The Year Was 1876: The Mail, Mules, and Murder in the Cowpen

1876 daily standardThe year was 1876. Texas A&M University opened; Anheuser-Busch began marketing Budweiser. The end of Reconstruction was still a year away. The gunfight at the O.K. Corral was five years away. In Fort Worth, City Marshal Timothy Isaiah “Longhaired Jim” Courtright was eleven years away from his contretemps with Luke Short. Fort Worth was still a frontier town: Streets were not paved; homes did not have electricity, running water, telephone. Articles from the Daily Fort Worth Standard show in more detail what life was like in Cowtown during America’s centennial year.

1876 birds eye view smallFort Worth’s population had dwindled after the Civil War but began to increase after the Texas & Pacific railroad finally reached town on July 19. This D. D. Morse bird’s-eye-view map of 1876 looks toward the new Texas & Pacific tracks on the horizon, a mile south of the courthouse (which burned in March of that year).

76 10-16 colored cavalryA supply train led by Sergeant Parker of the 10th Colored Cavalry was in town from Fort Concho (San Angelo) with baggage bound for the Black Hills, possibly as part of the Black Hills War, one battle of which had been the Battle of the Little Bighorn in June.

76 10-16 womenIn this snippet the Daily Standard’s syntax may confound, but its sentiment is clear: Even in 1876 there was something about Fort Worth women. Note the reference to Fort Worth as the “City of Heights,” a nickname that, like “Queen City of the Prairie,” has not survived as well as “Cowtown” or “Panther City.”

76 10-3 sangersSanger Brothers had not been in town long but was already expanding its clothing department.

76 10-19 mail car dfwsOn October 19 the Daily Standard announced that soon the mail between Fort Worth and Dallas would be delivered by train, not by stagecoach—yet another advance in the standard of living wrought by arrival of the railroad. Wired communication had arrived in 1874 with the telegraph, but Cowtown was about to get the frontier’s version of wi-fi: ho-co (horseless communication).

76 10-21 panelIn this panel of October 21, (1) the effort to bring mule-drawn streetcar service to Fort Worth had developed a hitch in its giddy-up. However, that service would begin on December 27. (2) You don’t see the terms relict and consort used much anymore to mean “widow” and “wife of a living man.” Husband Jesse Jones would, in fact, be a living man for another forty years. Notice that the obituary does not say where Mrs. Jones was buried. No need to. There was only one cemetery: Pioneers Rest. (3) The Texas & Pacific “turning table” (turntable) was finished, replacing the wye, a triangular configuration of tracks that allowed a locomotive to reverse direction.

76 10-21-23 milk murderOn October 21 and 23 the Daily Standard reported a murder that occurred on the Clear Fork as two farmers were milking in a cowpen.

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Wildflower Wednesday, Late August Edition

Here is another six-pack of wildflowers seen along the Trinity.

TRE 2purple bridge 4thistle riverwhite 3yelllow 8yellow paddock

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Was the Acre a Maker of Honky-Tonk History?

Long before Billy Bob’s Texas declared itself the world’s largest honky-tonk in 1981, long before Hank Williams recorded his classic song “Honky Tonkin’” in 1947, long before Sophie Tucker starred in a so-titled movie in 1929, even long before Chris Smith and Charles McCarron wrote the song “Down in Honky Tonk Town” in 1916, there were honky-tonks.

But where did that funny little word come from?

honk horse 8-14-87 dmnDetermining the origin of words is notoriously difficult. The Oxford English Dictionary says the first use of the word—as honk-a-tonk—was in 1894 in the Daily Ardmoreite of Ardmore, Oklahoma.

Close but no buttered scone, OED. At a horse show in Dallas in 1887 W. T. Campbell had a horse named “Gen. Honk-a-Tonk.” Clip is from the August 14 Dallas Morning News.

honky theater dallas 1-24-89 gazSo saith Wikipedia: “The earliest-known printed use of the word is a report in the Fort Worth Daily Gazette, January 24, 1889.” The Wikipedia article implies that the Honky Tonk theater on Main Street was in Fort Worth, but, alas, the Gazette report was actually a digest of Dallas news.

Discounting that claim of Fort Worth having a “Honky Tonk theater” in 1889, Wikipedia says Fort Worth was reported to have such a theater in 1892: “The terms honky tonk, honk-a-tonk, and honkatonk have been cited from at least . . . 1890 in the [Dallas] Morning News, and 1892 in the Galveston Daily News, which used the term to refer to an adult establishment in Fort Worth. Whether the word came from the name of a theater in Fort Worth or the theater in Fort Worth took its name from a generic term, the sound of the word honky tonk (or honk-a-tonk) and the types of places that were called honky tonks suggest that the word may be an onomatopoeic reference to the loud or boisterous music and noise heard at a honky tonk.”

Wikipedia also says the word may refer to the upright pianos made by William Tonk & Bros.

Wikipedia adds: “The fact that the early uses of the word in print mostly appear along a corridor roughly coinciding with cattle drive trails extending from Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas and into South-Central Oklahoma, suggests that the origin of the word may have been a localism spread by cowboys driving cattle to market.”

honk variety 8-6-90 dmnHonky-tonks began as saloons or theaters that served alcohol and presented entertainment tailored to the tastes of cowboys and other working-class people. This August 6, 1890 Dallas Morning News clip is one of the earliest to include a definition of the word. In Fort Worth such establishments would have been most common in Hell’s Half Acre.

honk gus 1-7-97 regIndeed, on January 7, 1897 the Register reported that the proprietor of a honk-a-tonk on Front Street (Lancaster Avenue) at the southern fringe of the Acre had skipped town.

honk acre 4-3-97 regAnd this April 3, 1897 Register clip shows a honk-a-tonk at Jones and 12th streets on the eastern fringe of the Acre.

honk actress 9-22-92 dmnThe September 22, 1892 Dallas Morning News reported the arrest of a “variety actress” at a Fort Worth honk-a-tonk.

honk trash 4-8-94 gazHonky-tonks did not present Shakespeare and Chekhov. For example, on April 8, 1894 the Gazette deemed the play “Shattered Idols” to be “trash” fit only for “honk-a-tonk theaters.”

honky holland 6-2 and 3 -97 regOn June 2, 1897 the Register reported that the city had granted a liquor license to George Bird Holland for his Holland’s Theatre “honk-a-tonk” but had denied a license to John Moore for his Standard Theatre. Both theaters were located in the Acre. On June 3 the Register editorialized about the unsavoriness of honk-a-tonk theaters in general and Holland’s in particular.

honky sanborn 1893George Holland operated theaters in Fort Worth—in and out of the Acre—for years. In 1893 his theater was on 11th Street in the Acre near two Rusk (Commerce) Street “female boarding houses,” which was a euphemism for “brothels.”

honky standard panelThe honk-a-tonks of the Acre reflected the Acre itself. Notwithstanding the Register’s opinion that the Standard Theatre was “spring violets” compared with Holland’s Theatre, these half-dozen clips show the Standard to have been more Venus flytrap than violets.

honky fair 10-7-01 regA newspaper headline writer is having a good day when he or she can write a headline that contains both honky-tonk and hoochie-coochie. All that’s missing is hurdy-gurdy. And so it was on October 7, 1901 when the Register reported raids at the state fair in Dallas.

standard 1900 cdBy the new century some honky-tonks, such as John Moore’s Standard Theatre, were calling themselves “vaudeville theatres.” Ad is from the 1900 city directory.

We’ll never know for sure the complete role that Fort Worth may have played in the origin of the word and the type of venue, but remember this: “When you are sad and lonely and have no place to go, come to see me, Baby, and bring along some dough, and we’ll go . . .”

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“Fore!”closed: Goat Hills, Z. Boaz, and Other Missing Links

With the planned conversion of century-old Glen Garden Country Club and golf course to a whiskey distillery, here’s a toast to the ghosts of some Fort Worth golf courses that are no more.

golf FWCC 7-18-02 11-16-02 teleIn the beginning golf in America was a game for the well-to-do, played at country clubs. Fort Worth was no exception. Golf here began in 1902 with the founding of Fort Worth Country Club near the site of Arlington Heights developer H. B. Chamberlin’s Ye Arlington Inn (burned 1894) at today’s intersection of Merrick and Crestline streets. Members of the new club laid out a nine-hole course. The Telegram said of the sport of golf: “It takes an extraordinary hold of everyone who essays it and never lets go until the player passes to that land where the bunker is known not.” (1895 map detail from Pete Charlton’s “1000+ Lost Antique Maps of Texas & the Southwest on DVD-ROM”; clips from the July 18 and November 16, 1902 Telegram.)

golf RCCC 10-24-10 stNot surprisingly, Fort Worth’s first golf course has long since gone the way of knickers and niblicks. In 1910 members of Fort Worth Country Club who wanted a full eighteen-hole course formed a new country club: River Crest. FWCC was absorbed by River Crest. Built in 1911, the River Crest course lives on into its second century. Clip is from the October 24, 1910 Star-Telegram.

golf city mulls 2-4-17 stNot until 1917 did the city begin to think about building a municipal course. Clip is from the February 4 Star-Telegram.

golf worth land bought 12-17-22 stThe city did not act rashly. Five years passed before the city bought ninety-six acres for Worth Hills municipal course near TCU. Worth Hills, nicknamed “Goat Hills,” opened in 1923. Clip is from the December 17, 1922 Star-Telegram.

golf worth sold 9-14-61 dmnFast forward down the fairway to 1961. City voters approved sale of the city’s first municipal golf course to TCU for campus expansion. Four years later Worth Hills would be posthumously immortalized in 1965 by Dan Jenkins in a Sports Illustrated article entitled “The Glory Game at Goat Hills.” Clip is from the September 14 Dallas Morning News.

golf katy 8-31-28 12-23-29 mapKaty Lake public golf course opened in 1926, built around a former railroad storage lake. Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan played there as youngsters. The Katy course was said to feature sand greens, but Dan Jenkins told Golf Digest: “The greens weren’t really sand, I found out. They were dark brown cottonseed hull. Oiled so they wouldn’t blow away. There was an iron rake on every green—you raked your line from the ball to the cup before you putted.” According to Jenkins, the Katy course closed in 1943. Clips are from the August 31, 1928 and December 23, 1929 Dallas Morning News.

golf boaz donated 10-4-28 dmnThe city got its second municipal course after Benbrook landowner Z. Boaz in 1928 donated land. His namesake course opened in 1930. Clip is from the September 4 Dallas Morning News.

golf boaz dead 12-2-35 dmnZ. Boaz died in 1935. In 2012 the city closed his namesake course. (What does the “Z.” stand for? Beats me. Boaz was listed as “Z.” in news stories, censuses, city directories, and on his death certificate.) Clip is from the December 2, 1935 Dallas Morning News.

golf GGCC opens 4-17-13 11-27-14 stGlen Garden Country Club was organized in 1913 by, among others, produce distributor Ben E. Keith and H. H. Cobb of the nearby Cobb brick plant and O. K. Cattle Company. The “inexpensive playground” was built on O. K. Cattle Company ranchland and reachable by the Cleburne interurban line. Young Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson caddied at Glen Garden. Clips are from the April 17, 1913 and November 27, 1914 Star-Telegram.

golf 6-18-39 reading eagle PAIn 1939, twelve years after winning his first amateur tournament at the Katy Lake course, Byron Nelson won the U.S. Open. Clip is from the June 18 Reading Eagle of Pennsylvania.

golf 1940 list of coursesThese were the Fort Worth courses in 1940, as listed in Texas, a Guide to the Lone Star State.

golf Oakhurst hogan 9-9-30 dmnAnother defunct country club is Oakhurst. Three former employees of Glen Garden Country Club—Ted Longworth, Harry Lee Whitaker, and Norman Voss—started Oakhurst in 1930. Longworth, former GGCC pro, and Whitaker leased fifty-four acres west of the Oakhurst neighborhood. Whitaker was the manager, Longworth was the pro. Voss built the two-story frame clubhouse building and operated it. Longworth laid out a nine-hole course. To the east was the Oakhurst neighborhood. To the west the Trinity River was a water trap. To the north, Mount Olivet Cemetery was, well, a death trap.

Oakhurst opened on June 28, 1930. The green fee was twenty-five cents for nine holes and fifty cents for all day.

Historian Harry Max Hill writes: “On September 7th [1933] two Dallas men were robbed at the golf course. The robbers hid in the dense Oakhurst woods and approached R. L. Johnson and R. B. Greenlee on the 5th hole of the golf course. Johnson lost $111 and Greenlee $300 in the daring hold-up. Ben Hogan was playing at the course during the robbery. He wanted to chase the robbers using the rifle he kept in his automobile. His playing partners dissuaded him from pursuing the robbers.”

In 1937 Ben Hogan, who had played the course when it was new, became Oakhurst’s manager-pro. But the country club closed the next year. (Map detail from Pete Charlton’s “1000+ Lost Antique Maps of Texas & the Southwest on DVD-ROM”; clip from the September 9, 1930 Dallas Morning News.)

golf oakhurst pro shopThe campus of Calvary Cathedral International covers much of the Oakhurst course now, but this building, Max Hill says, was the pro shop.

golf harmon map 1956In the early fifties, as African Americans continued their crusade for equality, they were not allowed access to the city’s municipal courses. Under pressure by the Fort Worth Negro Golf Association and other groups, the city built nine-hole Harmon Field for African Americans. The course, located south of Greenway Park, opened June 13, 1954. The pond seen in the aerial photo north of the soccer fields was created as a water hazard by diverting water from a storm-drain channel.

golf harmon jenkins 6-4-54 fwpNote the byline in this clip from the June 4, 1954 Fort Worth Press. But Harmon Field golf course was short-lived. When U.S. Highway 287 was built it squeezed out Harmon Field. The course closed on April 1, 1958 and, like the other courses surveyed here, passed “to that land where the bunker is known not.”

(Thanks and a tip of the flagstick to historian Harry Max Hill.)

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The ’24 Parrot: Buncha Hundred-Year-Old Teenagers

Even the youngest “fish” of the freshman class would be a centenarian now. But in the Poly High School yearbook of 1924 these students remain forever young, perpetually studious, goofy, and intense in ways that we thought we invented.

poly 24 coverHere are some pages from the yearbook when the school was on Nashville Avenue in the 1922 building that would become Poly Elementary and then a vacant lot.

poly 24 buildingIn these photos, the lawn appears to be still unsodded.

poly 24 senior officerspoly 24 pages 60-61poly 24 baseballpoly 24 faculty Maurine Martel would still be at Poly forty years later. Martel and music teacher Charles X. O’Brien composed and arranged the school song. And manual training teacher J. P. Moore would survive the splinters of woodshop to become superintendent of Fort Worth schools.

Pages from the 1930 Parrot.

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Camp Taliaferro: The British Are Coming, the British Are Coming, Y’All!

Camp Bowie was not Fort Worth’s only military installation during World War I. After the United States entered World War I in 1917, U.S. Army General John “Blackjack” Pershing invited the British Royal Flying Corps to conduct its winter training of cadets in Texas, where the weather allowed flying most of the year.

taliaferro announcement 8-17-17 stOn August 17, 1917 the Star-Telegram announced that Fort Worth had been selected as the site for a training camp for Canadian fliers. So, as the War Department was building Camp Bowie on the West Side it also built in outlying areas three fields to train cadets in the new military science of aerial warfare. The three fields were Hicks (Wing 1) at Saginaw, Barron (Wing 2) at Everman, and Carruthers (Wing 3) at Benbrook. The Canadian pilots named the three fields collectively “Camp Taliaferro” after Walter Taliaferro, a U.S. Army flier who had been killed in 1915.

taliaferro 1916 FW Aircraft Cross Country MapThis map detail shows the three fields of Camp Taliaferro. (From Pete Charlton’s “1000+ Lost Antique Maps of Texas & the Southwest on DVD-ROM.”)

taliaferro wellesley 11-20-17 stOn November 20, 1917 the Star-Telegram printed a photo spread. In the middle of top photo is Camp Taliaferro’s most famous flier, dancer Vernon Castle. Left photo at bottom is Castle and pet monkey Jeff. Right photo at bottom shows, on the left, Carruthers Field commander Lord George Wellesley, great-grandson of the Duke of Wellington of Waterloo fame.

taliaferro lady w 11-25-17 stLady Wellesley and her two children spent the winter of 1917-1918 in Fort Worth with Lord Wellesley. Her first husband, Lord Wellesley’s brother Richard, was killed in the war. Photo is from the November 25, 1917 Star-Telegram.

taliaferro 11-29-17 stOn November 29, 1917 the Star-Telegram reported the numbers of the three fields. During 1917-1918 RFC instructors at the three fields would train about six thousand men, both American and Canadian. Each field housed about two thousand men. RFC instructors taught men to fly in the Curtiss JN4 Canuck (“Jenny”), a biplane weighing just over one ton and having a top speed of seventy-five miles per hour.

taliaferro roscoe 12-11-17 stOn December 11, 1917 the Star-Telegram printed this photo of Lieutenant Colonel David Roscoe, commander of Camp Taliaferro.

taliaferro Carruthers benbrook aerial BPLCarruthers Field in Benbrook as seen from a Jenny. Photo from Benbrook Public Library.

When the young pilots ventured off base, the Canadian fliers were quite popular with the local girls.

C. W. Hunt in Dancing in the Sky: The Royal Flying Corps in Canada quoted one local woman, a Miss McCluer, as saying, “Many of the girls I knew couldn’t wait to get in their cars to drive to town and would ride up and down the streets to see if they could pick up some of the RFC cadets and officers.”

The U.S. cadets, to render their Canadian social rivals less appealing to the local women, were said to have started the rumor that the white band that fledgling Canadian cadets wore on their caps indicated that the wearers had a social disease.

taliaferro dance 1-27-18 stOn January 27, 1918 the Star-Telegram reported that the Daughters of Caledonia had entertained members of the RFC. “William Marsh” and “W. J. Marsh” are probably William J. Marsh, composer of “Texas, Our Texas.”

talia soccer 12-19-17 stThe men of the RFC also formed a soccer league. Clip is from the December 19, 1917 Star-Telegram.

taliaferro carruthers BPLMen and machine, Carruthers Field. Photo from Benbrook Public Library.

taliaferro carruthers clover squadron BPLClover Squadron, Carruthers Field. Photo from Benbrook Public Library.

taliaferro carruthers field crash BPLTraining to survive the dangers of war was itself dangerous. Photo from Benbrook Public Library.

taliaferro 2 fliers stDuring the few months that pilots trained at Camp Taliaferro, thirty-nine men were killed. On December 9, 1917 and February 10, 1918 the Star-Telegram reported the burial of one cadet and the death of another.

camp bowie money 12-16-17 stOn December 16, 1917 a Star-Telegram writer pointed out the effect of Camp Taliaferro and Camp Bowie on the local economy.

After the war the three airfields of Camp Taliaferro yielded to housing subdivisions and industrial zones. One of the last surviving remnants, the munitions building at Barron Field, for a while was owned by, incongruously, a local garden club.

taliaferro rfc graves hootenShakespeare wrote of his native island in 1595: “This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England.” That description could be applied to another island—this one also British but measuring just six graves wide and two graves deep and tucked into section G of Greenwood Cemetery on the West Side. Twelve of the thirty-nine pilots killed while training at Camp Taliaferro are buried in a plot bought in 1924 by England’s Imperial War Graves Commission.

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The Flatiron Building: Three-Sided Icon

With its distinctive footprint, it has been one of Fort Worth’s most iconic buildings for more than a century.

building flatironThe Flatiron Building, at a vertiginous seven stories, also was one of Fort Worth’s first “skyscrapers.” It was also an early effort of the architectural team of Sanguinet and Staats and one of the city’s first buildings to have a steel frame.

flatiron nyc 12-19-02 teleOur Flatiron Building was modeled after Manhattans’ Flatiron Building (1902, twenty-one stories), which is located a block from where “our” General Worth is buried. Coincidentally, our Flatiron Building is located a block from our General Worth Square. In this photo of Manhattan’s new Flatiron Building in the December 19, 1902 Telegram, the yellow arrow points to the top of General Worth’s obelisk on Broadway.

flatiron land 12-31-04 teleOn the last day of 1904 the Telegram reported that Dr. Bacon Saunders, dean of the medical college of Fort Worth University, had bought the triangular two-story building at Houston and 9th streets.

flatiron 1898The earlier building can be seen in this 1898 Sanborn map.

flatiron planned 2-5-06 teleSure enough, the February 5, 1906 Telegram reported that Saunders had plans to build on the site.

flatiron surveyThe February 5 clip says the triangular shape of the lot (A7 on this TAD map) conforms to the angle of Houston Street and the Jennings-Daggett survey boundary, but this map seems to indicate the Jennings-Childress survey boundary.

flatiron contract 8-18-06 teleThe construction contract for the building was let on August 16, 1906. Plans for the building were reduced from ten to seven stories to save money. The building opened in July 1907. Clip is from the August 18, 1906 Telegram.

flatiron factory place  3-24-07 teleFirst tenant of the new building was West Fort Worth Land Company, which was developing the Factory Place addition near today’s Union Pacific Davidson railyard. The full-page ad features an engraving of the Flatiron Building and boasts—apparently with a straight face—that “during the long summer months” the residence area of Factory Place “is favored by the cool breeze from the Gulf.” Clip is from the March 24, 1907 Telegram.

look up swastikas flatironThe Flatiron Building is one of two adjacent Sanguinet and Staats-designed buildings that features swastikas.

look up flatiron archeslook up 3 panther heads flatiron

entry flatironnight flatiron 2

night flatironbirds chickadee

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