Elizabeth Willing Ryan: The Woman at the Corner of Me, Myself, and I

Most of us can’t point to three streets, two subdivisions, and one park that bear our name.

But most of us aren’t Elizabeth Willing Ryan.

ryan mug

She was the wife of Fort Worth developer John C. Ryan Sr. Ryan was born in 1865 in South Carolina and came to Fort Worth in 1883. He worked briefly for merchant B. C. Evans and then began to develop real estate. He developed upscale Ryan Place and also Ryan South, Ryan Southeast, and Ryan and Pruit additions on the South Side.

ryan me myself and i yieldAt the corner of Me, Myself, and I: Mrs. Ryan’s full name appears at the intersection of Elizabeth Boulevard and Willing Avenue in Ryan Place.

ryan 1880 censusBut before Elizabeth Willing was an intersection in Ryan Place, she was a little girl in Mississippi. She was born in Crystal Springs, Mississippi in 1871. Her father, Robert Patton Willing, was an attorney and judge. The 1880 census of Copiah County lists Lizzie Willing, age nine. In 1886 the Willings moved to Fort Worth, where Robert was an attorney for the Fort Worth & Denver railroad and for B. C. Evans.

ryan willing 1890 cd2 In 1890 the Willings lived on Daggett Avenue. Elizabeth attended Fort Worth High School two blocks away and was a member of the school’s second graduating class. Older sister Carrie was a teacher at ward school no. 5. John C. Ryan and Elizabeth Willing married soon after Elizabeth graduated from high school. (John and Elizabeth may have met because both her father and John C. Ryan had worked for B. C. Evans.)

ryan 1891 lexington adBefore John C. Ryan developed Ryan Place, he developed Prospect Heights, Brooklyn Heights, and Lexington Heights. In 1891, about the time Elizabeth was graduating from high school, Ryan was developing two of his three Heights. Ad is from the Fort Worth Gazette.

mccoy trailSome history: The land surrounding the corner of Me, Myself, and I in Ryan Place was not always an enclave of fine homes, of course. A plaque at the east end of Elizabeth Boulevard says the McCoy Trail, the main feeder trail in Texas for the Chisholm Trail, passed through Ryan Place in the nineteenth century.

ryan rodgers 10-17And on October 17, 1911 a different kind of maverick stirred up the dust in what was known informally at the time as “Ryan’s pasture”: Barnstormer Cal Rodgers landed his biplane, the Vin Fiz, where Ryan was developing Ryan Place as Rodgers made the first transcontinental flight across the United States. (“Vin Fiz” was also the name of a grape soft drink bottled by the meatpacking company Armour, Rodgers’s sponsor.) Clip is from the Star-Telegram.

ryan rodgers 10-18-11 The next day Rodgers took off from Ryan Place-to-be. Clip is from the Star-Telegram.

Rodgers was killed a year later in a crash in California. (Photo from Wikipedia.)

The dust from the longhorns and the barnstormers had long since settled by 1915, when the Ryans built the developer’s showcase home a block east of Mrs. Ryan’s namesake intersection, at 1302 Elizabeth Boulevard at 5th Avenue.

elizabeth 1916 1918But the Ryans did not live in their Ryan Place showcase home long. The 1916 city directory (top) shows that the boulevard was far from fully developed a year after the Ryan house was built. By 1918 (bottom) even the developer of Ryan Place himself had moved: The house at 1302 Elizabeth Boulevard was vacant; the Ryans were living on 8th Avenue on Quality Hill.

willing map 2Okay. So far we have accounted for two streets and one subdivision that John C. Ryan’s wife can point to: Elizabeth Boulevard, Willing Avenue, and Ryan Place subdivision. This map shows them but also the third street, the second subdivision, and the park that bear the “Ryan” or “Willing” name: Ryan Place Drive, Willing Park, and Willing Park Place.

willing park adJohn C. Ryan developed Willing Park Place subdivision in Fairmount in the early 1920s. It lies between Lilac and Carlocks streets and wrapped around Willing Park. Today Daggett Middle School occupies the land where the park was.

John C. Ryan died in February 1928. He is buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

Development of his Ryan Place continued after his death.

willing obitElizabeth Willing Ryan, the woman at the corner of Me, Myself, and I, died on August 11, 1956.

Mrs. Ryan, too, is buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

elizabeth marker

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2 Responses to Elizabeth Willing Ryan: The Woman at the Corner of Me, Myself, and I

  1. Colleen Pyles says:

    Always wondered about this beautiful neighborhood. Thanks for sharing this.

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