When pioneer Fort Worth banker and civic leader Martin Bottom Loyd was born on December 7, 1834, somewhere a dog probably wagged its tail.
Loyd was born in Kentucky. By 1850 Loyd’s family was living in Mississippi. He moved to Texas in 1860 at age twenty-seven.
Most of the early leaders of Fort Worth had not been groomed for the civic roles we remember them for: banker, attorney, politician, merchant, mover-and-shaker. They hadn’t lived privileged big-city lives back east and hopped off a train in Cowtown with an MBA degree in one manicured hand and a key to the executive washroom in the other hand. No. Before they became bankers or attorneys or politicians or merchants, before they moved and shook, they got their hands dirty and sometimes bloody. Some fought in the Mexican-American War. Some fought in the Civil War. Some fought Indians. Some herded cattle. Some chopped wood. Others ground flour or traded furs or surveyed virgin prairie.
And so it was with Martin Bottom Loyd. During the Civil War he was a Texas Ranger captain in the Frontier Regiment. After the war for five years he rounded up and sold wild cattle in south Texas.
He settled in Fort Worth about 1870, when the town had maybe five hundred people. That year Samuel Burk Burnett, who would make his fortune in cattle, land, oil, and banking, married Loyd’s daughter Ruth. (Loyd’s great-granddaughter was Anne Burnett Tandy, wife of Charles.)
The Civil War had hurt the economy of Fort Worth. Loyd saw a need and filled it: He used his cattle profits to open Loyd Exchange Office on the town square. His office exchanged bank notes for gold and silver, serving as the first bank in town.
Loyd began his banking career in one room of this house—originally the law office of J. C. Terrell—on Main Street between 1st and 2nd streets.
Loyd Exchange Office evolved into California and Texas Bank, Loyd and Marklee and then into City National Bank in 1873. City National Bank built itself a new home (pictured) at 315 Houston Street in 1884 but would later be a casualty of the national financial panic of 1893.
Also in 1873 Fort Worth incorporated, and Loyd was on the first board of aldermen.
In 1875 Loyd helped son-in-law Burk Burnett establish the Four Sixes Ranch. This clip about the Chisholm Trail from the Jacksboro Frontier Echo shows that in 1876 Loyd was still involved in the cattle business.
In 1877 Loyd left City National to start another bank—First National—a block north of City National. The building also housed Fort Worth’s first telephone exchange. (Note that by 1891 Loyd’s son-in-law Burk Burnett was a director of First National.)
Like other early civic leaders, Martin Bottom Loyd seemed to be everywhere at once: In 1870 he was an original trustee of Pioneers Rest Cemetery Association. He helped bring the railroad to town. He was president of the first fire engine company in 1876 and later was first president of the Fort Worth fire department. He donated money to start Fort Worth University in 1881. In 1882 he helped form the first company to supply the city with water. In 1902 he worked to bring the packing plants to town.
After Fort Worth built a racetrack, racehorses became a symbol of status, and Loyd began buying racehorses. He branded his horses with the letter L. His L brand is still used on Burnett family horses.
There was even a local militia unit named for Loyd. The M. B. Loyd Rifles took part in a mock battle with other militia units while “Mai-fest” was being held in 1897. The “Texas and Pacific base ball park” was located on the sprawling T&P reservation at the south end of downtown. Clip is from the April 30 Fort Worth Register.
Loyd’s portrait and résumé certainly make him appear to be a no-nonsense, perhaps even austere, businessman. But he also had a soft side. On at least two occasions he paid for licenses for all the dogs in the city pound to prevent their deaths. Clip is from the September 25, 1904 Dallas Morning News.
Loyd lived at 818 Lamar Street (about where Burnett Park is today).
On April 16, 1912 Martin Bottom Loyd died. His last words reportedly were about his bank’s new home: “Damn my soul, you’ll never fill that building.” The bank he founded not only filled that building but also in 1926 doubled its size. The building originally was half as wide as it is today.
His $300,000 would be $7.1 million today.
In 1912 news of Loyd’s death shared the front page with news of the Titanic.
Fort Worth lost a civic leader. And dogs lost a champion.