Built in 1856, the Gilbert House is the oldest structure still on its original foundation in Dallas County. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places as well as being named a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark, the Gilbert House is the cornerstone of the Historical Park.
The House consists of two-foot thick limestone walls, chestnut plank floors, and native Texas furniture. It is architecturally referred to as a dogtrot style home, recognized by a large open hallway in the middle of the house.
It is architecturally referred to as a dogtrot style home, recognized by a large open hallway through the middle of the house. In 1988, the Gilbert House was listed in the National Register of Historic Places and Landmarks.
Mr. & Mrs. Gilbert - The Story
Both Samuel H. Gilbert and his wife, Julia Ritchey Gilbert were born in Tennessee and immigrated with their families to Texas. They met sometime after 1850 in Cass County, Texas where Julia’s parents, Thomas Jefferson and Malinda Ritchey and other members of their family were homesteading. The Ritchey homesteads composed most of what is now Atlanta, Texas.
In 1853, Dr. Gilbert married 18-year-old Julia and three years later they moved to Farmers Branch. According to Isaac B. Webb’s diary, the couple boarded with him for one year during the construction of their home. Their first daughter, Mary, was born in 1857 followed by a second daughter, Isabelle (or Belle) born in 1861. According to the 1860 census, the household included a farm laborer and by 1880, Dr. Gilbert’s mother was living in the rock house, which had been finished in 1856.
Dr. Gilbert was one of the earliest physicians in the Dallas County and a founding member of the Dallas Medical Association. According to his diary, hardly a day went by without someone coming by for treatment or sending for him to make a house call. A single day visit cost $2.50 but the price went up to $3.50 for a night call. He charged $15.00 to $25.00 to deliver a baby and charged the following for amputations: a finger or toe was $5.00; an arm or leg $30; and for a thigh $75. He was also responsible for mixing his own prescriptions.
Medicine was not the only thing that occupied Dr. Gilbert’s time. He was also a farmer, having purchased 307 acres from the heirs of John L. Pulliam. He raised corn, cotton, and wheat. Livestock on the farm included sheep, horses, hogs, and cattle. There was a vegetable garden and the Gilberts would frequently supplement their diet by gathering wild blackberries, mustang grapes and robbing “bee trees.” In addition, the Gilbert’s boarded travelers for a small fee. The Gilberts did not take in all travelers, however. In a diary entry on June 2, 1872 he wrote “about 1 o’clock p.m. Bird Lorance and sister, Dr. Williams and a Miss Combs called to get dinner and rest a while. I gave them no dinner and no countenance and they soon left.”
The doctor was an active community leader. He was founder and charter member of the Masonic White Rock Lodge No. 234, chartered in 1859. Later he helped to raise money for the Dallas County Soldiers Aid Society. In 1866, he was elected Justice of the Peace for Precinct # 4. He attended two county Democratic conventions and was a School Board Trustee for Precinct # 4 in 1874.
Mrs. Gilbert and her two daughters were kept busy running the household, caring for family members, entertaining visitors and accommodating boarders. For example, on July 18, 1872, while Dr. Gilbert is out delivering the 9 lb. Wainscot baby, the Gilbert women were entertaining Mrs. Cox and daughter and Mrs. Scott and children for the day. Before lunch time, Mr. Simm and friend came to visit Dr. Gilbert as stayed for lunch. The total number of people sitting down to lunch was around eleven people. In the evening, most of the company had left but they took in a boarder for the night by the name of Nelms.
Mrs. Gilbert died on February 15, 1881 and was buried in Webb Chapel Cemetery. Dr. Gilbert lived for almost ten years after his wife’s death. In the early part of 1890, his health began to decline. During this time, his eighty-four year old mother came to visit him and died two days after her arrival. Not many days later, his infant granddaughter, Julia K. Hughes died suddenly. Dr. Gilbert died on May 14, 1890 and is buried next to his wife.