By Lee Halford
Leslie Allison Stemmons (1876-1939) was born in Dallas County, and studied at Southwestern University (Georgetown, Texas) and at the University of Chicago, majoring in real estate and law. He was then in the gravel mining business with Scott Miller, and worked for Sanger Brothers in Dallas. Then Leslie and Scott Miller formed a real estate and insurance business. They developed the Stemmons farm property in Oak Cliff, and properties known as Evergreen Hills, East Kessler Park, Winnetka Heights and Rosemont Crest, plus others.
Leslie married Elizabeth Vinson Storey (bom Mexia, Texas 1882, died Dallas, 1910). Their children were: Leslie Storey Stemmons (1904-1970), Elizabeth Storey Stemmons (1906-1979), and John Millard Stemmons (bom 1909). After his wife died, Leslie married Proctor Howell in 1915, and they had a son, Leslie Allison Stemmons, Jr. (1917- 1982).
John Millard Stemmons married Ruth Trueheart Thomas of Bedford, Virginia, in 1932, and they had two children: Ruth Allison Stemmons (bom 1942, married Heinz Kurt Simon); and John Millard Stemmons, Jr. (1944-1991), who married Sarah Louise Werth and had daughters Leslie Ellen, bom 1970, and Brooks Allison (bom 1974).
John Millard Stemmons joined his father in the Industrial Properties Corporation in 1931. Following his father’s death in 1939, John was prevented from entering military service in World War II by a football injury he suffered at Washington & Lee University. His son, John M. Stemmons, Jr., played football at the University of Colorado and served in the U. S. Navy in World War II. He became Vice President of the IPC, and left his father, John Stemmons, Sr. as the only living male Stemmons descendant when he died in 1991.
Leslie Allison Stemmons, subject of this article, was the son of Confederate Colonel John Martin Stemmons (1830-1890) who came to Dallas after the Civil War. At age 32, during the 1908 Trinity River flood, Leslie saw the need to harness the river, and reclaim the valuable flood-plain land for the use of Dallas.
Leslie viewed the Panama Canal construction work, and saw what could be done by moving dirt. In 1910, George Kessler suggested levees to control the Trinity River. Leslie served on Mayor Ulrickson’s committee, which studied the 550-mile river and the 18,000 square miles it drains. In 1925, the committee recommended a Trinity Levee District to reclaim over 10,500 acres of land by confining flooding to 4,000 acres between levees. Thirteen miles of 30-foot levees were completed in 1932, including viaducts and underpasses. The Great Depression delayed the completion of some of the work, but it was finally done, and Leslie formed the Industrial Properties Corporation to develop the reclaimed land.
Leslie died in 1939, but his sons, John and Leslie Storey Stemmons (1904-1970) took over. After the war. Storey and John developed the property. Railways and roads were planned and built and the industrial district grew. Industrial Properties Corporation donated 975 acres to a Trinity River Greenbelt, and 100 acres for U. S. Highway 35-E, opened in 1959, which was aptly named Stemmons Freeway for Leslie Allison Stemmons. The Industrial District and the Dallas Market Center complex, now known worldwide, have been highly successful.
Leslie’s sons, John and Storey Stemmons, have also served the greater Dallas community in many other ways; in the Chamber of Commerce, Dallas Citizens Council, various arts districts, and the Texas State Fair. Storey Stemmons died in 1970, and “Big John” carries on in 1992.
The senior Leslie Allison Stemmons descended from Martin Stemmons, who came from Europe in 1756 and lived in Bedford County, Virginia. His son, Jacob Stemmons, moved to Logan County, Kentucky, where he was a silversmith and bell manufacturer. His son, Jacquillian Martin Stemmons, became a physician, blacksmith and Methodist preacher. His son, John Martin Stemmons (1830-1890) was born in Kentucky and attended law school at Lebanon, Tennessee.
John Martin Stemmons moved to Jasper County, Missouri, and practiced law with Judge Matthias Allison. He married the judge’s daughter, Rebecca Serena, in 1857, and their first three children, Walter Eugene, Beverly Servis, and Harriet Ann were born at Greenfield, Missouri. The elder Leslie enlisted in the Missouri State Guard and became a lieutenant colonel in the Confederate army. He was in the battles of Wilson’s Creek and Pea Ridge, was wounded and captured by federal troops, and was imprisoned at St. Louis. He escaped and rejoined his unit, but was again wounded at Helena, Arkansas. He participated in the Red River Campaign, and following Lee’s surrender. Col. Stemmons surrendered the 16th Missouri Infantry Regiment.
He taught school in Mississippi and Missouri, and then came to Dallas. His wife came by wagon to join him in 1867. Col. Stemmons and his wife had seven more children: Mary Belle, Lillian Selsterling, Cora Lucille, Leslie Allison, John Jacquillian, Sidney Alien, and Robert Lee Stemmons. Col. Stemmons practiced law in Dallas and owned a farm in Oak Cliff, plus other properties which he developed. His Oak Cliff home was near the site of today’s Methodist Medical Center. He died in 1890 and is buried at Masonic Cemetery in downtown Dallas.