W. A. Huffman: From Swords to Plowshares

W. A. Huffman didn’t let the grass grow under his feet.

And not just because his farm implements store sold lawn mowers in 1886.

Huffman was born in Bourbon County, Kentucky, in 1845 and came to Texas with his family in 1857. In 1861, at age sixteen, Huffman enlisted in the Confederate army and served two years. In 1863, at age eighteen, he opened a dry goods store downtown on the courthouse square.

Ten years later Huffman, who had known swords as a soldier, knew plowshares as a merchant: He and Merida G. Ellis opened a farm implements store downtown. Huffman later became sole owner of the company. (Fort Worth named a school after each man.)

Huffman, like civic leaders E. M. Daggett, John Peter Smith, Jesse Zane-Cetti, James Jones Jarvis, and B. B. Paddock, seemed to be everywhere at once.

He was secretary of the city’s first street railway in 1876 and president of the North Side Railway Company. He was treasurer of Tarrant County Construction Company, which organized to bring the Texas & Pacific railroad to town in 1876. He was on the board of directors of the El Paso Hotel in 1877. His syndicate built the Fort Worth Opera House in 1883.

He was president of the Gazette newspaper, a director of Merchants’ State Bank, first president of the Board of Trade, a city alderman, treasurer of the company that produced the Texas Spring Palace exhibition in 1889-90.

He owned stock in several flour mills in Texas and prime real estate on Main Street downtown. He popularized Fort Worth’s nickname “Queen City of the Prairies.”

This sketch of Huffman’s house appeared in architect J. J. Kane’s ad in the city directory in 1882. (Kane would later design St. Patrick Cathedral, St. Ignatius Academy, and St. Joseph Hospital.)

When Huffman died (in Chicago) in 1890, he was said to have been Fort Worth’s first home-grown millionaire.

Walter Ament Huffman died of Bright’s disease. He was forty-four years old.

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