Who the Heck Was . . . J. B. Googins?

He would live to see the North Side proclaim itself the “Chicago of the Southwest.” He would live to see Fort Worth’s population grow from 27,000 in 1901 to 106,000 in 1920. He would not live to see his daughter become the daughter-in-law of a U.S. president.

When J. B. Googins stepped off the train here from Chicago in 1901 he might have appeared to be a stranger, a city slicker even. But he knew Texas. He knew Fort Worth. And he knew the meatpacking business from the hoof up.

Joseph Boynton Googins was born in Chicago in 1873. His father, David Snow Googins, was a stockman and meatpacker. Son J. B.’s first job was at the Chicago stockyards.

In 1894 J. B. moved to Texas for his health. He lived the cowboy life, working as a line rider on ranches in south Texas.

About 1895 he moved back to Chicago to work in the meatpacking industry. That year the Chicago Packing and Provision Company—of which his father was vice president—bought the financially troubled Fort Worth Packing Company, which was renamed “Chicago and Fort Worth Packing Company.” J. B.’s father became vice president of the Fort Worth company. Son J. B. worked here for the company as a livestock buyer.

Then J. B. went to St. Louis, where in 1900 he was manager of Chicago Packing and Provision’s plant there.

He went back to Chicago to work for the Swift meatpacking company.

Thus, J. B. Googins by 1901 had the curriculum vitae that Swift meatpacking company president Augustus Swift was looking for. He sent Googins down here to act as pointman in the Swift company’s half of a business tsunami that would transform what today is the North Side.

Since 1900 Fort Worth civic leaders had been trying to persuade the Swift or the Armour meatpacking company to build a packing plant here. Swift and Armour were coy. Each packer said it would build in Fort Worth if Fort Worth paid it a $50,000 ($1.5 million today) incentive.

In October 1901 the Fort Worth Register announced that Fort Worth had raised $100,000: enough to bring both packing plants to town.

Swift and Armour also would reorganize the Fort Worth stockyards (with each company having a one-third interest) and expand its operation.

So, the three-cornered marriage of Fort Worth to Swift and Armour was announced. Googins would act as Swift’s best man as the myriad details of the marriage were worked out. But Googins also would ramrod Swift’s other economic foray in north Fort Worth, which then was a sparsely populated, unincorporated area. Googins paid $175,000 ($5.4 million today) for 1,300 acres of land between the stockyards and the Paddock viaduct. The two new packing plants and expanded stockyards were going to create a population explosion north of the river. That population would need houses to live in. The Swift company would sell them lots for those houses. That population would need grocery stores, banks, churches, schools. The Swift company would sell land for all those needs.
J. B. Googins and Swift would make money going and coming.

To that end, in 1902 the North Fort Worth Townsite Company was incorporated to sell all that land that Googins had scooped up. Among the incorporators were William B. King, former superintendent of the Fort Worth & Rio Grande railroad who became the new manager of the reorganized stockyards; Edward Swift, son of Swift president Augustus Swift; Samuel McRoberts, treasurer of Armour; and Louville Veranus Niles, a stockyards stockholder and one of the men who had lured the two packing plants to town.

So quickly did north Fort Worth develop with the announcement of the triad marriage that in November 1902—before the packing plants even opened—North Fort Worth incorporated.

Note that the townsite company sold twelve lots to William B. King, one of the company’s incorporators.

In 1906 the company would begin development of Belmont Terrace—the “new Quality Hill”—which includes Grand Avenue.

Meanwhile, J. B. Googins was selling real estate on his own.

His Googins addition was located east of North Main Street.

When the stockyards reorganized, there was a lot of overlap between its officers and the incorporators of the North Fort Worth Townsite Company.

Googins also was named general manager of the Swift packing plant.

In the early years after Googins arrived in town the Googinses boarded at the Worth Hotel and Fort Worth Country Club.

By 1906 Googins had prospered. He moved his family to 1101 Penn Street on Quality Hill. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Libraries.)

The three-story house was built of granite blocks and timber with a quarried tile roof. The house had a ballroom and an indoor swimming pool. A library stretched across the front of the house on the first floor. Breakfast was delivered to Googins via a dumbwaiter in his glass-and-tile breakfast room on the second floor. On the rear of the grounds were servants quarters, a circular driveway, porte-cochere, and a private gasoline pump for the family cars.

These were the other residents of the 1100 block of Penn Street in 1907:
Willard Burton, president of a lumber company
William H. Eddleman, banker
F. Hayes McFarland, stockman
Matthew Cameron, vice president of a wholesale drug company
Horace H. Cobb, brick baron
Joseph Pollock, physician

J. B. Googins was active in business and civic affairs: Stock Yards National Bank, Fort Worth Belt Railway, Fort Worth Club, River Crest Country Club, stock show, chamber of commerce. Note that the ubiquitous William B. King and L. V. Niles of the stockyards and North Fort Worth Townsite Company also were officers of the bank.

In 1909 Googins announced plans to build his own commercial building at 1535 North Main Street.

It still stands.

By 1910 Joseph B. and wife Ruth had a one-year-old daughter named after each parent: Ruth Josephus Googins.

The Googinses were often mentioned in the newspaper society pages. Mrs. Googins was a charter member of The Assembly in 1912.

By 1922 the changes that J. B. Googins and Swift and Armour had set in motion in 1901 could be quantified. In 1907 the Telegram had reported that the population of North Fort Worth—which called itself the “Chicago of the Southwest”—had exploded from two hundred in 1902 to ten thousand. Niles City—the mile-square enclave surrounding the stockyards-packing plant complex—had become known as the “richest city in the world” because of its small size and huge valuation. Fort Worth, which annexed North Fort Worth in 1909, had grown in population from 30,000 in 1900 to 70,000 in 1910 to 106,000 in 1920.

But by 1922 the Googinses’ block of Penn Street was little changed. Sixteen years after they moved in, Matthew Cameron had been replaced by Horace H. Durston, manager of Dalford Oil and Refining Company; Dr. Pollock had been replaced by William Capps, attorney.

But with that year came a drastic change: J. B. Googins died in his home on September 28, 1922. He was forty-eight years old.

Joseph Boynton Googins is buried in Greenwood Cemetery.

For his survivors, life went on. Daughter Ruth attended Pine Manor prep school in Massachusetts. By the 1920s she had become one of the most glamorous debutantes in Fort Worth. She made her debut in 1929 at River Crest Country Club.

At the stock show early in 1933 C. R. Smith of American Airlines introduced Ruth to Elliott Roosevelt, son of the president. Sparks flew, Elliott divorced his wife, and Ruth and Elliott were married in July. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Libraries.)

Elliott and Ruth posed at the Penn Street house in 1933. They divorced in 1944. The wrecking ball—the Grim Reaper of Quality Hill—gave the house the kiss of death in the 1960s. The Swift packing plant closed in 1971. (Photo from University of Texas at Arlington Libraries.)


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One Response to Who the Heck Was . . . J. B. Googins?

  1. Judy Googins, M.D. says:

    Thank you for this article. My husband is David Snow Googins, III, direct descendant of Joseph Googins.

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