The Fort Worth Stock Show and Rodeo was first held on the North Side in 1896, and when the history of the stock show and of the North Side is discussed, one of the recurring names is “Sansom.” But you have to be more specific.
First the people. “Sansom” usually refers to Marion Sansom. Ah, but which one? There were three: Sr., Jr., and III.
Now the places. You are probably familiar with Sansom Park. But which one? Again, there are three: two Sansom Park parks and one Sansom Park city. If you are ever asked on a game show, no, the Sansom Park parks are not located in the Sansom Park city. Savvy? Marion Sansom Park and Buck Sansom Park are in Fort Worth. The former, west of Jacksboro Highway, is named after Sr.; the latter, east of Jacksboro Highway, is named after Jr., whose nickname was “Buck.” Sansom Park the city, which incorporated in 1949 with about three thousand people, is located on Jacksboro Highway between the two Sansom Park parks and is named after Sr.
Sr., Jr., and III all were important in the development of the stock show and rodeo during its first half-century.
But when it comes to the stock show, Sr. was the main Marion. He was there from the giddyup-go. In fact, the stock show’s first roundup was held on his ranch.
Marion Sansom Sr. was born on June 20, 1853 in Madison County in southeast Texas, but his personal compass always seemed to point north. In 1859 he moved north with his family—to Alvarado. Sansom became a banker and rancher there, served as mayor. But he also developed interests farther north—in Fort Worth.
He became a livestock commissioner in Fort Worth in 1892, three years after the Union Stockyards opened and one year before Boston capitalists Greenlief Wadleigh Simpson and Louville Veranus Niles and other eastern capitalists formed Fort Worth Stock Yards Company and bought the Union Stockyards and the original Fort Worth Packing Company. Sansom later was president of the Fort Worth Livestock Commission. He also dealt in feed, grain, cotton oil, and real estate.
Sansom was one of the organizers of the stockyards in 1893 and of the packing plants ten years later. In fact, in 1903, as Swift and Armour opened their plants, Sansom moved north again, from Alvarado to Fort Worth, where he was already doing so much business. He settled north of the river.
In 1904 Sansom began buying land southwest of Saginaw one thousand acres at a time. Three purchases alone totaled thirty-four hundred acres for $2.1 million in today’s money. He would eventually own seven thousand acres between Lake Worth and Marine Creek. The ranch included the future sites of Marion Sansom Park, Buck Sansom Park, and the city of Sansom Park.
In 1906 Sansom sold his twenty-thousand-acre ranch in Upshur County.
The senior Sansom was instrumental in establishment of the stock show in 1896, held under shade trees along Marine Creek in north Fort Worth and timed to coincide with a convention of cattlemen. He was president of the stock show in 1923-1924, succeeding Burk Burnett.
Sansom also was the first president of Stockyards National Bank (1910, pictured), a director of State National Bank, a director of the Fort Worth Board of Trade, a director of the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. He was head of the War Finance Corporation, which provided relief to cattlemen during and after World War I. He was chairman of the Tarrant County war bond drive during World War I.
During World War I there was a Camp Sansom for Army field artillery on Worth Hill overlooking the Lake Worth dam.
Marion Sansom was president of Cassidy-Southwestern Livestock Commission, president of the board of regents of Texas A&M, a director of the Southwestern Cattle Raisers’ Association.
This is the view from the Inspiration Point shelter at Marion Sansom Park toward the mile-long hanger at Lockheed Martin and the dam of Lake Worth. Marion Sansom Sr. lived to see the lake (1913) and his namesake park (1921) but not the bomber plant (1942).
In 1921, as the city was developing Rockwood, Trail Drivers, and Marion Sansom parks in north Fort Worth, Marion Sansom Park originally was envisioned as a game preserve for animals such as deer and buffalo.
Marion Sansom Sr. died on March 22, 1932.
Marion Sansom Jr., born in 1879, died in 1942. Like his father, Jr. was a rancher northwest of town. Jr. managed his father’s estate and was a stock show official, serving as manager from 1918 to 1922 and as a director from 1922 until his death.
In 1929 plans for Buck Sansom Park were being developed after Sansom in 1927 had donated some acreage and sold other acreage to the city for the park named for him.
Marion Sansom III, born in 1910, died in 1960. He, too, was a director of the Fort Worth stock show and also of the San Angelo stock show, the Texas Sheep and Goat Raisers Association, and the Concho County Hereford Association.
Marion Sansom Sr., Jr., and III are buried in Glenwood Cemetery in Alvarado.
Google aerial photo shows, from left to right, Marion Sansom Park, the city of Sansom Park, and Buck Sansom Park.