Notes and Documents
Fort Worth, 1870-1900
SANDRA L. MYRES*
IN 1870 FORT WORTH WAS JUST ANOTHER SMALL OUTPOST CLINGING TO
the edges of the frontier. Despite its location on the eastern branch of
the Chisholm Trail, it was no metropolis or important market center.
It was simply a "dirty, dreary, cold, mean little place,"' one of the last
stops in Texas before the cowboys and their Longhorn herds crossed
the Red River and headed north on the long trail to Abilene.
Founded in 1849 in conjunction with a United States Army post,
Fort Worth in 186o was a growing, thriving town of nearly five hun-
dred persons and the county seat of Tarrant County. But the Civil
War ended community growth. The young men left for the army,
Federal troops abandoned the western forts, Indians again raided the
area, and many inhabitants headed back to the safety of the East Texas
settlements. By the end of the war Fort Worth's population had de-
clined to two hundred stubborn hangers-on, and the settlement had
fallen into stagnation and decay. According to K. M. Van Zandt who
arrived from Marshall in 1869:
Fort Worth . . . presented a dead and gloomy picture. The town had
been laid out according to the general style with a square in the center
with stores surrounding it. A court house had been started . . . the
rock walls had been built up as high as the first story and there the
work had stopped. The very look of those walls accentuated the picture
of desolation. On the South and West sides of the square there were a
few business houses . . . many of them had the shelves empty and the
However, with the end of the war came new settlers and new hope
and ambition for the "outpost on the Trinity.""' Ex-Confederates like
Mrs. Myres is assistant professor of History at the University of Texas at Arlington.
She wishes to thank the Amon Carter Museum of Western Art, Fort Worth, for doing
the photographic reproductions.
1Fort Worth Star-Telegram, October 30o, 1949.
'K. M. Van Zandt, "Memoirs" (manuscript in the possession of the author).
*This fitting sobriquet is from Oliver Knight, Fort Worth, Outpost on the Trinity
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 72, July 1968 - April, 1969. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117146/. Accessed April 25, 2015.