Written by Phil Cerroni
By Alice Canham
Scores of the city’s proudest residents were on hand Sep. 6 when the descendents of Irving’s first mayor Otis Brown transferred ownership of a prized possession: the original town plat map, dating from 1903. The oversized map, now hanging encased in Irving’s Central Library, is featured prominently in Guy Deel’s painted recreation of the land auction, ‘Irving’s Beginning: The Lot Sale’.
“It’s almost a holy document to me,” said Charles Brown, grandson to Otis, as he participated in the grand unveiling. “It’s literally the birth certificate of Irving, Texas.”
It’s not a copy, Brown told the group. It’s the real deal, and actually hung on the unfinished train depot wall at 10:00 am on Dec. 19, 1903, as parcels of land were auctioned off at an average price of $50 each.
To add perspective, Brown explained that the original map designated three properties for churches: the Baptist, the Church of Christ, and the Catholic Church.
“They picked those three churches because Mr. J.O. Schulze [co-founder with Otis Brown] was Catholic, my granddad had just married the daughter of a Church of Christ minister, and I guess they figured that everybody else was probably Baptist,” said Brown.
“They wanted to have a complete city here, and that wouldn’t happen without places to buy groceries, and then thank God for your ability to be able to buy them.”
State Representative Linda Harper Brown, no relation to the original Brown family, said that her great-great-grandfather bought Lot One.
“Ike Story had the first General Store here,” Harper Brown said. “This is really great, to have this map preserved for the city in perpetuity.”
Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne, City Manager Tommy Gonzalez, Council Members Rose Cannaday and Gerald Farris, and Irving ISD School Board Trustee Gwen Craig were all present to commemorate the event and share in the cake, cleverly designed to recreate a portion of the plat map.
Irving Heritage Society President Chris Wallace served as emcee for the event.
“There’s a whole team of people that accomplished this,” said Wallace. “The Irving Heritage Society and the Irving Library were greatly assisted by the City.
“We couldn’t have done this without Casey Tate who built the case to hold the map, and we’re also grateful to Library archivist Kevin Kendro.”
Nodding thanks to fellow choir members at First United Methodist Church, Charles Brown introduced his grandson Andrew Brown with wife Erica, then added thanks as well to Jan Hart because, as he said, “she started bugging me about this back in 1985.”
“This map is just a start,” said Chris Dobson, Director for Irving Public Library. “In the future, this building will become a museum, once our new library is built. We’re very happy to have this because it’s very different. It gives a connection to our history.”
Or as Charles Brown said, “This is where we started, and look at us now.”