Below is the front page of the Star-Telegram of November 4, 1916:
Europe had been at war for two years. Pershing was chasing Villa in Mexico. The big headlines were daunting:
“Germans Capture Russian Main Positions Near Lemberg”
“Steamers Crash, Sink”
“But One Saved from 2 Ships; Loss of Life May Reach 100”
“Neutrals Are Warned Not to Touch England”
“French Liner Battles with U Boat”
“3 Villistas Are Executed for Treason”
Even the little headlines were about the war:
“French Front Quiet”
“Roumanians Make Further Advances”
“Battle in Galicia”
“Jersey Cow Stolen”
Whoa! Feel free to execute a cartoonlike double-take. “Jersey Cow Stolen”? On page 1? Amid all the headlines about global mayhem?
That the theft of a cow—102 years ago today—would be newsworthy, even as a filler brief, tells us something about the world in 1916. For all the world’s technological advances—people were dropping bombs on each other from newfangled aeroplanes and roaring along battlefronts in newfangled automobiles—the world—even the cities—was still very countrified. In Fort Worth many residential streets were unpaved. Blacksmiths still found work to do on horses. Classified ads for houses still listed “plumbing, gas, lights” as selling points. Outhouses and dry closets had not totally been replaced by bathrooms.
And city folk kept chickens and cows.
Thus, when Meredith Azro and Ella Belle Benton of 1730 6th Avenue told police on November 3 that their cow had been stolen, the crime was serious. Grand theft udder.
The Benton house survives into its third century as a reminder of a time of water wells, windmills, and white picket fences. The Benton house is located in Fairmount, which is a living museum of well-preserved houses—with real made-for-sittin’ porches—from the early twentieth century.
Fairmount was opened to development in 1890. But even by 1898, when the Benton house was built, Fairmount still had plenty of wide, open spaces. Historian Michael S. McDermott in his Fort Worth’s Fairmount District writes that M. A. Benton traveled a lot, leaving wife Ella Belle at home with small children. The “calls of wild animals” frightened Mrs. Benton, so she hired a young woman “from town” to keep her company at night out on the edge of the prairie.
In fact, this 1907 map of the city shows the Benton house (yellow circle) still to be on the edge of the city. Inset detail from a 1910 map in upper left shows the Benton house footprint. Park Place Avenue originally was named “Morgan Avenue”; 6th Avenue originally was “Potter Avenue.” (City map from Pete Charlton’s “1000+ Lost Antique Maps of Texas & the Southwest on DVD-ROM.”)
Mr. Benton sold tobacco for Lorillard, was an officer of American Seed Company and Jersey Cream Company. Mrs. Benton was an avid gardener. Roses were her passion, and she helped start the rose gardens at Fort Worth Botanic Garden.
Meredith Azro and Ella Belle Benton died seventeen days apart.
The Benton house remained in the family more than a century.
Some more views of the house at the corner of Park Place and the past:
The fence is said to be original.
Gable brace and half-cove shingles.
The house sits on four lots—still room for a cow.