Tower Power: Nine Roundies and an Eightie

Seen ’round town, ten turrets that span a century:

turret13342 Park Ridge (1931) near TCU.

turret moore James F. Moore house (1906, now part of the Woman’s Club of Fort Worth compound) on Pennsylvania Avenue on Quality Hill.

turret may street 1Maxwell-Liston house (1904, now a B&B) on May Street.

turret garveyGarvey house (1885) on Samuels Avenue.

The Swayne house (1900) on Ballinger Street. James Swayne was judge of the Seventeenth District Court.

Knights of Pythias lodge hall (1901, Sanguinet and Staats).

On College Avenue (1905) in Fairmount.

On 5th Avenue (1940).

On Brightwater Road (2009).

turret 1130 washington 1904Finally, an eight-sided turret on Washington Avenue (1904). The house was built for Frisco railroad brakeman George W. Greathouse.

And it is.

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Of Maps and Mysteries (Part 4): The Man Called “Gooseneck Bill”

(Part 1 Part 2 Part 3)

While their baby boy was still in the cradle, George and Flora McDonald issued him a challenge: They named him after not one but two famous men—Shakespeare and the fourth president of the United States. “What’s in a name?” Shakespeare had asked. Would a name lead William Madison McDonald toward an interest in both words and politics?

He was born in Kaufman County in 1866, three years after emancipation. His father had once been a slave of Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest. His mother was a freewoman. As a youngster William worked for—and studied law under—attorney and rancher Captain Z. T. Adams. According to William Oliver Bundy, who wrote The Life of William Madison McDonald, after McDonald graduated from high school, he was appointed principal of the African-American school at Kaufman County’s Flat Rock community—at age eighteen. But his interests soon led him elsewhere. You guessed it: politics. In 1892 he was elected to the Texas Republican Party’s executive committee. In 1896 he formed a political partnership with railroad capitalist Edward Howland Robinson Green (son of Hetty Green, “the Witch of Wall Street,” who was the richest woman in America and a notorious miser). Both men were leaders in the Texas Republican Party’s Black and Tan faction, a group of African-Americans and whites who shared leadership roles. In 1896, when Texas Republican Party Chairman Norris Wright Cuney was unseated by the GOP faction that Cuney called the “Lily-White Movement,” McDonald replaced him, becoming perhaps the most powerful African-American politician in the South. (Photo from History and Directory of Fort Worth, 1907.)

Also by 1896 McDonald had been nicknamed “Gooseneck Bill” by Dallas journalist William Sterrett. Clip is from the Fort Worth Register.

McDonald moved from Forney in Kaufman County to Fort Worth about 1906. Here he built a grand three-story house on East Terrell Street. He patterned his new house after the house of George Martin, the man who had last owned McDonald’s father before emancipation. (Photo from The Life of William Madison McDonald, 1925.)

McDonald’s house, located in Fort Worth’s African-American community on the near East Side, was demolished shortly after his death.

In Fort Worth McDonald continued to be active in politics and civic affairs. He also was active in business. The Dallas Morning News said McDonald was “probably Texas’s first black millionaire.”

McDonald also was a leader among local and state African-American Masons. He was Texas grand secretary for forty-seven years.

mosque 1907 cornerstoneOn March 18, 1907 McDonald and other Prince Hall lodge members laid the cornerstone for their Masonic Temple Building at 9th and Jones in Fort Worth’s “African-American downtown,” where the Intermodal Transportation Center is today. The new hall also was the statewide fraternal organization’s grand lodge hall and hosted state conventions. Clip is from the March 18 Telegram.

east mcdonald lodge

(Top) Sketch is from History and Directory of Fort Worth. (Bottom)  At the Intermodal Transportation Center a bas-relief mural by artist Paula Blincoe Collins depicts McDonald and the Masonic Temple Building.

mcdonald bank to open 11-1-11In 1912 McDonald founded the city’s first African-American bank, the Fraternal Bank and Trust Company, in the Masonic Temple Building. Clip is from the November 1, 1911 Star-Telegram.

The bank became the main depository of assets of the state’s African-American Masonic lodges. This full-page ad in the Dallas Express is from 1919. (Photo from UNT Libraries.)

McDonald’s drugstore also was located in the Masonic Temple Building. This full-page ad also is from the Dallas Express of 1919. McDonald’s son, pictured, had died in 1918 at age nineteen. (Photo from UNT Libraries.)

A few years later, when the Fort Worth Prince Hall Masons added a college of industrial arts to their next lodge hall, on East 1st Street, they named it after McDonald. (Fort Worth’s first African-American YMCA branch was named after McDonald’s son in 1944 when “Gooseneck Bill” donated a building at 1600 Jones Street to house the branch. The McDonald YMCA is now on Miller Street.)

Fort Worth’s Prince Hall lodge hall, now located in Poly, continues to be the fraternal organization’s state headquarters. Current lodge state officer Willie High Coleman Jr. of Houston said, “Gooseneck is probably the reason that the Prince Hall Grand Lodge is in Fort Worth.”

Just days after the United States entered World War I in April 1917, McDonald helped to recruit African-American units. (Note that the other recruiter was William Oliver Bundy, McDonald’s biographer. Bundy was principal of the “colored high school” in the Third Ward.)

The baby who had been named after Shakespeare indeed grew up to have a way with words. McDonald was much in demand as an orator. In 1893 he addressed the five thousand delegates of the National Baptist Convention meeting in Fort Worth. In this excerpt from the speech, taken from his biography, he speaks about the tyranny of brute force as personified by Napoleon.

Just a few blocks west of where McDonald’s home stood on East Terrell Street is this plaque at Evans Avenue Plaza. McDonald built the Jim Hotel (named for his wife Jimmie) in the 1920s behind the Fort Worth Press building. 

In 1930 McDonald was a near-neighbor of Dr. Riley Andrew Ransom (see Part 2).

mcdonald 7-6-50 dmnWilliam Madison McDonald, who was named for a founding father, died on Independence Day, 1950. Clip is from the July 6 Dallas Morning News.

McDonald is buried in the Trinity section of Oakwood Cemetery.

At Oakwood William Madison “Gooseneck Bill” McDonald is said to have chosen for his final resting place a hillside where this thirty-eight-foot-tall obelisk can look down upon the North Main Street lodge hall of a different fraternal lodge—the Ku Klux Klan.

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A Fort Worth Fourth: Shhh! Sam Houston Is Speaking

To celebrate Independence Day and the red, white, and bluebonnets, . . .

let’s climb into the Retroplex Cruiser time machine and take a little spin back in time. First we buckle up. Then we set the Where? dial for 32 degrees 46 minutes 23 seconds north, 97 degrees 19 minutes 50 seconds west. Then we set the When? dial for July 4, 1859. Now we press the starter and shift into reverse.

To the past, and step on it!

Hold on and look out your viewing portal as we travel back in time to early Fort Worth: 2014 . . . 1983 (dig those mullets!) . . . 1953 (all the men are wearing hats) . . . 1925 (look: flappers) . . . 1885 (I see bustles!) . . . 1860 (stop asking “Are we there yet?”) . . . 1859 . . . December . . . August . . . July 31 . . . 19 . . . 12 . . .  5 . . . 4. Whoa!

Okay, now we’re there: July 4, 1859. Let’s get out of the Retroplex Cruiser and stretch our legs. Look over there: Sure enough, we’re at Cold Springs, which is a popular recreational area of early Fort Worth located near Samuels Avenue and the river. An old-fashioned (to us, anyway) July Fourth celebration is under way.

These two clips from the 1856 weekly Dallas Herald show that the July Fourth barbecue at Cold Springs was established before 1859. Among civic leaders organizing the barbecue are Ephraim Daggett and Dr. Carroll Peak. But on this particular July Fourth, in 1859, Julia Kathryn Garrett writes in her Fort Worth: A Frontier Triumph, the tiny population of Fort Worth has a special reason to attend the celebration:

Sam Houston—hero of San Jacinto and first elected president of the republic in 1836—is speaking today. Houston, who had campaigned in Birdville in 1857 in an unsuccessful campaign for governor, is again running for that office—and again facing Hardin Runnels, who is now the incumbent. Houston and Governor Runnels are debating at the Cold Springs barbecue. Nearby is the plantation home of Colonel Nat Terry, who is Houston’s host, chairman of the celebration committee, and himself a former lieutenant governor of Alabama.

As we walk over to get a closer look, take a deep breath. Smell that? No car exhaust, no asphalt frying in the summer sun. Listen. Hear that? No modern sounds: no cars and trucks, no airplanes, no amplified music. People are talking, cheering, applauding, even booing; now and then a horse neighs at its hitch; a child shouts, a parent admonishes. The two debaters must raise their voices to be heard. The day is hot. Houston and Runnels are in shirtsleeves even in the shade of the arbor.

Governor Runnels is a secessionist. Houston is a unionist. He urges allegiance to the Constitution. “Be steadfast,” he implores his listeners. The tone of his speech is mostly optimistic, but he does warn of disaster for the South if it secedes. Houston is cheered as he delivers his final remarks.

When the rhetoric ends, the feast begins. Food covers long tables under the huge live oaks: meats, bread, pies and cakes, watermelons chilled in the cold springs.

Then comes the entertainment: A tournament is held in which pairs of riders snare hoops as their horses gallop the length of a field.

By midday holiday celebrants are dispersing on foot, on horseback, by buggy.

Come election day in November, this time Houston will defeat Runnels. Houston will take office in December. But in 1861, on March 2, Texas will secede from the Union. That date will be the twenty-fifth anniversary of Texas independence from Mexico; it will be Sam Houston’s sixty-eighth birthday.

Two weeks later Sam Houston will refuse to take an oath of loyalty to the Confederacy and will be evicted from office.

Flags at Fort Worth’s LaGrave Field.

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