Warren Angus Ferris

Warren Angus Ferris was a surveyor and tracker.  He is credited with being one of the first persons to map out Dallas County (prior to the better-known John Neely Bryan) and several other parts of Texas.  He was born the day after Christmas in 1810 to Angus and Sarah Ferris of Glen Falls, New York, a family with a Quaker and Puritan heritage.  He also had a younger brother named Charles Drake Ferris.

Warren Angus’ father died when he was about three years old and his mother married Joshua Lovejoy. Some accounts say that Sarah died one year later in an Indian attack, but most genealogical records show her to have had other children and to have lived until 1864.

When Warren Angus was 18, he left New York.  After a short time, he joined an expedition into the Rocky Mountains that was being undertaken by the American Fur Trading Company.  Not much is known of Warren Angus’ formal education, but his journal was rediscovered many years later and published as the book, Life in the Rocky Mountains.  Warren Angus returned home to New York some 18 years later to find that he had missed the departure of his brother Charles Drake Ferris by one week.  Charles Drake had left his young bride in November of 1835 to go to Texas where he intended to fight in the Texas Revolution.  However, Charles Drake arrived after the Alamo had fallen but he told of having fought in the Battle of San Jacinto.  Whether Charles Drake actually took part in the famous battle is not documented.  However, he apparently served in the Texas Army at some time and in some capacity, as newspaper accounts in the 1940s state that his heirs received a 960 acre allotment in Donley County in recognition of his military service.  Warren Angus and Charles Drake were eventually reunited in Texas and both worked in formalizing Warren Angus’ notes from his Rocky Mountain journal.

Warren Angus’ book, Life in the Rocky Mountains, was published in 1940.  The book is still available for purchase and it is also available for free download.  It tells of Ferris’ observations between 1830 and 1835.  His journal included his own hand drawn maps and was also one of the earliest historical accounts of the area that became Yellowstone National Park.  Some accounts of the area were written up in newspapers and other periodicals, but descriptions of the unique terrain, the geysers and other natural wonders of the area seemed almost too incredible to be believed at the time.

Ferris’s journal also included in an appendix the story of hunter/tracker Hugh Glass.  It recounts an episode dating from the 1820s that Ferris would not have been a witness to, as he was a youth when it actually occurred.  Hugh Glass was serving with a fur trading company along with the famed explorer Jim Bridger, then still a young man, and several other individuals.  The company’s natural foes were the wild animals and the local Indian tribes in the area who relied on the game for food and shelter.  Glass was mauled by a grizzly bear, looked after for a time, but ultimately left for dead when the two men (including young Bridgers) who stayed behind to look after him chose to abandon him.  This traumatic event and those that followed became the basis for the recent historical novel by author Michael Punke and the 2015 feature film of the same name, The Revenant.

Charles Drake eventually returned to New York and is thought to have been lost at sea when the ship he was serving on went down off the coast of Indonesia around 1851.  Warren Angus remained in Texas and began a career as a surveyor in Nacogdoches County.  He worked his way west and later explored the Sabine, Neches and Trinity Rivers, endeavoring to trace and map the rivers’ courses through Texas.  He surveyed all the way north to the Red River, which included much of what we know as the first boundary of Peters Colony.  His work also included being the first to map what became Dallas County, and he eventually settled along the eastern side of White Rock Creek.  He is credited for having laid out the original town site of Dallas.  Various accounts say that his survey led to the layout of the early streets of Dallas and their peculiar (but natural) orientation of either being parallel or perpendicular to the course of the Trinity River, rather than to run strictly north to south, east to west like the layout of many other new towns.

He first married Melinda Cook in 1841 and the couple had one child who lived beyond infancy.  Following Melinda’s death around 1847, he married Sarah Frances Moore with whom he had around a dozen more children.  While living in Dallas County, Warren Angus farmed on his own property and contributed articles to the local newspaper and to magazines.

Sarah Frances died in 1869 and Warren Angus died in 1873.  They were buried along with other pioneer residents in the family cemetery, on a small hill in what is now the Forest Hills Addition of Dallas.  What remains of the cemetery today is located diagonally opposite the Alex Sanger School, located at 8400 San Leandro, across the intersection of San Leandro and St. Francis.  The Forest Hills addition is essentially built on what was formerly the Warren Angus Ferris farm.  Originally laid out to be a community six miles from Dallas, Forest Hills was annexed into the city of Dallas around 1945.  When roads were paved, the Ferris cemetery was partially encroached upon by developers.  The site was also neglected for a number of years with the result that only a few of the original grave markers remain.  A number of the markers were also lost to vandalism, but a Texas Historical Marker is now installed at the site, facing outward towards St. Francis. There is now a group called Friends of Warren Ferris Cemetery which is trying to restore the area, clean up the cemetery and make other improvements.  There are a few other area locations that bear the name Ferris, but to the best of our knowledge, there are no other landmarks in Dallas County named for Warren Angus Ferris besides the old cemetery.

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