Monday, September 21, 2015

The EHHS Social Order – 11.2.3 – Early Cowtown Society - After the T&P

It’s difficult to find early pictures of Ft. Worth taken during its formative years following the 1876 arrival of the T&P Railroad.  For one thing a small, dusty village of just a few hundred frontier stockmen was of little interest to photographers having the requisite “modern” photo equipment…the gear was bulky and difficult to transport over long distances.  Thankfully, there are number of miscellaneous images in circulation that do provide random snapshots of the small town that help describe how the town was developing from 1876-1895.  Taken from a Penn Street home in 1885, shown above is the earliest known photograph of what was the developing skyline.

Thankfully, the early Ft. Worth builders did manage to establish one City view that has remained substantially unchanged for over 130-years; that being, Main Street either north to the Courthouse or south to the rail yards with some occasional off-axis views to fill-in the texture detail.  Countless photographers, both professional and amateur, have taken those pictures from various vantage points along Main Street such that a collection of them really does a good job of illustrating the growth and changes over that period of time.

With the coming of the T&P railroad, Fort Worth became the cattle shipping center for all those Texas free range cattle that had been driven up the Chisolm and other trails to the Kansas railheads.  In addition, the rail line provided much easier access to the country’s newest frontier lands from the much larger population centers of Chicago and New York.

A young (27) Frederick Remington’s amusing letter home to his girl friend suggests one young man’s feel for the place, circa 1888.

Sunday July 1, 1888

My dear girl,

Here I am at last—leave in the morning by stage for Fort. Sill—spent a day in Fort Worth with Hough—had a devil of a time—the mosquitoes like to eaten me up—there is not a square inch on my body that is not bitten—and oh oh oh how hot it is here—I have sweat and sweat my clothes full—I can fairly smell myself—I am dirty and look like the devil and feel worse and there is no help for me.

Well you can bet I am going to make the dust fly and get through as soon as I can—This is a miserable little frontier town with a little hen coop of a hotel—I am nearly starved to death—This Texas grub is something frightful—and my room—I wish you could see it.  You would smile—I fully agree with Phil Sheridan “If I owned Texas and hell, I would rent Texas and live in Hell.”—

Well all this is very discouraging but it’s an artist’s life.  I have no idea how long this thing will take for these Indians are scattered all over the earth but I “touch and go” and you can bet I won’t spend the evening with them—still I came to do the wild tribes and I do it.

Love Missie
Your Old Boy,

Now, while Remington and Russell were venturing out into the Indian Territories to record what they saw and create their artwork, a young Amon Carter about age 10, who would become perhaps the most important influence on what Fort Worth would become, was growing up in Crafton, about 60-miles northwest of town.  Carter, together with his future friend, oilman Sid Richardson, were too young to have known Remington and Russell during their prime years, but would later enthusiastically embrace and collect their art.  Those collections reside in Fort Worth museums today and form perhaps the greatest accumulation American Western Frontier Art in the world.  More on them later.

Frontier cattlemen started building “city” homes in Fort Worth during the 1890s that dwarfed all residences that had been built during the previous 30-years of settlement.  The earliest large homes went up a little north of the Courthouse on Samuels Ave. and since they were built of wood, nearly all of them have either burned or rotted away.  Only the Garvey house remains today as a reflection of what once was.  Moving to Fort Worth made sense for the regional Cattle Barons.  Their herds had been shipped out from there since the T&P came to town in 1876.  Setting prices and making the deals was done right there in town at the Exchange and the money flowed through Van Zandt’s bank, among others.

With a rapidly growing population, Ft. Worth was quickly developing some of the more refined creature comforts the large cities back East had been enjoying for about a generation by the 1890s.  Waggoner and Burnett both had private rail cars they used for travel.  There were probably others…an interesting research project to find some pictures might be in the oft.  But, for most folks, it was the large homes they built in Quality Hill that left the lasting impressions.

...and, Van Zandt had managed to help cure the lack of any saloons in 1886, there were 68 recorded in the City Directory., Quality Hill residents and details...

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

The EHHS Social Order – 11.2.2 – Early Cowtown Society - Cattle Drives

1865-1880s.   At the end of the Civil War when millions of (Spanish) longhorn cattle were left on the plains of Texas without a market, the Union Pacific was building west across Kansas. Joseph McCoy, an Illinois stockman, believed these cattle could be herded north for shipment by rail. He built yards at Abilene, Kansas and sent agents to notify the Texas cattlemen. In 1867 the first cattle drives came up the Chisholm Trail and during the next five years, more than a million head were received at McCoy’s Abilene rail head.

Settling near Dan Waggoner’s ranches on the North Texas open range was Samuel Burk Burnett, a 19-year old young man closer in age to Dan’s son William Thomas, than to Dan himself.  During the ensuing 25, or so years, the Waggoners and the Burnetts built their herds and their fortunes driving tens of thousands of cattle to market each spring.  Their cattle drives and those of many other open range ranchers caught the imagination of the generations to follow as being the last days of our western frontier and of the American cowboy.  Burnett’s ranches, located just west of Waggoner’s, grew in several parcels to total about 350,000 acres at their peak.

It would be the next generations of Waggoners and Burnetts, along with a number of other open-range ranchers who, as they aged and prospered from their cattle businesses, would move to early day Ft. Worth to build their spacious city homes during the waning days of the 19th century.  But before anyone in Ft. Worth could start dancing a minuet out on a lawn, a city would have to be built first.

The Chisolm Trail passed right through Fort Worth which offered transient cowboys a convenient waypoint while driving their South Texas herds through on their way to McCoy's Abilene, Kansas rail headFt. Worth provided them an opportunity  to reprovision, rest their stock, and blow off some steam.  The constant stream of cattle and cowboys contributed to at least two very early civic improvements toward the establishment of Fort Worth as a city of the future.  First, Van Zandt’s note of there not being a single saloon in the town was soon rectified and next, a permanent settlement of sorts began its existence on the south end of what would some day be downtown….Hell’s Half Acre (HHA).  Remnants of Hell's Half Acre were still standing in the southern part of downtown when we were kids....and the area is now largely covered by the Tarrant County Convention Center.

1876.  New York financier, Jay Gould, was the ramrod behind pushing the rail line south from Kansas into Texas.  First, the line came into Marshall, then Dallas by 1873, and after the bank panic of 1873 had passed…into Ft. Worth by 1876.  The arrival of the railroad was the first significant link to a larger world than Ft. Worth had ever seen.  Our population then was about 500-600 people.

Of course, all of us learned of the Golden Spike joining the very first Transcontinental railroad in 1869 at Promontory Point in Utah but, understanding the significance of the arrival of rail lines into the country’s hinterlands was probably lost on most of us.  Think of it this way, after the Civil War, New York City was the center of most United States commerce…it was like the stout tree stretching toward the sky, it’s root system hidden out of sight below the surface.  As the map below shows, the railroads acted very much like that tree’s root system by connecting the rest of the country and its products to the trunk…NYC ! 

And once we had more efficient transportation leading to the big city than horse-drawn stage coaches, the possibility of some of us learning the minuet was substantially improved but, we weren't there yet.

Next -  Quality Hill