John William Lane, Dallas mayor, printer, and state legislator, son of Thomas Hopkins Lane and Elizabeth Burks (Edwards) Lane, was born on February 23, 1835, in Simpson County, Kentucky. In 1848 Lane’s parents immigrated to Palestine, Texas, where Lane resided for ten years before moving to Dallas in 1858. On January 5, 1860, in Dallas, Lane married his first wife, Mary Elizabeth “Bettie” Crutchfield, a native of Louisville, Kentucky, and the daughter of Thomas and Frances Crutchfield, the owners of Dallas’s Crutchfield House. The couple had two children—the first, Frank Thomas Lane, was born in September 1861 and died at the age of two; the second child, Clarence Crutchfield Lane, was born on April 2, 1865. Bettie Lane died on January 13, 1866, at the age of twenty-three. On January 8, 1868, John Lane married his second wife, Emma Thompson, a native of Mississippi. That marriage produced no children.
As a young man in Palestine, Lane served an apprenticeship at the Trinity Advocate, and when he moved to Dallas in 1858, he found employment as a journeyman printer with the Dallas Herald. In the Dallas fire of July 8, 1860, the Herald office and the Crutchfield House, at which Lane and his wife were boarding, were destroyed and Lane was badly injured (seeTEXAS TROUBLES). When the Herald resumed publication in October, Lane became an associate publisher alongside owner John W. Swindells. In December 1859 Lane had taken part in a public debate sponsored by the Dallas Lyceum, which posed the question of whether the election of a Republican president would “be just cause for the South to secede from the Union?” Lane argued for the negative side of the question, a position that suggests he was at least a conditional Unionist.
After the outbreak of the Civil War, regardless of whatever reservations he may have felt toward secession, Lane joined the Confederate Army. He enlisted on January 15, 1862, in a company organized by Edward Cabell Browder, which became Company C of the Eighteenth Texas Cavalry in March. Lane served as a first sergeant and was elected to the rank of second lieutenant on May 26. Poor health led him to resign from his position on July 17, and he returned home. A few months passed before he rejoined the Confederate Army in the Second Texas Partisan Rangers, also known as Stone’s Second Regiment, named after its organizer, Col. Barton Warren Stone. Lane was made a captain and assigned to command Company G. He remained in this position for the remainder of the war and returned to Dallas in May 1865.
In June 1866 Lane defeated incumbent John M. Crockett to be elected mayor of Dallas. He was also elected as one of the two justices of the peace of Dallas County’s first precinct; his fellow justice for the precinct was the founder of Dallas, John Neely Bryan. Lane left the office of mayor in September to accept Governor James W. Throckmorton’s invitation to become his private secretary and held this position until Throckmorton was removed from office on July 30, 1867, by Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan under the terms of Congressional Reconstruction.
In November 1869 Dallas Democrats elected Lane as representative for Texas House District 21, representing Dallas, Collin, and Tarrant counties. He took his oath of office during the provisional session of the Twelfth legislature on February 9, 1870. His most notable accomplishment came in the regular session of 1871 when Lane attached to a bill granting right-of-way to the Texas and Pacific Railway a rider requiring the railroad to intersect with the Houston and Texas Central Railway within one mile of Browder’s Springs, just a mile southeast of the Dallas courthouse. This bill changed the initial planned route, which had passed fifty miles south of Dallas. Lane’s actions likely assured Dallas’s future as a metropolis rather than an obscure town on the Trinity.
In September 1872 the city’s Democratic primary voters nominated Lane for one of Dallas’s two city aldermen for the Forth Ward. In the November municipal election, he was elected alongside Republican Archelaus M. Cochran. As alderman, he opposed the raising of salaries for the mayor and aldermen of Dallas, due to the city’s economic struggles. In January 1873 members of the Texas Senate elected Lane as the Senate’s first assistant secretary. Later that year he unsuccessfully sought the Democratic nomination for Texas Senatorial District 20, composed of Dallas, Tarrant, and Ellis counties.
In December 1873 he announced another run for mayor of Dallas and declared that he had “no friend to reward or enemy to punish” and that he could “administer justice without bias or prejudice in this position.” The following month, however, he was again elected by members of the state Senate to serve for another session as their first assistant secretary. Lane withdrew from the mayoral race, temporarily moved to Austin, and kept the Senate’s official records for the Fourteenth legislature. Returning to Dallas after the first regular legislative session, he was elected to the board of directors of School District No. 2, which included his own home ward, the Fourth Ward.
In September 1875 he parlayed his legislative and secretarial experience into an appointment as one of two secretaries to the Constitutional Convention of 1875. There he got to watch his fellow Democrats replace the hated Republican Constitution of 1869 with one that severely limited the powers of the state government and guaranteed White supremacy. It was his last appearance on the statewide political scene.
When not on some elective or appointive political assignment in Austin, Lane appears to have worked periodically for the Dallas Herald for most of his adult life. On the 1880 census, he listed his occupation as “printer.” By 1874 he was also a notary public and general agent, performing the writing of deeds, mortgages, powers of attorney, and “other legal instruments” and settling and collecting claims with the state government. Active in Dallas civic affairs, he was a member of the Tannehill Lodge No. 52, Free and Accepted Masons, in Dallas and in 1873 was an incorporator of the Dallas Military Institute.
By the 1870s Lane was suffering from epilepsy. From 1875 to 1876 he relocated to San Marcos, Texas, in an effort to restore his health. In 1882 he was healthy enough to make one final political campaign, running for district clerk in Dallas County. He finished a distant third. In 1886 the Dallas Morning News reported that his health had recovered sufficiently for him to canvas sales of subscriptions for Homer S. Thrall’sA Pictorial History of Texas. On September 16, 1888, Lane died at the age of fifty-three in Dallas. He was buried in Dallas’s Pioneer Cemetery.
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John Henry Brown, History of Dallas County, Texas: From 1837 to 1887 (Dallas: Milligan, Cornett & Farnham, 1887). Dallas Daily Herald, May 29, 1873; December 20, 1873; May 27, 1874; August 12, 1874; September 7, 1875; November 10, 1875; October 28, 1881; November 23, 1882. Dallas Morning News, January 8, 1886; October 10, 1888. Legislative Reference Library of Texas: John W. Lane (https://lrl.texas.gov/legeLeaders/members/memberDisplay.cfm?memberID=4507), accessed April 18, 2022. Writers’ Program of the Work Projects Administration in the City of Dallas, The WPA Dallas Guide and History (Denton: University of North Texas Press, 1992).
Publishers and Executives
Regimental and Staff Officers
Politics and Government
Twelfth Legislature (1870-1871)
Late Nineteenth-Century Texas
Dallas/Fort Worth Region
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.
“Lane, John William,”
Handbook of Texas Online,
accessed May 24, 2022,
Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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