In the 1880s he stood squarely with one foot in railroading and one foot in law enforcement.
He breathed coal smoke, and he breathed gun smoke.
When John James Fulford died forty years later he was best remembered for his twenty-year career as station master for the Texas & Pacific railroad. But before his T&P career, Fulford was a Fort Worth police officer, and even though he was on the force less than three years, he participated in two of Cowtown’s wildest and wooliest events:
Both coal smoke and gun smoke were in the air in 1886 when Fulford was shot in both legs and the abdomen at the Battle of Buttermilk Junction.
Newspapers were the GoFundMe of that era. The Fort Worth Gazette sponsored a drive to collect money to help Fulford pay for his medical bills. By July 7 he had recovered from his injuries and was back on duty, helping to catch a horse thief.
And in 1887 gun smoke was in the air when Luke Short shot Jim Courtright. Fulford later testified that Courtright’s revolver seemed to have jammed. Fulford also testified that Courtright spoke his dying words to him: “Ful, they’ve got me.”
John James “Ful” Fulford was born in Georgia in 1853. By 1880 he was in Fort Worth, listed in the 1880 census as a “servant” on the farm of Balies J. Bradley (see poem below) in rural Precinct 1. In 1885 Fulford was listed in the city directory as carpenter, but before the end of the year he had put down the hammer and picked up the nightstick: He was officer J. J. Fulford on City Marshal William Rea’s police force.
During his career as policeman and depot master, Fulford arrested drunks and pickpockets, chased petty thieves and diamond thieves, jailed conmen, and came to the aid of victims of horse-and-buggy accidents and sometimes even young lovers.
These clips show what police officer Fulford did to earn his $60 a month. Note in the top clip that Mayor John Peter Smith and wife had a new son; the Cowboy Saloon was in Hell’s Half Acre. The second clip reports another arrest in the Acre. The “Again Arrested” clip features Jeff Daggett. The “Badly Beaten” assault also took place in the Acre. In the bottom clip officer Fulford had to arrest a telegraph operator for GWI (galloping while intoxicated). All clips are from the Fort Worth Gazette.
News stories about Fulford’s retirement from T&P and his death say he went to work for T&P in 1886. News stories of the Courtright shooting in 1887 refer to Fulford as a “policeman.” It appears that for a while Fulford worked at both jobs. Indeed, these two briefs that refer to him as Union Depot “night watchman” and “officer” are from the September 24, 1887 Gazette.
Fulford’s first T&P station (located near today’s Tower 55) was built in 1882 during the age of coal-burning steam engines. In this 1886 Wellge bird’s-eye-view map, the T&P Union Depot is on the right. On the left is Ginocchio’s Hotel, which also has a place in Courtright lore.
In 1887 Fulford was called upon to possess the head of Solomon and the heart of Cupid when dealing with two elopers. Fulford, the reporter wrote, took the view that “love laughs at locksmiths.” Clip is from the October 6, 1887 Gazette. (“B.I.T.” was “beautiful Indian Territory,” a marketing term used by the Katy railroad.)
Fulford’s next station was the grand 1899 Texas & Pacific station, which was damaged by fire in 1904 but survived until it was replaced by the 1931 passenger station. The 1899 station was located where Frank Kent Cadillac would later be at Main and Lancaster, east of the Al Hayne memorial.
Fulford’s job entailed policing the station. In 1901 Fulford helped capture four men who had stolen a diamond from a train passenger. Clip is from the December 10 Register.
In 1902 police officer Andrew Grimes told hack (horse-drawn cab) driver Jeff Van to move his hack from a “no parking” zone at the station. Van refused. An argument ensued. Grimes threatened to arrest Van. Witnesses disagreed on what happened next—which man fired first. But nine shots were exchanged, and officer Grimes was shot to death. Police officer Witcher and Fulford disarmed Van. (Officer Grimes was wearing badge 13, the same badge number worn by officer C. L. Waller.) Clip is from the May 13 Register.
In 1907 Fulford resigned from his job as station master. Note that the August 29 Telegram story says that one hundred passenger trains “thunder” into the T&P station daily. Fort Worth had become the railroad center that B. B. Paddock had predicted in 1873.
After twenty-two years in law enforcement, Fulford put down the nightstick and again picked up the hoe and the hammer: He returned to farming and carpentry.
Fulford was more fortunate than some in his former line of work: On December 26, 1930 he died a natural death. (The 1890 date is incorrect.)
John James Fulford, who breathed coal smoke and gun smoke, is buried in Oakwood Cemetery.
The Poet Farmer: “When This You See, Remember Me”
Little is known about the “Me” in the above line of poetry. Even less is known about the “You.”
In the 1880 Tarrant County census Balies J. Bradley was the farmer in rural Precinct 1 for whom J. J. Fulford worked as a farm hand. I can find no trace of Bradley in other censuses or in city directories or local newspapers of the time. He was thirty-seven in 1880, so he was born about 1843 in South Carolina. He apparently served in a South Carolina infantry unit during the Civil War.
In trying to find out more about Bradley, I discovered that in the Arkansas State Archives is a poem, “Memorial to Maggie Fontaine of Arkansas,” written in 1869 by Balies J. Bradley. Curious, I requested a copy. Here it is:
Nov. 12th 1869 When this you see, remember me. And bear me in your mind. And do not think though far a way, To you, I feel unkind. From thence I hope to meet you again On Canaan’s happy shore. Where we can see each other’s face, And separate no more. Balies J. Bradley A South Carolinian Written as a memorial To Maggie Fontaine Of Arkansas
Bradley possibly met Maggie Fontaine in Arkansas as he was moving westward toward Precinct 1. Perhaps Bradley and Maggie had been lovers who had parted. Bradley’s wife Jane also was from Arkansas. I have been able to learn nothing about Maggie Fontaine, who made such a lasting impression on a young South Carolinian.