The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 107, July 2003 - April, 2004 Page: 390
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
Fort Worth basked in its reputation as a rugged, irreverent town where
drunken cowboys unloaded six-shooters into the air and a panther was
once spotted napping in the middle of a downtown street.3 Unlike the
neighboring county seat of Weatherford, a dry town that promoted itself
as a "city of churches," a propensity for prayer was not part of Fort
Fort Worth's religious "laxity," particularly among its 150 Jews, was
such that in March 1879 a circuit-riding rabbi from Galveston attempt-
ed to start a Sabbath school, to little avail.4 "There seems to be a lack of
zeal among parents," a journalist with the Jewish South, an Atlanta,
Georgia, weekly, reported three months later. Estimating Fort Worth's
Jewish population at "about one hundred [men], . . . perhaps about
twelve Jewish families," and thirty-two school age children, he repri-
manded his brethren for having the numbers but not the inclination to
follow Jewish traditions.5
A B'nai B'rith fraternal lodge, launched by out-of-town organizers
from Waco and Dallas in 1876, disintegrated during an economic down-
turn in the early 188os.6 A Jewish cemetery, Emanuel Hebrew Rest, was
not started through the efforts of Jewish residents, but rather by a civic
leader who deeded property in 1879 for several graveyards, including
establishment of its cemetery.... Prayer services can be held anywhere ... but a proper burial
requires consecrated ground. A cemetery also implies permanence, a notice that symbohcally, by
burying the dead, the community is planting its roots " See Melvin I. Urofsky, Commonwealth and
Community: The Jewsh Experience in Virginia (Richmond Virginia Historical Society and Jewish
Community Federation of Richmond, 1997), 58.
1 The panther observation is attributed to Robert E. Cowart, a former Fort Worth attorney
writing in the Dallas Daily Herald in 1875. Caleb Pirtle III, Fort Worth. The Czvzlzed West (Tulsa:
Continental Heritage Press, 1980), 61
Rabbi Abraham Blum organized a Sabbath School that enrolled thirty-two students, American
Israelite, Mar. 7, 1879 For more on Rabbi Blum, see William Kramer and Reva Klar, "Rabbi
Abraham Blum. From Alsace to New York by Way of Texas and California," Western States Jewish
Historcal Quarterly, 11 (Oct, 1979), 73-88; Louis Schmier (ed.), employs the term "laxity" in
Reflections of Southern Jewry: The Letters of Charles Wessolowsky, 1878-1879 (Macon- Mercer
University Press, 1892), 119.
5 Schmier (ed ), Reflections of Southern Jewry: The Letters of Charles Wessolowsky, 1878-z879,
1 The International Order of B'nal B'nth (IOBB), Hebrew for "sons of the covenant," was
founded in 1843 as a Jewish social service fraternity that crossed Jewish denominational lines
The first Fort Worth lodge, no. 269, was founded m 1876, disintegrated in the 188os, and was
apparently forgotten. In 1901 a new B'nai B'rlth chapter was organized as Lodge no 519.
During research conducted for the Texas Sesquicentennial in 1986, information about the first
lodge came to light from the pages of the Fort Worth Texas Writers Project, which included the
typescript of an article from the Fort Worth Dazly Democrat, November 21, 1876, announcing for-
mation of the lodge. As more data about the original group surfaced, the existing chapter
changed its numerical designation from Lodge 519 back to Lodge 269. Other Texas B'nai B'rith
lodges were founded in Dallas in 1873; Waco, 1873, San Antonio, 1874; Victoria, 1874, Tyler,
1874; Austin, 1875; Galveston, 1875, Kilgore/Marshall, 1876; Corsicana, 1877, Houston, 1894;
and El Paso, 1901. Information researched by Barbara Pittman, B'nal B'rith Texarkoma regional
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 107, July 2003 - April, 2004, periodical, 2004; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101224/m1/448/: accessed June 25, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.