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...


Anonymous said...

Sharing the importance of the T&P in shipping cattle was the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad which was built down through eastern Oklahoma to north Texas from southeastern Kansas, at approximately the same time. It shows up on the railroad map that is presented in the blog. I think it acted as a replacement for the Chisholm Trail, in that it connected with the Union Pacific in Kansas at Junction City, and later through Parsons, Kansas and Vinita, Okla. to points east such as St. Louis and Chicago. It became part of the Gould interests, as did the T&P, and was affectionately known as the "Katy". It had an important presence in Fort Worth over the years.

RR Buff

Gus said...

Thanks for the info. I got a little lost while digging through the various Gould interests involved in building the rail line south. Decided that since this history is really just a backdrop to my stroll through early Ft. Worth history in search of the original minuet that might have been danced on an ancient lawn before the one my classmates danced in the late 1950s, I would just focus the narrative on the T&P that had a significant presence at the south end of downtown for so many years.

Getting into this topic did help clarify one old question, though. Both my grandfather and great-grandfather worked most of their adult lives for the T&P and for the MK&T at their Dallas offices. I've long been curious about their work but, since grandpa died when I was but 8, I never had the chance to have those discussions with him. However, my great-grandfather left a diary of his move from London to Weatherford about 1878-79....I've always wondered what brought him to that little place that early. Clearly, he must have responded to the advertisements for help I think were in circulation in England as the railroads advanced west. By 1890 he had moved the family to Dallas where they lived out their lives through the mid-twentieth century working mostly with the Katy RR.

Anonymous said...

The panic and depression of 1873-1876 left the T&P construction stranded at a place west of Dallas called Eagle Ford. Construction was soon resumed, however, and the line was progressively extended through Handley and into downtown Fort Worth (around 1876). Then there was a strenuous attempt to get the T&P pushed all the way out to El Paso in just a few short years. It is said that that hundreds of track laborers died in that successful attempt due to a scourge of yellow fever. That expansion through Weatherford would have coincided exactly with your great-grandfather's presence there, as it would have been a new "boom town".

The MKT was originally completed down to Denison, then used trackage rights on a relatively obscure T&P line to get down through Denton to a connection with the T&P east-west mainline in downtown Fort Worth. The MKT was eventually built south through Waco, Temple, and Austin to San Antonio. It had an alternate north-south route through Dallas. You have a picture in your blogsite which shows an excellent aerial view of the downtown FW track situation, at an undetermined date. The
T&P-MKT tracks coming into downtown FW from the north are shown at the far right. It looks like the original T&P depot was located at the later site of Frank Kent Cadillac.

RR Buff

Gus said...

I recall in reading up on the RR topic that Gould was encouraged by Pres. Cleveland (I think)to extend that T&P/MKT line west to San Diego but for whatever reason, Gould didn't get it done then. It pulled up a little west of Weatherford, near Ranger (Thurber I think) where, along with some Fort Worth interests (R.D. Hunter), they mined coal and manufactured bricks. Those were the bricks used to page highways to Ft. Worth and the City streets.

At some later date, the line was extended on to San Diego.

Anonymous said...

I've seen some material on Thurber and it's a very interesting but largely forgotten part of Fort Worth area history. A man named William Knox Gordon came into that area and was largely responsible for developing the coal and brick establishments out there. He had connections with some financial interests in New York (Hunter, or one of his family, was a member of the famous Blair & Co. investment bank of the 19th century) and came to be head of the Texas & Pacific Coal company and was later on the board of one of the big downtown FW banks. An interesting sideline on Gordon was that he became a resident eastsider of FW. He had a house on the northwest corner of Edgewood Terrace and E. Lancaster back in the early '40s. He might have been one of the early members of the Meadowbrook CC.
Gordon ranks among the important pioneer industrialists of FW.

Actually, the T&P was successful in pushing its line eventually as far as the area of Sierra Blanca, in far west Texas. There it met the line of the Southern Pacific under the auspices of Collis P. Huntington coming eastward from California (kind of a golden spike of Texas). An arrangement was made to connect, and Huntington's line went on south through Marfa and Alpine eventually to San Antonio. That whole area west of Pecos is so god-forsaken that it's interesting to imagine a little pioneer rail line going through it.

RR Buff