James Jones Jarvis: Street Gang Member

James Jones Jarvis is a member of an elite group: the original Fort Worth street gang—pioneers who have a street named after them.

jarvis-map-1889Jarvis Street appears by 1889 on a map of the near South Side.

James Jones Jarvis was born in 1831 in North Carolina. He moved to Illinois with his family when he was twenty.

According to Major Khleber Miller Van Zandt in his memoir Force Without Fanfare and  Patsy McDonald Spaw in her The Texas Senate: Civil War to the Eve of Reform, 1861-1889, when Jarvis was a law student in Illinois in 1855, the man who gave Jarvis his bar exam and later signed his license to practice law was Abraham Lincoln, a lawyer who was making a name for himself in Republican Party politics (photo from the Gilder Lehrman Collection, New York).

Law degree in hand, from Illinois Jarvis traveled south by steamboat first to New Orleans and then to Shreveport. From Shreveport, equipped with one hundred dollars and a pair of feet, he walked westward into Texas, getting as far as Collin County before turning back east to Quitman in Wood County to settle in 1857. Down to his last sixty dollars, Spaw writes, Jarvis lent fifty-five dollars to a friend and then opened a law office with the remaining five dollars. In addition to practicing law Jarvis published the Quitman Herald newspaper. When the Civil War began he joined the Tenth Texas Cavalry and fought for the Confederacy, achieving the rank of major.

jarvis-70-censusJarvis was wounded in the war and returned to Quitman, where in 1866 he met and married Ida Van Zandt. Note that Ida was born in Washington, D.C. She was the daughter of Isaac Van Zandt, who had been the Republic of Texas chargé d’affairs to the United States under President Sam Houston. Isaac Van Zandt negotiated the treaty by which Texas joined the Union in 1845. Ida also was the sister of Major K. M. Van Zandt. (Van Zandt County, adjacent to Wood County, is named for Isaac.)

About 1872 the Jarvises moved from Quitman to Fort Worth. Jarvis became a law and business partner of John Peter Smith. Smith and Jarvis would own several blocks of Main and Houston streets. Jarvis also would amass five thousand acres north of town. Jarvis would become a city alderman, one of the original trustees when the city’s public school system opened on October 1, 1882, district attorney, an early partner in Fort Worth National Bank, and a state senator in the twentieth and twenty-first legislatures.

jarvis 86Jarvis served in the Texas Senate with Sam Houston’s son Temple.

Jarvis helped to bring the Texas & Pacific (1876) and Santa Fe (1881) railroads to town and was a benefactor of Jarvis Christian College in Hawkins, Texas, Add-Ran Christian College in Thorp Spring, Texas, and TCU (Jarvis Hall [1911]) is named for Jarvis and wife Ida).

The Jarvis Building (1884) downtown is one of the city’s oldest commercial buildings. The building features cast-iron architecture.

jarvis airship register 5-12Jarvis was one of the more prominent citizens who was said to have been an eyewitness during the rash of sightings of strange airships in 1897. Clip is from the May 12 Fort Worth Register.

jarvis estate

Jarvis lived “three miles north of the city,” where today Jarvis Heights addition and Diamond Hill-Jarvis High School are named for him. (Map from Pete Charlton’s “1000+ Lost Antique Maps of Texas & the Southwest on DVD-ROM.”)

Jarvis Hall (1911) at TCU is named for Mr. and Mrs. Jarvis. He was the first chairman of the TCU board of trustees.

And in Wood County is Jarvis Christian College, founded as “Jarvis Institute” in 1913. The Jarvises donated land for the “negro industrial school.” In this article in the Star-Telegram the writer and Mrs. Jarvis paint a decidedly whitewashed picture of “the good old days.”

jarvis 2 1-20-14 stJames Jones Jarvis died on January 20, 1914. He was living at the Westbrook Hotel. Clip is from the January 20 Star-Telegram.

Husband and wife are buried in Oakwood Cemetery.

Fort Worth’s Street Gang

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4 Responses to James Jones Jarvis: Street Gang Member

  1. Beverly Murray says:

    I was born in Fort Worth in 1939 and taught 15 years in the Diamond Hill area – Meacham Middle School and Diamond Hill-.Jarvis High School. This is a wonderful article and I greatly am enjoying reading it all. Thank you!

    • hometown says:

      Thanks, Beverly. Although I was born two blocks from the stockyards, I grew up in Poly, and the Diamond Hill area was the dark side of the moon to this ol’ Poly boy. So I enjoyed learning about its history.

  2. Janice Boone 2@gmail.com says:

    Was pangburns on rosedale in the 70’s

    • hometown says:

      Janice, a 1968 city directory shows West 7th as the only Pangburn’s location. A search of Star-Telegram archives shows no store on Rosedale.

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