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A Traveling Map, Part IV: Helmuth Holtz and La Reunion and Dallas

Updated: Aug 19, 2023

The 1865 Map by Helmuth Holtz and a Socialist Utopia near Dallas

Portion of map from 1865 of Dallas County with settlements.
Reunion was a socialist utopian community from France, Belgium, and Switzerland (Library of Congress).

One of my favorite maps delivered again. The Helmut Holtz map of Texas, published in 1865 or 1867 (the Library of Congress references both dates), shows the major roads that connected counties during this time. While looking at another county, I glanced at Dallas County, where I found a neat little reference, where Holtz maps not only Dallas, but La Reunion.

West of downtown Dallas is a place marked as "Reunion." This is the French settlement known as "La Reunion," founded by a group of democratic socialists from France, Belgium, and Switzerland in the 1850s who wanted to create a cooperative village. Each member who signed up would contribute land/money/labor, and whatever the village produced, the member would receive a share of the profit based on the percentage of their contribution. The village based all of its decision on a true democracy, where each resident, including women, would vote on all issues.

La Reunion was built to last, at least for a while. The community built their homes out of stone, not wood, and even erected a protective stone fort at one end to guard against potential Indian attacks, especially as nearby Fort Bird was abandoned.

The Reunion settlers eventually left their village due to the Civil War. Some went back to Europe, while others remained but left their former abodes to participate in the market economy. Swiss Avenue in Dallas is named after the Reunion settlers who founded farms in that area, and Dallas's famed Reunion Tower (and the now-demolished Reunion Arena) commemorated the old village, too.

The site of the village became an incorporated town called Cement City at the turn of the 20th century. Cement City housed the workers of a large cement plant that opened between Chalk Hill and Westmoreland roads in West Dallas; it, too, became defunct by the 1920s and is now the site of Amazon and Quaker Oats warehouses. This is the neighborhood where Bonnie Parker grew up.

Today, the only visible remnant of the settlement is "Fishtrap Cemetery," named after the little lake that fronts the old lead smelter and the final resting place for some of the settlers.

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