The Year Was 1877: A Toast to Clean, Clear Water

Articles from the Daily Fort Worth Standard of 1877 show what life was like in Cowtown 136 years ago.

Fort Worth had a population of about six thousand in 1877. But the city had no “running water,” no water mains, no fire hydrants. The city had only a few artesian wells. Water came largely from the Trinity River. People either went down to the river to fetch water themselves or bought water from people who did—water haulers.

In 1877 water haulers increased their price to fifteen cents a barrel. The penalty for price gouging was $5.

But this clip shows that the Clear Fork of the Trinity was not always so clear.

The city council passed an ordinance making it unlawful for people to “wash, bathe, or swim” themselves—or their horses or other animals—within six hundred yards of the confluence of the West and Clear forks near the courthouse.

The Standard called for cisterns to be dug at every house in town. “Dig cisterns,” the Standard urged its readers, “and stop buying water” from haulers.

In 1877 the city council met to discuss establishing a waterworks. But Fort Worth would not get its first waterworks until 1882.

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