George Preston Farmer (1817-1892) and Jane Woody Farmer (1827-1895) of Tennessee came to unsettled Tarrant County from Fannin County in 1849 and had just established a simple homestead on or near the bluff overlooking the Trinity River when Major Ripley Arnold and the Second Dragoons arrived to establish the Army’s Fort Worth. Arnold hired Farmer as the fort’s sutler (quartermaster).
In his autobiography civic leader Major K. M. Van Zandt (1836-1930) (left in photo panel) remembered how scarce money was in early Fort Worth: “People had to sell on credit or take eggs, potatoes, or other produce for pay. Gold coins were as scarce as hen’s teeth.”
One night, Van Zandt wrote, a trader bound for Louisiana with horses to sell lodged with the Farmers. The next morning the trader paid the Farmers with a $20 gold piece.
Gold! Farmer and his wife discussed how to spend the glittering windfall. They decided to pay their doctor, who had treated them for years in return for produce as payment. Farmer rode into town and handed the gold coin to the doctor, who was delighted. That gold coin looked a darned sight better than a bushel of okra. Farmer spent the day in town. As he was about to ride back home, a man called to him on the street, saying, “I would like to pay you some money I owe you.” The man handed Farmer a $20 gold piece. Farmer stared at it. “Why, I think I had this money this morning and paid it to the doctor.” The two men then set off to trace the day’s history of the gold coin. They traced the coin back to the doctor and found that the coin had been used to pay off $200 in debts among various townspeople and had returned to Farmer in a single day.