As elsewhere in the South during the months leading up to Fort Sumter, sentiments in Fort Worth leaned toward secession. Fort Worth newspapers of the time are not available, so reports in other newspapers must be relied upon to piece together the situation in Fort Worth in 1860-1861.
Colonel Nat Terry, who owned a plantation in today’s Samuels Avenue neighborhood, and Colonel Middleton Tate Johnson, who owned a plantation in today’s south Arlington, were probably the largest slaveholders in the area, with at least fifty slaves each. But many other Fort Worth residents who didn’t own slaves had come to Texas from slaveholding states and retained pro-slavery sentiments.
The Birdville Journal seems to have been a short-lived newspaper. A lot of small, partisan newspapers sprang up before the Civil War to promote their views on slavery and state’s rights. The Journal claimed that abolitionists were living in the “Pacific Reserve.” That was the Missouri and Pacific Railroad Land Reserve in Texas, which was being settled for fifty cents an acre. The Dallas Weekly Herald disputed the Journal’s claim of abolitionism. Clip is from the May 1, 1858 San Antonio Ledger.
“Unheard of Scoundrelism” was the cry after the outbreak of suspicious fires in several north Texas counties—including Tarrant and Dallas—in the summer of 1860. Vigilance committees suspected abolitionists of a “diabolical plot to devastate the whole of Northern Texas,” wrote the July 31 Houston Telegraph.
Anthony Bewley (1804–1860) was a Tennessee-born minister who by 1858 was living in Johnson County south of Fort Worth. Bewley was a Northern Methodist, opposed slavery, endorsed abolition. Those views did not set well with many folks in these parts. After the “unheard of scoundrelism” began, suspicion quickly fell on Bewley and other abolitionists, especially after two Tarrant County men found a letter, dated July 3, 1860 and written from Denton Creek. The letter was addressed to a Reverend William Bewley and supposedly was written by a fellow abolitionist, W. H. Bailey. The letter urged Bewley to continue his abolition work in Texas. The writer mentioned “our glorious cause” and the “Mystic Red” abolitionist organization and said, “If we can break Southern merchants and millers, and have their places filled by honest Republicans, Texas will be an easy prey, if we only do our duty.” “Our Heavenly Father will reward us for helping him in blotting out the greatest curse on earth.” The letter called for “a different material to be used about town, etc. Our friends sent a very inferior article; they emit too much smoke, and do not contain enough camphene,” a combustible liquid.
Many people believed that the letter was a forgery. But others took it as proof that the Reverend Bewley was in cahoots with abolitionists in Texas. This clip is from the Charlotte, North Carolina, Western Democrat of October 16, 1860.
On August 18, 1860 the Texas State Gazette quoted the True Issue, a La Grange weekly, as reporting that Tarrant County residents had met to discuss taking measures against “abolition incendiarism” and advising abolitionists to skedaddle.
One abolitionist who didn’t skedaddle was William H. Crawford. Reporting on the “abolition-negro conspiracy in Texas,” on August 14, 1860 the Camden, South Carolina, Weekly Journal reported that the Louisville Courier had printed the letter of a Birdville man who said Crawford had been found in possession of weapons “with which to arm the slaves.” Crawford was lynched in Fort Worth on the night of July 16-17.
Eight days later the Raleigh, North Carolina, Weekly Standard added some details, quoting the Fort Worth Chief. The short-lived Chief was Fort Worth’s first newspaper, published by Anthony Banning Norton, who was a Unionist. The Chief said that Crawford had been hanged from a pecan tree three-quarters of a mile from town and that a citizens committee had “endorsed the action of the party who hung him.” In his autobiography, Force Without Fanfare, Major K. M. Van Zandt said that later in 1860 Norton packed up his press and left town because his antislavery views were not popular.
On September 29, 1860 the Texas State Gazette reprinted a letter from a man in Arkansas saying that the Reverend Bewley, now with a $1,000 reward on his head, had been arrested and jailed in Arkansas. Bewley said he feared that if he was returned to Texas he would be hanged.
Bewley was correct. On October 15 the Richmond, Virginia Daily Dispatch reported that the Houston Telegraph said Bewley had been arrested in Missouri by an Arkansas vigilance committee. Bewley had been returned to Fort Worth and was lynched on September 13.
Historian Oliver Knight in Fort Worth: Outpost on the Trinity wrote that Bewley, accused of “implication in a nefarious plot to poison wells, fire towns and residences, and in the midst of conflagration and death, to run off with the slaves,” was lynched on a tree west of town—next to the dangling body of suspected abolitionist Crawford. Knight wrote that “The two men were held in such hatred that neither was ever given the dignity of burial. Suspended from rotting ropes, their bodies became skeletons hanging in the breeze.”
On September 29 the Texas State Gazette reprinted the mocking report of the Bewley lynching in the White Man, a secessionist newspaper in Gainesville.
On January 16, 1861 the Dallas Herald reported that a delegation in Tarrant County had elected two secessionist delegates to the state convention on secession. One delegate was slave owner Colonel Terry, “who held that the propriety of secession was beyond a doubt, in the event that the seven other cotton States accomplished this end.” (Pryor and Swindells were editor and publisher of the Herald.)
On February 23, 1861 Texans (men only) went to the polls to vote in a referendum for or against secession. The results: 46,153 for and 14,747 against. On February 27, although the vote totals were not then final, the Dallas Weekly Herald wrote that “The Southern Confederacy already looms up in grand proportions.”
On March 6 the Dallas Weekly Herald reported that Tarrant County vote totals were still incomplete, but the Journal of the Secession Convention listed Tarrant County’s final vote count as 462 for secession and 127 against.
Texas secession became official on March 2, Texas Independence Day (and Sam Houston’s birthday).
Then came April 12 and the Battle of Fort Sumter in South Carolina: “The War Begun.” Clip is from the April 20 Clarksville Northern Standard.
On July 24, 1861 the Dallas Weekly Herald reported a military parade at Cold Springs in today’s Samuels Avenue neighborhood. “The military feeling is increasing in old Tarrant, and the men are being drilled by experienced officers.”
After the war began, although Texas soil largely avoided military clashes, civilian tensions continued over the issues of secession and abolition. In the referendum in February 1861 Cooke County had been among seven counties on or near the Red River that had voted to remain in the Union. (Map from Texas Almanac.)
In Cooke County the referendum vote had been more than 70 percent against secession. During the Great Hanging at Gainesville (Cooke County) in October 1862, vigilantes hanged forty-one suspected Unionists. It was the greatest mass lynching in Texas history. These clips are from the Wilmington (North Carolina) Journal, Athens (Tennessee) Post, and Cass County (Michigan) Republican.
Not until March 30, 1870 would Texas be readmitted to the Union.
By the time he retired—the first time—at the grand old age of ten, he had made, by his own count, eighty-four films in seven years. That was in 1938. More than seventy-five years later the cherubic little rascal remains a pop culture icon.
George Robert Phillips McFarland, known to generations of movie and TV viewers as “Spanky,” the kid with the chubby cheeks, oversized tam, and “okey-dokey” catchphrase, was born in Dallas in 1928. By age three he was modeling children’s clothing for a local department store and also appeared in ads for Wonder Bread. A talent scout for Hal Roach Studios saw McFarland, all thirty pounds of him, modeling in Dallas and encouraged Spanky’s family to take him to Hollywood for a screen test. In 1931 McFarland became the youngest actor in Hollywood history to sign a five-year contract.
Hal Roach had begun the “Our Gang” series as silent comedy shorts in 1922. The shorts became talkies in 1929—when Spanky was one year old.
From the beginning of his career the Dallas Morning News gave McFarland plenty of ink. Clip is from December 9, 1931.
Spanky’s first appearance in an “Our Gang” comedy was in Free Eats, which was released in February 1932 when Spanky was forty months old. The comedy premiered in Spanky’s hometown on February 19 at the Melba Theater. Clip is from the February 18 Dallas Morning News.
A frame from Free Eats.
Watch a video of Free Eats at YouTube (Spanky appears at 5:27 minutes):
The Morning News reported on April 22, 1932 that Spanky—thirty-three inches tall, thirty pounds heavy, and forty-two months old—would make a personal appearance at the Palace Theater.
(A newspaper reporter gave McFarland the nickname “Spanky.” At that time the adjective spanky was slang for “precocious.”)
“What Mr. Roach tried to do,” McFarland recalled in 1977, “was cultivate a kid from every walk of life—give everyone in the audience someone to identify with. We had a fat kid, a black kid, a pretty girl, a tough guy, etc. I think, looking back, that is what gave the comedies their universal appeal. The ‘Our Gang’ pictures helped pioneer the motion picture comedies. I’m proud to have been a part of that. To have worked with people like Laurel and Hardy [he was influenced by both actors], Wallace Beery, Joan Crawford, Henry Fonda—I can’t even remember them all now—was something that I probably did not appreciate as muc then as I do now.
“We were constantly supervised. . . . There was a rule that at least one of each kid’s parents had to be on the set at all times. Our routine was pretty set. We had a school at the studio and went to work on the set every day.”
“This was my life: get up in the morning, go to the studio and during the day get somewhere in the neighborhood of three hours of schooling, not necessarily at the same time; take an hour for lunch, and that leaves five hours of shooting for film.
“I was probably five or six years old before I realized that all kids weren’t in movies,” McFarland recalled in 1988.
Title card for Rushin’ Ballet (1937). (Photo from Wikipedia.)
Spanky in 1938. (Photo from Wikipedia.)
McFarland and Carl “Alfalfa” Switzer, who was shot to death in 1959.
A grizzled veteran of Hollywood at age ten, McFarland retired in 1938. But his retirement was brief. After Hal Roach sold the “Our Gang” series to MGM, MGM hired McFarland to continue in the series as Spanky.
Robert Blake (as Mickey Gubitosi) and McFarland in Waldo’s Last Stand (1940).
McFarland’s final appearance in the series was in Unexpected Riches in 1942 at age fourteen. MGM ended the series in 1944.
McFarland made a few feature films after 1942 but retired from movies for good in 1944 at the ripe old age of sixteen.
In the 1980s McFarland talked to the Star-Telegram’s Michael H. Price about his difficult decision. “The old man wouldn’t let me quit. Here I was, wanting to quit being this chubby child star—as if I could ever stop being chubby—and lead as normal an adolescent life as I could, and here’s my dad, putting the guilt to me about how I’m the family’s cash cow. You see, he had quit his job to manage my acting career.”
In addition to “Our Gang” shorts, McFarland made fourteen feature-length movies, including Kentucky Kernels (1935) with Bert Wheeler and Robert Woolsey and Trail of the Lonesome Pine (1936) with Fred MacMurray and Henry Fonda. Clip is from the January 13, 1935 Dallas Morning News.
McFarland’s last film, when he was sixteen, was The Woman in the Window (1944) with Edward G. Robinson and Joan Bennett. McFarland played a Boy Scout. His name was not listed in the credits.
The 1940 census listed Spanky and family living on Morse Avenue in North Hollywood, Los Angeles. Living in the same block were an actor, an assistant cameraman, and an assistant to the vice president of a motion picture studio.
All grown up, McFarland posed with a poster for the “Our Gang” short Framing Youth (1937).
In 1946 McFarland enlisted in the Army Air Force. Clip is from the July 3 Dallas Morning News.
McFarland later went into sales, working for a wine company, an appliance manufacturer, and a boot company.
In 1955 McFarland got back into show business. From 1955 to 1960 he also hosted a children’s TV show, The Spanky Show in Tulsa. Clip is from the June 7, 1955 Dallas Morning News.
This column in the Victoria (Texas) Advocate in 1973 brought readers up to date on the cast members.
McFarland had lived in Keller since 1971. He enjoyed golf and also made personal appearances to raise money for Cook-Fort Worth Children’s Medical Center and Leukemia Society of America.
McFarland’s last TV appearance was on Cheers on April 22, 1993.
Nine weeks later, on June 30, the leader of the Little Rascals was dead. Spanky was sixty-four years old.
His family plans for George Robert Phillips McFarland eventually to be buried in Texas State Cemetery in Austin. Clip is from the July 1, 1993 Star-Telegram.
(Thanks and a tip of the tam to Michael H. Price for his assistance.)
Polytechnic College opened in 1891, became Texas Woman’s College in 1914, Texas Wesleyan College in 1934, and Texas Wesleyan University in 1989.
In 1913 the Methodist church announced that Polytechnic College would become a woman’s college. Male students would be transferred to the new Southern Methodist Church in Dallas. Texas Woman’s College opened on September 24, 1914 with an enrollment of 220. (Polytechnic College was not the first Methodist college in town.) Star-Telegram clips are from September 19, 1913 and September 24, 1914.
The TWC yearbook was the TXWOCO. These pages are from the 1922 edition:
“Popular and best all round.”
Some of the faculty.
Today’s Ann Waggoner Fine Arts Auditorium (1909, Sanguinet and Staats) was built as the campus church, replacing the church built when the college opened in 1891.
The words “Polytechnic Methodist Church” still appear below the pediment.
Sophomore class sponsor, president, and mascot.
Glee club and orchestra. These young women would be centenarians now.
Sports. Note how sparsely developed the area was in 1922. Fort Worth annexed Poly that year.
Could those be tombstones of Polytechnic Cemetery behind the javelin thrower? If so, she was standing just west of Bishop Street at the northeast corner of the campus.
The campus also was served by the Polytechnic streetcar line, which ran from downtown through Glenwood along Vickery Boulevard and Nashville to Avenue E at Wesleyan Street. (1905 plat detail from Pete Charlton’s “1000+ Lost Antique Maps of Texas & the Southwest on DVD-ROM.”)
TWC graduated thirty-three seniors in 1922. Clip is from the May 28 Star-Telegram.
A century ago today readers of the Star-Telegram read these ads and articles:
Two young men were arrested after two safes were blown open and looted in Azle. One safe contained 1,500 pennies, which the explosion scattered around the room. Nonetheless, the yeggs took the time to gather up all those pennies before making their exit. Such penny pinching might sound foolish, but in 1915 those $15 worth of pennies (weighing about ten pounds) were worth about $340 in today’s pennies.
These two briefs have the makings of an Abbott and Costello routine (“Who’s on thirst?”): A man named “Ford” driving a Case collided with a man named “Alton” driving a Ford. And a Woman’s Christian Temperance Union party was presided over by a Brewer.
(The Case company, long known for its agricultural and construction equipment, made automobiles for a few years.)
Before the Poly and Stop 6 areas of the East Side were incorporated by Fort Worth, they had their own school districts. The president of the Young Men’s Business League predicted that the two districts would consolidate and build a shared high school. Lewis H. Tandy, secretary of the Poly school district and a grandson of Roger Tandy, had offered land near Texas Woman’s College, the new (since 1914) incarnation of Polytechnic College. The Stop 6 area was named for the interurban stop near today’s Rand Street in Meadowbrook.
The Fair department store experienced a 1915 version of Black Friday at Walmart when it held a sale of three hundred suits. One man facing fifteen hundred women. It was the Alamo with estrogen.
Even a century ago people debated whether students—female, in this case—should wear uniforms. But school board president George C. Clarke (for whom the 1914 school on South Henderson is named) said the best course of action would be to have high schools for boys and girls.
The conflict that would become known as “World War I” raged in Europe.
Earlier in the month a reader had written a letter to the editor complaining that employers hire married women when single women and men with families are more in need of a job. This respondent, Mrs. L. V., wrote, “To the bride who works I would say, ‘Don’t.’” She added: “And then you go home and make home so sweet and neat, bright and comfortable that when hubby comes he will wonder how the gods could have been so good as to have let him have so wonderful a girl. . . . Between the hot muffins, delicious biscuit and steaks, he would . . . never miss the paltry few dollars you would earn.”
The selling points in these ads give away their antiquity: steam heated, sleeping porch, car line, gentleman.
In an announcement that must have struck terror in the hearts of teenagers, Southwestern Telegraph & Telephone warned that it would—without warning—conduct fire drills for its 175 “phone girls,” rendering Fort Worth incommunicado for four minutes each month. In 1915 Fort Worth still had the three original exchanges: Lamar, Rosedale, and Prospect.
For sale among the ubiquitous Fords were flivvers that floundered: Jackson, Overland, Regal, Apperson, Baker.
(Because I know you want to know, the 1913 Webster’s dictionary defined master vibrator: “In an internal-combustion engine with two or more cylinders, an induction coil and vibrator placed in the circuit between the battery or magneto and the coils for the different cylinders, which are used without vibrators of their own.”)
[The address sign behind Betty Bormer reads “1612 Etter St.” but is probably Etta Street, which is in the Stop 6 neighborhood south of Rosedale. Her house would have been where Fort Worth Housing Authority’s Caville Place is today. (Photo from Library of Congress.)]
In Betty Bormer’s own words:
I’se bo’n April 4th, in 1857, at Johnson Station. It was named after my marster. He had a big farm, I’se don’ know how many acres. He had seven chillen; three boys, Ben, Tom and Mart, and four girls, Elizabeth, Sally, Roddy and Veanna.
[Middleton Tate Johnson was listed in the 1850 census.]
Marster Johnson was good to us cullud folks and he feeds us good. He kep’ lots of hawgs, dat makes de meat. In de smokehouse am hung up meat enough for to feed de army, it looks like. We’uns have all de clothes we need and dey was made on de place. My mammy am de sewing woman and my pappy am de shoemaker. My work, for to nuss de small chillen of de marster.
On Sat’day we’s let off work and lots de time some of us come to Fort Worth wid de marster and he gives us a nickel or a dime for to buy candy.
[The 1850 census included a listing of the slaves of Middleton Tate Johnson by number. Betty Bormer was not born until 1857, but her parents and any older siblings might be among these nameless entries.]
Dey whips de niggers sometimes, but ’twarn’t hard. You know, de nigger gits de devilment in de head, like folks do, sometimes, and de marster have to larn ’em better. He done dat hisself and he have no overseer. No nigger tried run away, ’cause each family have a cabin wid bunks for to sleep on and we’uns all live in de quarters. Sich nigger as wants to larn read and write, de marster’s girls and boys larns ’em. De girls larned my auntie how to play de piano.
Dere am lots of music on dat place; fiddle, banjo and de piano. Singin’, we had lots of dat, songs like Ole Black Joe and ’ligious songs and sich. Often de marster have we’uns come in his house and clears de dinin’ room for de dance. Dat am big time, on special occasion. Dey not calls it “dance” dem days, dey calls it de “ball.”
Sho’, we’uns goes to church and de preacher’s name, it was Jack Ditto.
[Jack Ditto, an African-American preacher, lived in Arlington in 1900. Note that nearby lived Tom Brinson, an African-American laborer. Matthew Jackson “Jack” Brinson (1826-1901) was the son-in-law of Middleton Tate Johnson and lived near Johnson Station. Because slaves sometimes took the surname of their owner, Tom Brinson may have been a slave of Matthew Jackson Brinson.]
Durin’ de war, I notices de vittles am ’bout de same. De soldiers come dere and dey driv’ off over de hill some of de cattle for to kill for to eat. Once dey took some hosses and I hears marster say dem was de Quantrell mens [Quantrill's Raiders]. Dey comes several times and de marster don’ like it, but he cain’t help it.
When freedom come marster tells all us to come to front of de house. He am standin’ on de porch. Him ’splains ’bout freedom and says, “You is now free and can go whar you pleases.” Den he tells us he have larned us not to steal and to be good and we’uns should ’member dat and if we’uns gets in trouble to come to him and he will help us. He sho’ do dat, too, ’cause de niggers goes to him lots of times and he always helps.
Marster says dat he needs help on de place and sich dat stays, he’d pay ’em for de work. Lots of dem stayed, but some left. To dem dat leaves, marster gives a mule, or cow and sich for de start. To my folks, marster gives some land. He doesn’t give us de deed, but de right to stay till he dies.
Sho’, I seen de [Ku] Klux [Klan] after de war but I has no ’sperience wid ’em. My uncle, he gits whipped by ’em, what for I don’ know ’zactly, but I think it was ’bout a hoss. Marster sho’ rave ’bout dat, ’cause my uncle weren’t to blame.
When de Klux come de no ’count nigger sho make de scatterment. Some climb up de chimney or jump out de winder and hide in de dugout and sich.
[Johnson Station was then south of Arlington. (1895 map detail from Pete Charlton’s “1000+ Lost Antique Maps of Texas & the Southwest on DVD-ROM.”)]
De marster dies  ’bout seven years after freedom and everybody sorry den. I never seen such a fun’ral and lots of big men from Austin comes. He was de blessed man!
I married de second year after de T.P. railroad come to Fort Worth [in 1876], to Sam Jones and he work on de Burk Burnett stock ranch.
I’se divorseted from him after five years and den after 12 more years I marries Rubbin Felps. My las’ husban’s named Joe Bormer, but I’se never married to the father of my only chile. His name am George Pace.
I allus gits long fair, ’cause after freedom I keeps on workin’ doin’ de nussin’. Now I’se gittin’ ’leven dollars [$137 today] from de state for pension, and gits it every month so now I’se sho’ of somethin’ to eat and dat makes me happy.
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