastern portion of the property.

NEW DALLAS DALLAS BAR ASSOCIATION /DALLAS BAR FOUNDATION

The Dallas Bar Association was founded by 40 lawyers in 1873. As stated in its first charter, signed in 1916 by 100 members, “the purpose of the Bar Association of Dallas was for the support of a literary undertaking and maintenance of a library.” 

In 1937, the Bar Association of Dallas opened its first office, a 15-foot cubicle under the stairs of the Old Red Courthouse.

In 1947 the Association was incorporated as the Dallas Bar Association. It was the state’s first bar association to incorporate.

In 1955 the Dallas Bar Association leased offices, dining and meeting facilities on the lobby floor of the Adolphus Hotel. Membership grew to nearly 1,500 lawyers by the end of the decade and the facilities were remodeled in 1965. The Dallas Bar offices moved to theAdolphus Tower and in 1976, discussion began concerning purchase of the Belo family home on Ross Avenue. 

In 1977 after a meeting in North Carolina between Dallas Bar Association leaders and Colonel Belo’s granddaughter, Helen Belo Morrison, Ms. Morrison agreed to sell the property to the Dallas Bar Foundation, feeling that its plan to restore the home as its headquarters was in accordance with family principles and feelings. At that time she was 75 years old.

At the end of 1978 the Dallas Bar Association offices were relocated on a temporary basis in the Dallas Ad Club in the Adolphus Hotel. 

The lawyers of Dallas, foundations and public-spirited citizens contributed over $1 million for purchase and restoration of the BeloMansion as well as purchase of surrounding tracts of land and on August 1, 1979 with over 3,500 members the Belo Mansion opened as the new headquarters of the Dallas Bar Association/Dallas Bar Foundation.

Helen Belo Morrison came to Dallas for the grand opening and told Dallas Bar leaders that the home was just as she had remembered. She was proud. The Belo Mansion is one of only a few landmarks in Dallas County listed on the National Register of Historic Places.    

To meet the ever increasing demands of a growing membership of over 9,000 the Dallas Bar Association raised $14 million and built the new addition to the Belo Mansion - the Pavilion at the Belo Mansion opened in August, 2003.

Today, the Dallas Bar Association, with over 11,000 members, is one of the oldest and most respected lawyer groups in the nation. Recipient of many Awards of Merit from the American Bar Association and the State Bar of Texas for its programs, the Dallas Bar's primary functions are public service and continuing legal education. DBA lawyers have served as mayors of Dallas, State Bar presidents, American Bar Association presidents, history's only father and son to serve as U.S. Attorney General, Texas' only U.S. Supreme Court Justice and White House Counsel, plus countless elected officials.

Lawyer John Neely Bryan journeyed into the North Texas wilderness to create a town. Lawyer John McCoy structured the town to become a city. Today, Dallas is one of America's great cities. Now in the heart of the city, a constant from the past and guide for the future - finds its expression in the landmark known as The A.H. Belo Mansion.

BELO FAMILY

First Generation

Johann Frederick Boelow, or Belo (1780-1827) m. Maria Strub (1787-1853)

(Johann Frederick Boelow was a cabinetmaker in a Moravian community in Herrnhut, Germany who immigrated in 1805 and came to Salem. After his arrival in Pennsylvania he married Maria Strub)

Second Generation

Children of Johann Frederick Belo and Maria Strub

Maria Henrietta Belo (1809-1832) m. Thomas Christmann

Frederick Edward Belo (1811-1883) m. Caroline Amanda Fries (1817-1881)

Lewis Ephraim Belo (1813-1863) m. Lisette Henrietta Reich (1814-1897)

Theresa Wilhelmine Belo (1815-1876) m. Thomas A. Siddall (ca. 1806-?)

Susanna Caroline Belo (1817-1892) m. Charles Benjamin Rank (1813-1897)

Louisa Amelia Belo (1820-1886) m. George Frederick Bahnson (1805-1869)

Johann Levin Belo (1823-1899) m. Charlotte Emeline Vogler (1825-1902)

Third Generation

Children of Frederick Edward Belo and Caroline Amanda Fries

Col. Alfred Horatio Belo (1839-1901) m. Nettie Ennis (1846-1913)      

Ellen Elizabeth Belo (1841-1912) m. Dr. J. H. Shelton

Capt. Robert W.  Belo (1843-1919)

Sgt. Henry Augustus Belo (1845-1864)

Arthur F. Belo (1848-?)

Bertha Catherine Belo (1850-1883) m. William A. Lemly (1846-1928)

Agnes Cornelia Belo (1852-1932) m. John Cameron Buxton (1852-1917)

Children of Lewis Ephraim Belo and Lisette Henrietta Reich

  • Charles E. Belo (ca 1846-?)
  • George Belo (1848-1870)
  • Anna C. Belo (1850-?)
  • Mary L. Belo (1855-?)

Fourth Generation

Children of Col. Alfred H. Belo and Nettie Ennis

Jeannette Belo (1871-1951) m. Dr. Charles Peabody

Alfred H. Belo, Jr. (1873-1906) m. Helen Ponder

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