- Get Involved
FORT WORTH, TX
FORT WORTH, TEXAS. Fort Worth is on Interstate highways 35W, 20, and 30 and the Clear Fork of the Trinity River in central Tarrant County. In January 1849 United States Army General William Jenkins Worth, hero of the Mexican War, proposed a line of ten forts to mark the western Texas frontier from Eagle Pass to the confluence of the West Fork and Clear Fork of the Trinity River. Upon the death of Worth, Gen. William S. Harney assumed the command and ordered Maj. Ripley S. Arnold to find a new fort site near the West Fork and Clear Fork. This site was suggested by Middleton Tate Johnson, who once commanded a detachment of Texas Rangers and founded Johnson Station, just southeast of what is now Fort Worth. On June 6, 1849, Arnold established a camp on the bank of the Trinity River and named the post Camp Worth in honor of General Worth. In August 1849 Arnold moved the camp to the north-facing bluff which overlooked the mouth of the Clear Fork. The United States War Department officially named the post Fort Worth on November 14, 1849. Although Indians were still a threat in the area, pioneers were already settling near the fort. When relocating the camp, Arnold found George "Press" Farmer living on the bluff and allowed him to open the first sutler's store. Other early settlers were Ephraim M. Daggett, George W. Terrell, Ed Terrell, and Howard W. Peak. But when a new line of forts was built further west, the army evacuated Fort Worth on September 17, 1853. Settlers then took uncontested possession of the site. John Peter Smith opened a school with twelve students in 1854; Henry Daggett and Archibald Leonard started department stores. Julian Feild ran a general store and flour mill in 1856, and the Butterfield Overland Mail and the Southern Pacific Stage Line used the town as a western terminus on the way to California. In 1855 the county seat war erupted. Since 1849 the county seat had been Birdville, but in 1855 Fort Worth citizens decided that this honor belonged to their town. After a long bitter fight Fort Worth became the county seat in April 1860, and construction began on a stone county courthouse. After a delay due to the Civil War the courthouse was finished in the 1870s, although it burned in 1876.
During the 1860s Fort Worth suffered from the effects of the Civil War and Reconstruction. The population dropped as low as 175, and money, food, and supply shortages burdened the residents. Gradually, however, the town began to revive. By 1872 Jacob Samuels, William Jesse Boaz, and William Henry Davis had opened general stores. The next year Khleber M. Van Zandt established Tidball, Van Zandt, and Company, which became Fort Worth National Bank in 1884. Barrooms such as Tom Prindle's Saloon and Steele's Tavern welcomed many travelers. Weekly newspapers were prominent, including the Fort Worth Chief and the Democrat. Schools gradually reopened, and in 1869 Addison and Randolph Clark, along with Ida Clark, taught six pupils in a local church. It was the developing cattle industry, however, that really began the community's economic boom. Known as Cowtown, Fort Worth offered cowboys a respite from the cattle drives to Abilene, Kansas. Northern cattle buyers established their headquarters in the town, and new businesses included Pendery and Wilson's Liquor Wholesale, B. C. Evans dry goods, and Martin B. Loyd's Exchange Office. In 1873 the city was incorporated with a mayor-council government, and W. P. Burts became the first mayor. During this time the Democrat, owned by K. M. Van Zandt and under the editorial leadership of Buckley B. Paddock, successfully campaigned for a fire department and other civic improvements. Transportation and communication were an important part of Fort Worth and its growth. In 1874 the first westbound stage arrived, and in 1878 the Yuma Stage Line made Fort Worth the eastern terminus to Yuma, Arizona. The Texas and Pacific Railway designated Fort Worth as the eastern terminus for the route to San Diego, California. After a delay caused by the panic of 1873 the Texas and Pacific was finally completed to Fort Worth on July 19, 1876; by 1900 the Missouri, Kansas and Texas (the "Katy"), the Santa Fe, the Fort Worth and New Orleans, the Fort Worth and Brownwood, the Fort Worth and Rio Grande, the Fort Worth and Denver City, the Fort Worth, Corsicana and Beaumont, and the St. Louis Southwestern (the "Cotton Belt") served the town. The Fort Worth Street Railway Company ran a mile-long route down Main Street. Early newspapers were the Fort Worth Standard (1873–78), the Greenback Tribune (1878–89; later the Fort Worth Tribune), the Democrat (1876), the Democrat-Advance (1881), the Gazette (1882–98), and the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (1909-).
One of the most popular gathering places was the Texas Spring Palace, an agricultural exhibition hall built in 1889 and destroyed by fire in 1890. The palace was not only a form of entertainment but also an important part of the town's strategy for boosting commercial expansion. It was advertised throughout the nation, and special trains brought visitors from as far away as Boston and Chicago. Hell's Half Acre provided saloons and bawdy houses for cowboys and havens for desperadoes. By 1876 Fort Worth residents were demanding that the lawlessness be controlled, and they elected Timothy I. "Jim" Courtright as marshal. By the 1890s the Queen City of the Prairie, as Fort Worth liked to be known, was becoming a dressed-beef center. In North Fort Worth businessmen founded the Texas Dressed Beef and Packing Company, the Union Stockyards Company, and the Fort Worth Stockyards Company. When Swift and Company and Armour and Company began to look for Texas sites for branch plants, Fort Worth citizens pledged a bonus of $100,000 for the two companies if they would locate there. Because of this incentive, and because the town was served by railroads, Armour and Swift decided to locate a meat-packing plant in Fort Worth. The venture was successful and, combined with the stockyards, helped Fort Worth become a leading packing-house center. In 1903 the first livestock was slaughtered in the new plants. The rise of the stockyards and packing plants stimulated other livestock-related businesses. J. B. Buchanan and C. E. Lee issued the Livestock Reporter and the North Fort Worth News. In 1896 the first Fat Stock Show was held, and in 1908 the Northside Coliseum was built to house the Southwestern Exposition and Fat Stock Show (later the Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show). The city decided to begin the construction of new county courthouse in 1893. The leaders of Fort Worth also caught the reform spirit of the Progressive era, and in 1907 the city government was restructured to the commission form. In 1909 a devastating fire motivated the construction of a dam on the West Fork; the resulting Lake Worth provided a reliable water supply. The city limits were expanded to 16.83 square miles in 1909.
During World War I the United States Army established Camp Bowie (in the Arlington Heights area), which trained 100,000 men, and the United States Army Air Force converted three airfields into centers of aviation training. With the discovery of oil in Texas, refinery and pipeline companies such as Sinclair Refining Company, Texaco, and Humble Oil and Refining Company (later Exxon Company, U.S.A.) converged on Fort Worth, which also developed into a center for oil stock exchanges. In 1927 Meacham Field opened, offering commercial and passenger service from locally operated Braniff Airways and American Airlines (see AMR CORPORATION). Medical care was provided by several hospitals-Fort Worth Children's, St. Joseph's, John Peter Smith, and Harris. In 1924 the city government was changed to the council-manager form, and the city limits were expanded to 61.57 square miles. The major additions were Arlington Heights, Riverside, Niles City, and Polytechnic. During the Great Depression of the 1930s Fort Worth was able to secure federal money for many construction projects, including the Will Rogers Memorial Coliseum and Auditorium, as well as the renovation and building of public schools. With the outbreak of World War II the aviation industry came to Fort Worth. Consolidated Vultee Aircraft Corporation, the largest manufacturer in Fort Worth, was later bought by General Dynamics Corporation. Next to the bomber factory the Army Air Force located the Tarrant Field Air Drome, which in 1948 became Carswell Air Force Base, a part of the Strategic Air Command and a station for the B-36. Because the Trinity River had flooded severely in 1922 and 1949, Fort Worth residents secured federal money to build the Trinity River Floodway. The project was completed in 1956. Texas Christian University, Texas Wesleyan College, and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary provided higher education.
By the 1950s the downtown area had deteriorated, and in 1956 the Gruen Plan was introduced. This plan called for a freeway loop around the central business district, the construction of underground tunnels, and the elimination of vehicular traffic inside the loop. Although the plan was never accepted, it emphasized the necessity of planning for the city's future needs. During the 1960s and 1970s Fort Worth was filled with economic activity. The Tarrant County Convention Center, the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport, the Amon Carter Museum, and the Kimbell Art Museum were constructed. Amon Carter, Sr., publisher of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, worked diligently to promote the city's growth. He was also a successful oil operator and owned much real estate in the area. He worked hard to publicize the city and secured government installations and projects. During this time the city limits expanded to 272 square miles. Over the past century the city population has boomed-6,663 in 1880, 26,668 in 1900, 277,047 in 1950, 385,164 in 1980, 447,619 in 1990, and 534,694 in 2000. In spite of increasing urbanization Fort Worth has retained its western flavor as the city "Where the West Begins."
Verana E. Berrong, History of Tarrant County: From Its Beginnings until 1875 (M.A. thesis, Texas Christian University, 1938). David Ross Copeland, Emerging Young Giant: Fort Worth, 1877–1880 (M.A. thesis, Texas Christian University, 1972). Macel D. Ezell, Progressivism in Fort Worth Politics, 1935–38 (M.A. thesis, Texas Christian University, 1963). James Farber, Fort Worth in the Civil War (Belton, Texas: Peter Hansborough Bell Press, 1960). Fort Worth Star-Telegram, October 30, 1969. Julia Kathryn Garrett, Fort Worth: A Frontier Triumph (Austin: Encino, 1972). Thomas Albert Harkins, A History of the Municipal Government of Fort Worth, Texas (M.A. thesis, Texas Christian University, 1937). Donald Alvin Henderson, Fort Worth and the Depression, 1929–33 (M.A. thesis, Texas Christian University, 1937). Delia Ann Hendricks, The History of Cattle and Oil in Tarrant County (M.A. thesis, Texas Christian University, 1969). Oliver Knight, Fort Worth, Outpost on the Trinity (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1953). Richard G. Miller, "Fort Worth and the Progressive Era: The Movement for Charter Revision, 1899–1907," in Essays on Urban America, ed. Margaret Francine Morris and Elliot West (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1975). Ruth Gregory Newman, The Industrialization of Fort Worth (M.A. thesis, North Texas State University, 1950). Buckley B. Paddock, History of Texas: Fort Worth and the Texas Northwest Edition (4 vols., Chicago: Lewis, 1922). J'Nell Pate, Livestock Legacy: The Fort Worth Stockyards, 1887–1987 (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1988). Warren H. Plasters, A History of Amusements in Fort Worth from the Beginning to 1879 (M.A. thesis, Texas Christian University, 1947). Leonard Sanders, How Fort Worth Became the Texasmost City (Fort Worth: Amon Carter Museum, 1973). Robert H. Talbert, Cowtown-Metropolis: Case Study of a City's Growth and Structure (Fort Worth: Texas Christian University, 1956). Joseph C. Terrell, Reminiscences of the Early Days of Fort Worth (Fort Worth, 1906). Mack H. Williams, In Old Fort Worth: The Story of a City and Its People as Published in the News-Tribune in 1976 and 1977 (1977). Mack H. Williams, comp., The News-Tribune in Old Fort Worth (Fort Worth: News-Tribune, 1975).
Image Use Disclaimer
All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.
For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml
If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.Handbook of Texas Online, Janet Schmelzer, "FORT WORTH, TX," accessed August 20, 2019, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hdf01.
Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Modified on June 1, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.