Fort Worth may be “where the West begins,” but some of our place names can be traced back east. Take the name of our city, for example. General William Jenkins Worth was a New Yorker (and is buried in Manhattan). And take the name of our county. General Edward H. Tarrant was born in South Carolina. Captain Ephraim Merrell Daggett (Daggett Street) was born (in Canada) near Niagara Falls. Louville Veranus Niles (Niles City) was from Boston. The Cobb brothers (Cobb Park) were born in Vermont. And just a scooch east of where the West begins, over in Kaufman County the town of Forney has two ties to “back east” when it comes to nomenclature.
On July 6, 1872 the Dallas Weekly Herald reported, via the Fort Worth Democrat, that a Colonel Forney had been in Colonel Thomas Scott’s Texas & Pacific railroad delegation in Fort Worth. Scott et al. told Fort Worth residents that the railroad would reach Fort Worth within two years. Scott had been named president of the T&P earlier in 1872. Of course, the national economic panic of 1873 would stop the T&P’s western progress dead in its tracks at Eagle Ford in Dallas County, and Fort Worth would not hear its first locomotive whistle until July 19, 1876.
John Wien Forney, born in Pennsylvania in 1817, was a journalist, politician, and railroad promoter. (Photo from Wikipedia.)
By age twenty-five Forney owned the Lancaster, Pennsylvania, Intelligencer, as reported by the Sudbury, Pennsylvania, American on January 29, 1842.
By 1848 Forney was involved in the state Democratic Party in Pennsylvania. Clip is from the August 26, 1848, Clarksville Northern Standard.
By 1853 Forney had served as chief clerk of the U.S. House of Representatives, as reported by the Texas State Gazette on October 1, 1853. He would later be secretary of the U.S. Senate.
On August 5, 1870 the Galveston Tri-Weekly News reprinted a report in Pomeroy’s Democrat (New York) that tied Forney to John Wilkes Booth. The report alleged that Booth had killed President Lincoln five years earlier because Lincoln had reneged on a promise to Booth not to execute Booth’s friend John G. Beall. Forney allegedly had gone with Booth to ask Lincoln to intercede on behalf of Beall.
By 1872 Forney was affiliated with the Texas & Pacific railroad. On behalf of the railroad Forney undertook a tour of Texas and wrote his glowing “What I Saw in Texas” accounts, which newspapers printed. These accounts were designed to convince investors back east of the advantages of a southern transcontinental railroad route. This clip, containing Forney’s impression of Fort Worth, is from a longer article published August 3, 1872, in the Dallas Weekly Herald. Forney wrote that the view from the bluff was “grand beyond description, decidedly the finest we enjoyed upon our visit to Texas,” and “the citizens are kind, courteous and hospitable. He wrote that during the last year a half-million cattle had been driven through Fort Worth on the Chisholm Trail. He also mentioned the “unfinished” courthouse. Note that Forney erred in saying the Transcontinental and Southern Pacific railroads were operating in Fort Worth by 1872. He also claimed that General Worth had “constructed” the Army’s Fort Worth.
Forney’s “What I Saw in Texas” tour resulted in a book of the same title.
As the T&P track was laid west toward Eagle Ford in Dallas County, on March 22, 1873, the Clarksville Northern Standard reported that the railroad would serve the Kaufman County town of Brooklyn. Residents of Brooklyn—a town founded in the late 1860s—on December 29, 1873 renamed their community after Pennsylvanian John Wien Forney, who was by then a director of the T&P company. (Dozens upon dozens of Texas towns are named for railroad officials because dozens upon dozens of Texas towns owe their genesis to the railroads.)
Colonel Forney died in 1881. Obituary is from the Dallas Daily News.
Bonus out-west, back-east trivia: Sixty miles southeast of Brooklyn/Forney in Henderson County is the unincorporated town of . . . wait for it . . . New York.