Fort Worth is the sixteenth most populous city in the United States of America and the fifth most populous city in the state of Texas. Located in North Central Texas, the city is a cultural gateway into the American West and covers nearly in Tarrant, Denton, and Wise counties, serving as the seat for Tarrant County. According to the 2010 Census, Fort Worth had a population of 741,206. The city is the second most populous in the Dallas–Fort Worth Metroplex.
The city was established in 1849 as an Army outpost on a bluff overlooking the Trinity River. Today Fort Worth still embraces its Western heritage and traditional architecture and design. is the first ship of the United States Navy named after the city.
Fort Worth is home to the Kimbell Art Museum, considered to have one of the best collections in the world, and housed in what is widely regarded as one of the world's foremost works of modern architecture. Also of note are the Museum of Modern Art and the Amon Carter Museum, the latter of which houses one of the most extensive collections of American art in the world, in a building designed by Philip Johnson. The city is also home to Texas Christian University and Texas Wesleyan University and many multinational corporations including Bell Helicopter, Lockheed Martin, and others.
The Mexican–American War
Major General William Jenkins Worth (1794–1849) was second in command to General Zachary Taylor at the opening of the Mexican–American War in 1846. After the war, Worth was placed in command of the Department of Texas in 1849. In January 1849 Worth proposed a line of ten forts to mark the western Texas frontier from Eagle Pass to the confluence of the West Fork and Clear Fork of the Trinity River. One month later Worth died from cholera. General William S. Harney assumed command of the Department of Texas and ordered Major Ripley A. Arnold to find a new fort site near the West Fork and Clear Fork. On June 6, 1849, Arnold established a camp on the bank of the Trinity River and named the post Camp Worth in honor of the late General Worth. In August 1849 Arnold moved the camp to the north-facing bluff which overlooked the mouth of the Clear Fork of the Trinity River.
Although Native American attacks were still a threat in the area, pioneers were already settling near the fort. E. S. Terrell (1812–1905) claimed to be the first resident of Fort Worth. The fort was flooded the first year and moved to the top of the bluff where the courthouse sits today. No trace of the original fort remains.
Fort Worth went from a sleepy outpost to a bustling town when it became a stop along the legendary Chisholm Trail, the dusty path on which millions of head of cattle were driven north to market. Fort Worth became the center of the cattle drives, and later, the ranching industry. Its location on the Old Chisholm Trail helped establish Fort Worth as a trading and cattle center and earned it the nickname "Cowtown".
During the 1860s Fort Worth suffered from the effects of the Civil War and Reconstruction. The population dropped as low as 175, as money, food, and supply shortages burdened the residents. Gradually, however, the town began to revive.
By 1872 Jacob Samuels, William Jesse Boaz, and William Henry Davis had opened general stores. The next year Khleber M. Van Zandt established Tidball, Van Zandt, and Company, which became Fort Worth National Bank in 1884.
In 1875, the Dallas Herald published an article by a former Fort Worth lawyer, Robert E. Cowart, who wrote that the decimation of Fort Worth's population, caused by the economic disaster and hard winter of 1873, had dealt a severe blow to the cattle industry. He further stated that the harm to the cattle industry, combined with the railroad stopping the laying of track outside of Fort Worth, had caused Fort Worth to become such a drowsy place that he saw a panther (cougar, mountain lion) asleep in the street by the courthouse. Although an intended insult, the name Panther City was enthusiastically embraced when in 1876 Fort Worth recovered economically. Many businesses and organizations continue to use Panther in their name. The Fort Worth police have a panther prominently set at the top of their badge.
In 1876, the Texas and Pacific Railway arrived in Fort Worth, causing a boom and transforming the Fort Worth Stockyards into a premier cattle industry in wholesale trade. The arrival of the railroad ushered in an era of astonishing growth for Fort Worth, as migrants from the devastated war-torn South continued to swell the population, and small, community factories and mills yielded to larger businesses. Newly dubbed the "Queen City of the Prairies", Fort Worth supplied a regional market via the growing transportation network.
Fort Worth became the westernmost railhead and a transit point for cattle shipment. With the city's main focus being on cattle and the railroads, local businessman, Louville Niles, formed the Fort Worth Stockyards Company in 1893. Shortly thereafter, the two biggest cattle slaughtering firms at the time, Armour and Swift, both established operations in the new stockyards.
With the boom times came some problems. Fort Worth had a knack for separating cattlemen from their money. Cowboys took full advantage of their last brush with civilization before the long drive on the Chisholm Trail from Fort Worth up north to Kansas. They stocked up on provisions from local merchants, visited the colorful saloons for a bit of gambling and carousing, then galloped northward with their cattle only to whoop it up again on their way back. The town soon became home to Hell's Half Acre, the biggest collection of bars, dance halls and bawdy houses south of Dodge City, Kansas (the northern terminus of the Chisholm Trail), giving Fort Worth the nickname of "The Paris of the Plains".
Crime was rampant, and certain sections of town were off-limits for proper citizens. Shootings, knifings, muggings and brawls became a nightly occurrence. Cowboys were joined by a motley assortment of buffalo hunters, gunmen, adventurers, and crooks. As the importance of Fort Worth as a crossroads and cowtown grew, so did Hell's Half Acre.
What was originally limited to the lower end of Rusk Street (renamed Commerce Street in 1917) spread out in all directions. By 1881 the Fort Worth Democrat was complaining that Hell's Half Acre covered more like .
The Acre grew until it sprawled across four of the city's main north-south thoroughfares. These boundaries, which were never formally recognized, represented the maximum area covered by the Acre, around 1900. Occasionally, the Acre was also referred to as "the bloody Third Ward" after it was designated one of the city's three political wards in 1876.
Long before the Acre reached its maximum boundaries, local citizens had become alarmed at the level of crime and violence in their city. In 1876 Timothy Isaiah (Longhair Jim) Courtright was elected city marshal with a mandate to tame the Acre's wilder activities.
Courtright cracked down on violence and general rowdiness by sometimes putting as many as 30 people in jail on a Saturday night, but allowed the gamblers to operate unmolested. After receiving information that train and stagecoach robbers, such as the Sam Bass gang, were using the Acre as a hideout, local authorities intensified law-enforcement efforts. Yet certain businessmen placed a newspaper advertisement arguing that such legal restrictions in Hell's Half Acre would curtail the legitimate business activities there.
Despite this tolerance from business, however, the cowboys began to stay away, and the businesses began to suffer. City officials muted their stand against vice. Courtright lost support of the Fort Worth Democrat and consequently lost when he ran for reelection in 1879.
At one time or another reform-minded mayors like H. S. Broiles and crusading newspaper editors like B. B. Paddock declared war on the district but with no long-term results. The Acre meant income for the city (all of it illegal) and excitement for visitors. This could possibly be why the reputation of the Acre was sometimes exaggerated by raconteurs which longtime Fort Worth residents claimed the place was never as wild as its reputation.
Suicide was responsible for more deaths than murder, and the chief victims were prostitutes, not gunmen. However much its reputation was exaggerated, the real Acre was bad enough. The newspaper claimed "it was a slow night which did not pan out a cutting or shooting scrape among its male denizens or a morphine experiment by some of its frisky females."
The loudest outcries during the periodic clean-up campaigns were against the dance halls, where men and women met, as opposed to the saloons or the gambling parlors, which were virtually all male.
A major reform campaign in the late 1880s was brought on by Mayor Broiles and County Attorney R. L. Carlock after two events. In the first of these, on February 8, 1887, Luke Short and Jim Courtright had a shootout on Main Street that left Courtright dead and Short the "King of Fort Worth Gamblers."
Although the fight did not occur in the Acre, it focused public attention on the city's underworld. A few weeks later, a poor prostitute known only by the name of Sally was found murdered and nailed to an outhouse door in the Acre.
These two events, combined with the first prohibition campaign in Texas, helped to shut down the Acre's worst excesses in 1889. More than any other factor, urban growth began to improve the image of the Acre, as new businesses and homes moved into the south end of town.
Another change was the influx of black residents. Excluded from the business end of town and the nicer residential areas, Fort Worth's black citizens, who numbered some 7,000 out of a total population of 50,000 around 1900, settled into the southern portion of the city. Though some joined in the profitable vice trade (to run, for instance, the Black Elephant Saloon), many others found legitimate work and bought homes.
A third change was in the popularity and profitability of the Acre, which was no longer attracting cowboys and out-of-town visitors. Its visible populace was now more likely to be derelicts and the homeless.
By 1900, most of the dance halls and gamblers were gone. Cheap variety shows and prostitution became the chief forms of entertainment. The Progressive Era was similarly making its reformist mark felt in districts like the Acre all over the country.
On February 4, 1912, Norris's church was burned to the ground; that evening his enemies tossed a bundle of burning oiled rags onto his porch, but the fire was extinguished and caused minimal damage. A month later the arsonists succeeded in burning down the parsonage.
In a sensational trial lasting a month, Norris was charged with perjury and arson in connection with the two fires. He was acquitted, but his continued attacks on the Acre accomplished little until 1917. A new city administration and the federal government, which was eying Fort Worth as a potential site for a major military training camp, joined forces with the Baptist preacher to bring down the curtain on the Acre finally.
The police department compiled statistics showing that 50% of the violent crime in Fort Worth occurred in the Acre, a shocking confirmation of long-held suspicions. After Camp Bowie was located on the outskirts of Fort Worth in the summer of 1917, martial law was brought to bear against prostitutes and barkeepers of the Acre. Fines and stiff jail sentences curtailed their activities. By the time Norris held a mock funeral parade to "bury John Barleycorn" in 1919, the Acre had become a part of Fort Worth history. The name, nevertheless, continued to be used for three decades thereafter to refer to the depressed lower end of Fort Worth.
Late 20th and early 21st centuries
On March 28, 2000, at 6:15 pm, an F3 (some estimates claim an F4) tornado smashed through downtown, tearing many buildings into shreds and scrap metal. One of the hardest hit structures was Bank One Tower, which was one of the dominant features of the Fort Worth skyline and which had on its top floor a popular restaurant. It has since been converted to upscale condominiums and officially renamed "The Tower". This was the first major tornado to strike Fort Worth proper since the early 1940s.
When oil began to gush in West Texas in the early twentieth century, and again in the late 1970s, Fort Worth was at the center of the wheeling and dealing. In July 2007, advances in horizontal drilling technology made vast natural gas reserves in the Barnett Shale available directly under the city, helping many residents receive royalty checks for their mineral rights. Today the City of Fort Worth and many residents are dealing with the benefits and issues associated with the natural gas reserves under ground.
Fort Worth was the fastest-growing large city in the United States from 2000 to 2006 and was voted one of "America's Most Livable Communities."
Image Gallery: Jennings High School