Putting Down Roots in the Poly Prairie

In 1853 Arch Hall (1831-1927) and his brother-in-law, Roger Tandy (1806-1898), left Kentucky with their families and slaves to go to Texas. They traveled in covered wagons, and miles were hard-won. The two families had to clear their path much of the way. According to a history of Poly prepared in 1933 by students at D. McRae Elementary School, Hall later told of one day on the trail when so few miles had been traveled by nightfall that Hall sent his slaves back on foot to get embers from the campfire of the previous night to start that night’s campfire. In 1855 Hall and Tandy settled on land grants (probably Peters Colony) four miles east of the small civilian settlement of Fort Worth.

The Tandys and Halls settled just east of where Texas Wesleyan University is today on a prairie covered with grass almost as tall as a man. The town of Polytechnic Heights would grow from the roots these two families put down in that prairie sod.

Roger Tandy was a charter member of Fort Worth’s First Baptist Church in 1873, along with Baldwin Samuel.

This is a rare mention of Roger J. Tandy in print. This ad in the July 20, 1859, Dallas Herald for a patent medicine includes endorsements by Tandy, Lawrence Steele, Nat Terry, Ephraim Merrell Daggett, and W. R. Loving, who about 1849 settled on a 640-acre headright claim on Sycamore Creek.

Tandy developed a vast ranch. Cowhand Tom Garrett later recalled in a Federal Writers’ Project interview: “I was born on the Tandy Ranch, right up the crick from where the big white house at Tandy Lake now is. ‘Twas on November the 10th, 1885, when the ranch was so big it runs from somewhere in where Poly is now to the other side of where Handley is now. In the days I’m talkin’ ’bout, ‘twarn’t no houses at all—just cow critters, grass, and mesquite bushes. The headquarters house was a double log house with a hall runnin’ between and a big rock chimney on both sides.”

Roger Tandy dammed a creek on his sprawling ranch to create Tandy Lake in a low area where Lancaster and Ayers streets now intersect. The lake was a popular recreational area by the 1880s. The lake is shown just east of the Tandy Lake stop on this 1920 Rogers map. (Map from Pete Charlton’s “The Lost Antique Maps of Texas: Fort Worth & Tarrant County, Volume 2” CD.)

tandy-lake-fires-1914-16In 1914 and 1916 the lake provided water to firefighters in 1914 when the county orphanage burned and in 1916 when a private residence burned. The Star-Telegram said the lake was drained in 1918 because of a flu epidemic.

This plat, provided by Caleb Tandy, shows the lake just south of the interurban line between Fort Worth and Dallas. Today’s streets Ben, Lewis, and Tandy in Meadowbrook are named after the family.

Bert Tandy, great-grandson of Roger, provided these photos of the shelter at the Tandy Lake interurban stop and the lake. Note the high embankment in the photo at right.

Is that high embankment the one depicted in this postcard of an interurban car passing a body of water?

The “Tandy’s Lake” sign from the shelter remained in the Tandy family long after the lake and the interurban were gone.

tandy dead 3-6-98 dmnRoger Tandy died in 1898. Clip is from the March 6 Dallas Morning News.

Roger Tandy’s son George (1846-1921) built a big house up the hill from the lake near Ayers at Hampshire Boulevard. George was a civic leader in the town of Polytechnic Heights. In 1890 he donated land for the campus that became TWU. In 1892 he helped start a streetcar line that ran from Polytechnic College to downtown Fort Worth through Glenwood. The streetcars originally were pulled by mules. Fort Worth incorporated Polytechnic Heights in 1922.

tandy obit 5-25-21The obituary for George Tandy said little about his civic leadership. Clip is from the May 25, 1921 Star-Telegram.

In 1912 Lewis Tandy Sr. (son of George and father of Bert) built this home on Meadowbrook Drive on what had been Tandy ranchland. The home has remained in the family.

hall archcemetery bird tandy PRArch Hall and Roger Tandy are buried in Pioneers Rest Cemetery.

To get a view of the Poly prairie as Arch Hall and Roger Tandy first saw it in 1855, visit Tandy Hills Park. It is located at the intersection of streets named, appropriately, View and Tandy.

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