Adolphus F. Gouhenant
1804 - 1871
Painter & Daguerreotypist

Adolphus F. Gouhenant, a French exile, immigrated to Texas in 1848. He was a member of the short-lived Icarian colony that settled in Denton County. After the colony disbanded, he came to Fort Worth, where he became friends with Major Ripley Arnold and his wife, Kate. Gouhenant also developed friendships with other early settlers, including Ephraim M. Daggett. A renaissance man, Gouhenant's knowledge of art, music, languages, and wine making made him a popular figure in the pioneer communities of Tarrant and Dallas Counties.

Gouhenant patented land in Tarrant County under a Peters Colony grant. Major Arnold's two small children, Sophie and Willis, died in 1850 and were buried on Gouhenant's property. After their father's death in 1853, Gouhenant arranged for Major Arnold's body to be re-interred near their graves in what is now known as Pioneer Rest Cemetery.

In the early 1850's, Gouhenant opened a studio in Dallas called "The Art Saloon Gallery." There, he displayed his paintings and entertained his friends and neighbors. In addition to this, he occasionally rented the space for various functions. Gouhenant became an American citizen on May 17, 1853, in Dallas County, Texas. The spelling of his name is often recorded as "Adolph Gounah," reflecting its pronunciation. During the time he lived in Fort Worth and Dallas, he was politically active. He was also involved in a number of lawsuits. One of them was in regard to his Dallas homestead, which was repossessed while he was residing in Fort Worth. In his winning appeal, Adolphe F. Gouhenant vs. Alexander Cockrell, evidence was given that Gouhenant "was a daguerreotypist, a wanderer by vocation; and it was proved that in pursuit of his business, he had been absent on former occasions."

By 1860, Gouhenant and his son, Ernest, were both living in Denton County, Texas. Census records indicate that Ernest and his family resided in Denton, while his father apparently boarded with the Thompson Smith family in Pilot Point. Ernest's occupation is recorded as "painter," his father's as "physician." Prior to 1870, Gouhenant married Elizabeth Martin, a well-educated young woman from a prominent family. Gouhenant and his wife made their home in Pilot Point. His profession is listed on the 1870 Denton County census as "Doctor of Medicine" and his personal assets recorded as $10,000 in addition to $5,000 worth of property.

Gouhenant's untimely death in 1871 was foreshadowed by a dream, which he recorded in his diary. Gouhenant had been appointed State Geologist of Texas and, in that capacity, he was his way to Washington, D.C., when his train had a stopover in Springfield, Missouri. He got off the train and went to a hotel to eat. When he realized the train was leaving the station without him, he apparently ran and attempted to jump on it. He fell and was severely injured when the train wheels ran over and crushed his left foot. He died a week later, on April 30, 1871. He was buried in Springfield's Hazelwood Cemetery.


Conversations and Correspondence

Jack Grantham, Historian, Dallas Texas  My husband's late cousin, Jack, introduced me to Gouhenant's history and provided me with a great deal of information. Later, he put me in touch with Alexander M. Troup, who has generously shared his research on Gouhenant and the French colonists with me.

Carolyn Selzer, Descendant of Adolph F. Gouhenant  Carolyn's interest and enthusiasm in tracing her roots and preserving her family history has been an inspiration to me. An active and enthusiastic member of the Dallas County Pioneer Association, she served on the Executive Board from 1999-2007. She also made many contributions to the group during her terms as DCPA Historian. Her delightful story "Ervay Street Car" was included in their publication Proud Heritage Vol. III. You may also read it in the Community Stories section of the DCPA web site by clicking here.

Alexander M. Troup, Historian & Urban Archeologist  Alex was hired by Gouhenant's descendants to find the grave of their ancestor. He successfully located it and also provided them with many previously unknown details of Gouhenant's life. A feature article in the Springfield News-Leader, 8/16/95, detailed the events that led to Alex's discovery. The article stated: "Hazelwood Cemetery records show Gouhenant was buried May 1, 1871, in a plot owned by the United Masonic Lodge No. 5 and Soloman Lodge No. 27." Alex is pictured with the headstone Gouhenant's family arranged to have placed on his grave. It is inscribed on "pink granite leftover from construction of the State Capitol in Austin:"

Adolph F. Gouhenant
1804 - 4/30/71

Both Jack and Alex provided me with copies of information from the Dallas Public Library and the Dallas Historical Society archives. Jim Wheat was responsible for transcribing many of the documents and microfilmed records.

Jim Wheat, Historian  Jim's knowledge of Dallas County history and his dedication to preserving it are very much appreciated. His web site, Dallas County Texas Archives, is a valuable resource.
Books & Manuscripts

Berrong, Verna Elizabeth. History of Tarrant County From Its Beginning until 1875. M. A. Thesis, Texas Christian University. Fort Worth, Texas: 1938.

First Half Dozen Years - Dallas County, Texas as Seen Through The Commissioners' Court Minutes. Compiled and Published by Helen M. Lu and Gwen B. Neumann, Dallas. 1982.

Excerpt from the minutes of August 17, 1852:
It is Ordered by the Court that ADOLPHA F. GOUGHNANT [sic] be allowed $7.50 for the use of his Saloon during the sitting of the last District Court and that the County Treasurer pay the same out of any funds in his hands not otherwise appropriated. Issued No. 338.

Garrett, Julia Kathryn. Fort Worth: A Frontier Triumph. Austin, Texas: The Encino Press, 1972.

Many books on the histories of Fort Worth and Dallas mention Adolphus Gouhenant. Miss Garrett's definitive history of Fort Worth gives more details about him and his relationship with Major Arnold and E. M. Daggett.

Greene, A. C. Dallas. The Deciding Years - A Historical Portrait. Austin, Texas: Encino Press, 1973.

Haynes, David. Catching Shadows - a Directory of Nineteenth-Century Photographers. Austin, Texas: Texas State Historical Association, 1993.

On page 45, Gouhenant is listed as "Dallas's first daguerreotypist." His cited reference is A. C. Greene's The Deciding Years, page 11.

Proud Heritage: Pioneer Families of Dallas County. Dallas County Pioneer Association, 1986.

In an article entitled "Adolph F. Gouhenant and Elizabeth Gouhenant," Paula Selzer recorded some of the details of her illustrious ancestor's life. She includes Charles DeMorse's description of Gouhenant's Art Saloon, which appeared in his newspaper, The Northern Standard, on July 7, 1852.
M. Gouhenant, a gentleman of education and accomplishments who had come out with the first French emigration to the Cross Timbers, and after some vicissitudes incident to life in a strange land, and the fortunes of an enterprise, had settled himself in Dallas, teaching French and Spanish, painting of pictures and signs, and instruction upon half a dozen musical instruments, had constituted himself a decided feature of the place. At night, attracted by the lights, and the sound of the violin, we proceeded to the Saloon and found a dance in full operation, in which besides the ladies and resident gentlemen, were participating Maj. Arnold, the gentlemanly commandant of Ft. Worth, and Maj. Young, the Sutler [sic] for the post. We found the main room of the Saloon large enough for two sets at a time, and in a little recess at one side was an honorable member of the legislature playing the violin assisted by Mons. Gouhenant. The Saloon itself was draped with flesh-colored canvass [sic], and pleasantly lighted, and to the best of my ability, I represented the City of Clarksville upon the dance floor. His honor, not caring to dance, enjoyed himself by mixing conversationally. This morning, Sunday School was held at the Arts Saloon, and subsequently, there was preaching at the same place. So my readers will perceive that the Arts Saloon holds no mean position at 'The Three Forks'. During the morning, Mons. Gouhenant exhibited to us some specimens of his painting, both in oil and water colors [sic], most of the later [sic] decidedly beautiful.


Cummings, C. C. and Alex W. Robertson. "Historical Gleanings," The Bohemian, I (Easter number, 1900): p. 17-22.

This excerpt describes the dream that Gouhenant recorded in his diary, shortly before his death:

Dr. Gounah was a Swedenborgian in faith, a mystic, who believed, according to this cult, that the next world is all about and that we step out from this mortal coil into the astral body which is a complete duplicate of our natural self while on earth. This faith was regularly verified in a degree at his death, at a town in Missouri by a railroad accident. He had just been installed as State Geologist for the State of Texas and while sleeping at the Kelly House in Sherman, he dreamed that he met with a railroad accident while boarding the cars at some Missouri town on the way of his journey north in the interest of his new office which resulted in his death. That, after being injured he was taken charge of by the brothers of the "mystic Tie," a branch of Masonry of which he was a member, of the highest standing, and was carried to the third story of some building there and was cared for and tenderly unrsed [sic] by Sisters of Charity till his death, or, as he noted in his diary, "till he went up in light."

So impressed was he with this vision that he arose in the night, lighted a lamp and noted it in full in his diary, which he kept for years before his death. He also noted that his wife came to his body as it laid in that room and wept over his remains the next day after his death. Dr. Gounah met his death while on his way north during this trip after leaving the Sherman house, at the place stated. Was cared for by the Mystic Tie fraternity and Sisters of Charity as noted by him in his diary. His wife came, as stated, and he was buried there by request of his will and his remains yet rest there. The Sisters of Charity is a feature the least likely of any to occur in verification, of no such order resided there then, but they happened to be there temporarily on a visit for some ulterior purpose of locating their order there. The notes of this incident was [sic] found in his diary after his death. Verily, "there are more mysteries in heaven, Horatio, than are dreamed of in our philosophy."

Note: In 1898, Judge C. C. Cummings and a group of friends with literary interests organized the Bohemian Club in Fort Worth. Their quarterly publication, The Bohemian, contained collections of their essays, poems, and other writings. Gouhenant's brother-in-law, Judge John Martin, was a member of the Bohemian Club at the time this article was published. It is assumed that he had access to Gouhenant's diary and that he provided the information to Judge Cummings. If the diary still exists, its whereabouts is unknown to Gouhenant's descendants.

Koehler, Steve. "Urban archaeologist unearths fateful accident," Springfield News-Leader, 8/16/95.


C. C. Cummings Collection. Boxes 143-144. Special Collections, University of Texas at Arlington Library.

The boxes contain a variety of Cumming's personal effects: letters, photos, maps, drafts and an unpublished manuscript of the history of Tarrant County.

Microfilmed census records of Dallas, Denton, and Tarrant Counties (1850-1870). Note: Tarrant County census of 1860 is unavailable and is presumed to have been lost in a fire.

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Revised: 3/25/07