From the Git-Go: Of Millers and Merchants

They were two from-the-git-goers who helped to settle more than one pioneer community in Tarrant County.

The first of the two men to arrive was Archibald Franklin Leonard, who moved from his native Pennsylvania to Missouri in the 1830s. In 1845—the year Texas entered the Union—he and wife Mary Ann moved on to Texas with a band of colonists to settle on land in Peters Colony at today’s Grapevine. By 1849 Leonard was operating a store on his land.

That same year Henry Clay Daggett was the first of the three Daggett brothers to reach Fort Worth from Canada and New York via Shelby County in east Texas. In fact, he was here before there was a here here: Henry Clay Daggett had fought under Middleton Tate Johnson in the Mexican-American War of 1846-1848. After the war he continued to ride with Johnson as Johnson’s Texas Rangers began to patrol the frontier from Johnson’s Station in present-day Arlington. In fact, in 1849 Daggett rode with Colonel Johnson and Army Major Ripley Arnold when they scouted the confluence of the West and Clear forks of the Trinity River and picked a site on which to establish Fort Worth.

In 1849 Leonard and Daggett became partners in a business that would have much historical significance. They built a log cabin under a big live oak tree a mile northeast of the fort and opened Fort Worth’s first business: a trading post. That big live oak lives on in Traders Oak Park on Samuels Avenue.

The location was perfect for a trading post: soldiers for customers, soldiers for protection. Indians also came to the store to trade pecans, furs, and buffalo hides. The trading post became a center of community activity as Fort Worth the frontier military post became Fort Worth the frontier town. Tarrant County’s first election was held at the trading post in 1850.

daggetts 1850The 1850 census shows Henry Clay’s brothers Ephraim Merrell and Charles Biggers still in Shelby County. All three brothers were veterans of the Mexican-American War.

1850 census daggett leonardHenry Clay Daggett and Leonard are listed in the first Tarrant County census in 1850.

After the Army vacated the fort in 1853, Daggett and Leonard moved their trading post into a barracks. Ox freighter John White hauled pecans and pelts to Houston for the two merchants and returned in six weeks with flour, sugar, garden seeds, cloth, hardware, and other frontier necessities. But Leonard soon moved back to Grapevine to operate a store, and Daggett continued to operate the trading post, taking Charles Turner as his new partner. Turner, like Daggett, had moved to Tarrant County from Shelby County and had ridden with Arnold and Johnson in 1849.

Daggett later was county tax assessor-collector. He also was among the original members of Fort Worth’s first Masonic lodge in 1854.

daggett 77 cdBy 1877 Daggett had partnered with R. Hatcher on the public square to sell wholesale groceries. Oh, and gunpowder made by the American Powder Company of Massachusetts. Henry Clay Daggett remained in business until 1884.

leonard 85 hapIn northeastern Tarrant County the community of Leonardville had grown up around Leonard’s first store. Leonardville became Grapevine. In 1854 Leonard helped lay out the town and secure a post office. The A. F. Leonard survey appears on an 1885 map. (Map detail from Pete Charlton’s “1000+ Lost Antique Maps of Texas & the Southwest on DVD-ROM.”)

By 1856 Leonard had a new venture: He dammed the Trinity River and built a grist mill just west of where Precinct Line Road now crosses the river in east Fort Worth. When farmers did not have the cash to pay him for grinding grain, he kept a portion. Water from the river powered the mill, a circular saw, and a cotton gin.

leonard gaz 70

In 1870 Leonard was elected to the Texas House of Representatives from Tarrant County’s District 21. Clip is from the Austin Tri-Weekly State Gazette.

Like trading posts, mills, whether they sawed wood or ground flour, were valuable enterprises on the frontier. Leonard’s mill became a community center and voting place. During abolition violence in 1860, the mill was burned. Leonard rebuilt it in 1862. In the late 1860s H. B. Alverson and J. H. Wheeler owned the mill after Leonard moved to Birdville. (Photo from Tarrant County College Northeast.)

In 1876 Robert Andrew Randol bought the mill. The mill and the small community that grew up around it appear on this 1895 map. (Map detail from Pete Charlton’s “The Lost Antique Maps of Texas: Fort Worth & Tarrant County, Volume 2” CD.)

randol 1910Randol listed himself as a farmer, miller, and merchant in the 1910 census.

These Star-Telegram clips are from 1909 and 1916. The mill, like the school, closed in 1916.

Robert Andrew Randol deeded one-acre Harrison Cemetery in east Fort Worth and buried his brother John there after John was killed in an accident at the mill in 1894.

R. A. Randol died on December 27, 1922. Clip is from the December 28 Star-Telegram.

daggett 85 mapHenry Clay Daggett, like Leonard, resettled in Birdville. An 1895 map shows the H. C. Daggett home. (Map detail from Pete Charlton’s “1000+ Lost Antique Maps of Texas & the Southwest on DVD-ROM.”)

henry daggett obit 1897Leonard died on February 22, 1876; Daggett died on October 29, 1887. Note that Daggett’s obituary in the Dallas Herald says that Daggett’s wife Sarah in 1852 gave birth to the “first white child born in Tarrant County.”

Archibald Franklin Leonard and Henry Clay Daggett, two miller and merchant from-the-git-goers, are buried in Birdville Cemetery.

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3 Responses to From the Git-Go: Of Millers and Merchants

  1. Pam B. says:

    Archibald F. Leonard is my 1st cousin 4x removed. I’ve been researching Fort Worth History and was so excited when my genealogy research led me to find my pioneer Fort Worth connection. Love this post! Thank you for the work you put into this.

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