Ft. Worth's Pioneer Beginnings ~ A History Lesson
Texas was a migration magnet in the decades before the Civil War. The naturally forested rolling terrain of east Fort Worth was a striking change for settlers travelling west. They commented on how distinct the forest was – as if it was an immense wall of woods stretching from north to south in a straight line. Some called it the “Cast Iron Forest.”
These settlers were encountering the Eastern Cross Timbers region, a narrow strip of dense native post oak and blackjack oak woods sandwiched between the Blackland Prairie to the east and the Fort Worth Prairie to the west. The Cross Timbers region made travel difficult for early pioneers, yet the ecosystem provided for their basic needs. Essentially, the Cross Timbers region dictated where Fort Worth and Dallas would be located—on prairie lands near the river either side of this dense forest.
Of course, these settlers were not the first people to live in north Texas—the Comanche people were a nomadic tribe who eventually found their way to what would become north Texas many years before. They were exceptional horsemen who dominated the Southern Plains, playing a prominent role in Texas frontier history throughout much of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The Caddo, Kiowa, and Tonkawa people also played a role in the frontier days of the region. Even so, archaeological evidence suggests these tribes were not the earliest people to live here.
As pioneers moved into Native American territory, it was almost inevitable there would be a battle. The Battle of Village Creek in 1841 was instigated by the Republic of Texas militia, led by Brigadier General Edward Tarrant. In essence, the battle’s intent was to weaken the stronghold these tribes had on westward expansion by locating and destroying their villages along a long section of Village Creek, a tributary of the Trinity River. Several of these tribes had made frequent raids on frontier settlements in the previous years.
After burning one or two villages on the day of the battle and running into increasing resistance, the Republic militia withdrew, leaving a dozen dead Indians, one dead member of the militia, and scores of wounded. This battle took place on what is today Fort Worth’s border with Arlington. Much of the actual battlefield lies at the bottom of Lake Arlington. In 1843, the Bird’s Fort Treaty between the Village Creek tribes and the Republic opened the region to settlement and removed the Indians to a reservation on the upper Brazos River.
Fort Worth was founded in 1849 on the bluffs of the Trinity River as a military outpost and beckoned to many wanting to make a fresh start. For a variety of historical reasons, Texas was in an expansion mode and began issuing land grants to adventurers willing to pack up their 2 belongings and head west.
Many came to north Texas from Tennessee and Kentucky, including people like John Peter Smith and Collin McKinney, who left important legacies in our region. Some not only brought their own family (and in some cases, slaves), but often other relatives would decide to move as well.
Among those pioneers were a number of families who settled east of the fort on the Trinity River bluff, in what is today east Fort Worth. No doubt the grasslands with extensive wooded areas near the river were particularly appealing. The land grants for these pioneers were 640 acres in size for married men and 320 acres in size for single men, so these were substantial sections of property. Over time, some of these families acquired even more property.
Samuel and Elizabeth Loving and his brother W. R. Loving arrived in 1849 and settled along Sycamore Creek (near where the north end of Cobb Park is today), just as the Army was establishing the fort named for the late General William Jenkins Worth. Samuel Loving was a carpenter and helped build the fort. Not much else is known about the Loving family’s contribution to the area.
Roger and Mary Tandy and Roger’s brother-in-law Arch Hall settled east of Sycamore Creek and about a mile south of the Trinity River in 1855. Roger Tandy expanded upon his initial land grant, purchasing additional land for a ranch. The Tandy ranch eventually stretched from about Rosedale Street, in the vicinity of today’s Texas Wesleyan University, north to the Trinity River. It would not be long until others came to the Tandy ranch land, and a community began forming— the first in east Fort Worth.
William Jesse (W.J.) Boaz moved to the area from Kentucky in 1860. He first settled in Birdville, then, after serving as a confederate soldier in the Civil War, he purchased land along the Trinity River for a ranch roughly four miles east of the fort. Mr. Boaz was well-known in Methodist circles, and as the city began to take shape, he served as vice president of the American National Bank in Fort Worth and as a city leader. At the time of his death in 1916, he was said to be the largest landowner in Fort Worth and one of the wealthiest men in the city. The Boaz Ranch would remain mostly rural for over one hundred years before it had a significant impact on east Fort Worth development north of Interstate 30.
Benjamin and Emily Ayres also settled along Sycamore Creek in 1861. The Ayres property was centered around the bluff which presently has two hotels on it, at Beach Street and Interstate 30.
Mr. Ayres was Tarrant County’s second county clerk and helped organize Fort Worth’s First Christian Church. The Ayres set aside two acres as a family cemetery, which was unfortunately put to use just a year after establishing the property. Benjamin Ayres became the first person to be buried in the cemetery. His wife died ten months later and was buried there as well. Their family would carry on for a number of years afterward.
Written by Daniel J Haase - A Historical Look at the Development of East Fort Worth and Its Neighborhoods
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NTREIS data last updated October 21, 2021.