Wednesday, December 7, 2011

1849: Major Ripley Arnold Speaks Up In Defense of the New Fort on the Trinity

It is 1849 on the Grand Prairie of Texas, just east of the Cross Timbers on a high bluff overlooking the the confluence of the Clear Fork and the West Fork of the Trinity River. A new U.S. Army outpost has just been established by young Brevet Major Ripley Arnold as part of a defensive picket to protect new settlements.  The post which does not have a protective palisade, is named Fort Worth.

Construction work gets underway, scouts and patrols by the mounted 2nd Dragoon troops are begun. Contact is made with the few local settlers.  Local Indian tribes as well as itinerant hunting groups are received at the camp and trading is begun.

Dragoons in field dress ~ From Ft. McKavett & The 2nd Dragoons

Supplies come in via Fort Graham to the south which also includes the mails. Newspapers of which the New Orleans Times-Picayune and the Galveston News are the most prominent, are eagerly awaited. The June 17, 1849 edition of the Times-Picayune arrived with this article:

Times-Picayune, June 17, 1849
This article, which contained no sources at all, was troubling. To most Americans of the time, Texas seemed as far away as Afghanistan is today. The newspapers of this era had found that the Indian wars were wildly popular with their readers and treated whatever news there was almost as a sporting event with the small US Army on one side and the native tribes on the other. As always happens in the media, if there is no current news, then there is sometimes a tendency by the less ethical to create some.

Times-Picayune ~ August 6, 1849
Much was riding on the effectiveness of this new chain of Forts and the protection it would offer to those who were coming into Texas. So Major Arnold, in the midst of setting up this forward post, took pen in hand and replied directly to the scurrilous article with good humor, precise information, a direct non-nonsense manner and a plea to come to Fort Worth to join the settlement. 

This will not be the last we will hear from and about Major Ripley Arnold.

Note: The news articles above were the earliest I have found that mention Fort Worth.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

1894: A Lost North Fort Worth Map Reveals a Tantalizing Hint ~The Old Road to Azle?

I love a mystery.  Even a little mystery.  This lost map mystery is really little and in the vast scope of things, insignificant to Fort Worth history. It all started this way:

1894 North Fort Worth Plat ~ Oakwood Cemetery Archives
Several years ago a search of the Oakwood Cemetery archives turned up this fine old 1894 plat map of North Fort Worth done by Brookes Baker, one of the earlier surveyors in the Tarrant County. It was a "blue line" map on a very heavy weathered tan colored paper.  The gray scale version is shown here to allow greater detail at a reasonable resolution.  This is one of the earliest maps of North Fort Worth that I have seen. It is based on Nathan Barrett's original 1889 plat and extends north only as far as NW 23rd Street.

With permission, I have been allowed to examine this map in detail and to include it in my Lost Antique Maps of Fort Worth CDROM where a full resolution, zoomable copy is available. Close study of this map has turned up some interesting and sometimes unexpected additions to Fort Worth history...

1894 Old Azle Road ~ Click to zoom
One of the little mysteries that this map reveals is located at the point on North Main where it jogs to the the right or due north at NW 20th street as it does today. The clip above shows that there was a road that apparently was a direct extension of North Main named Azle (Graveled) Road that headed off to the northwest. Obviously that road no longer exists. It is not a part of today's Ellis Avenue.  I thought for a while that it might be a shortcut to Clinton Street, but now I no longer think so.  Just the other day, a quick look at a large 1955 Fort Worth map during another quest gave me  a possible answer.

1955 Fort Worth Map ~ Click to zoom
If you look at the old 1955 Topo map above, you will see as I did, that there is a very definite relationship between this little stub off of North Main and the beginning of Angle Avenue where NW 26th and Refugio meet. The white line running diagonally from just north of NW 20th Street shows the approximate relationship of Angle Avenue to the little abandoned 1894 stub off North Main.

Angle Avenue and Cliff Street come together just past NW 28th street. Remembering of course, that none of the roads north of 23th Street nor Refugio existed until Rosen Heights was platted in about 1903. North Main was another mud track to the east of this line. Let's name this projection "Old Azle Road" or OAR.

Assuming that the angles were good and that a road was possible between the two points, the next question would be to figure out why it ran this way toward Azle, rather than some other direction, because there were options. Early roads were generally natural pathways that were animal or Indian trails and almost always followed the line of least resistance.

Current Aerial of Old Azle Road with elevations ~ Click to zoom 
The OAR projection on the Google aerial above shows that the elevation above sea level as it branched from North Main was about 555', then rose to about 630' and then descended to about 576' where it joined 10 Mile Bridge Road. Headed northwest out of town, the road climbed about 75' in 6 blocks or about 1/2 mile. Coming into town from the northwest, the climb would have been about 50' in a little over 2 blocks and then a gentle slope down to North Main.

These elevations are very important since in the period before 1910 almost all Tarrant County roads outside cities were unpaved, rutted, dusty tracks that became mud bogs after it rained. All of the merchandise and farm goods had to be hauled by wagon using teams of horse or mules. The most useful roads were those that avoided steep grades or river crossings.

Angle Avenue north to 10 Mile Bridge Road ~ Click to zoom
Those familiar with North Fort Worth are aware that there is a line of bluffs that run from just west of North Main starting at about Northside Drive that continues on up to about where North 820 runs. It is the barrier ridge between Marine Creek and the West Fork of the Trinity. At some points the drop off from NW 25th or NW 26th Street to the Marine Creek banks is almost 100' and is very steep.

If you follow the elevation markers on the aerial it becomes apparent that there is what was probably a natural crease dropping from the junction of NW 26th and Refugio down to Marine Creek, which later became Angle Avenue.  Note that they named it an "Avenue" rather than a street which might indicate its importance in the early days.  As a comparison, drive down Lee Street from NW 26th and then do the same on Angle Avenue. The difference is very notable.
Why did this old road exist?  After all, even in the late 1800's it was possible to to follow what is now North Main up to about NW 26th street and cut-off over what is now Cliff Street to 10 Mile Bridge Road with fairly easy grades.  Marine Creek many be part of the answer, since any other route required either a river crossing.  I don't think a bridge over Marine Creek existed until after 1890 when the first packing houses and stockyards were started. Even until the 1950's Marine Creek was crooked, flood prone and had steep banks that probably were difficult for wagon traffic to deal with.

Is this the reason Angle Avenue exists today?  Did our OAR connect between 26th street and the jog on Main Street? It's something to think about.....

10 mile Bridge Road is named for the Trinity River crossing about halfway to Azle. The road starts at about where 28th street is today. It leaves Fort Worth running a little northwest along Marine Creek and rises to a crest about where Boat Club Road is today. Then it runs downhill through some very hilly county until it reaches the Trinity River bottoms just below where Eagle Mountain Dam is today. It was one of two main roads to the northwest from Fort Worth until Jacksboro Highway was completed in about 1932. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

1917-18: A Hot Time In Old Camp Bowie's "Entertainment" District? Not!

The moment in 1917 that the deal that cinched Fort Worth as the site of a huge new US Army training post was signed was a moment that changed Fort Worth and its residents forever. The post, which became known as Camp Bowie and was located across the Clear Fork just west of downtown, literally made the earth move. As the glow of success began to fade a little, one of the myriad problems that faced the Army and its host city was how to entertain the "Sammies" as they were called then.

This was no small problem.  It was estimated that there might be as many as 30,000 recruits flooding into town.  Almost all of them were between the ages of 17 and 21 and most were from small towns in Texas and Oklahoma.  The testosterone levels in the area between Stove Foundry Road and White Settlement Road and along Arlington Heights boulevard would be off the scale.  A situation that opportunist Rev. J. Frank Norris welcomed, but that presented a real logistical as well as moral challenge to the more level headed and less self aggrandizing.

1918 Camp Bowie Map ~ CH Rogers ~ Click to zoom
The Federal planners had already set up a War Service Commission that would deal with providing wholesome diversion and entertainment to the troops in the various camps that were building across the US.  And of course the churches and YMCA's, etc. were all enlisted. In addition, concession rights were granted to some for the operation of on-base amusement parks and facilities.  C.W. Parker of Leavenworth, KS. was awarded a two-year contract for Camp Bowie.

09-07-1917-Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Parker, a well known and respected operator of amusement parks and shows, decided to bracket the Post by refurbishing dilapidated Lake Como at the west end of the camp and by creating  a "Joyland" park In the triangle just to the south of the West 7th and Arlington Heights intersection.

Lake Como & Joyland Entertainment Sites ~ Click to zoom
There was lots of work to do to get everything ready and as could be expected help was hard to find and expensive. Parker also was looking for investors and merchants for the sites as well.

Construction went along fairly rapidly and Lake Como was ready by the first part of October, announcing a complete reconstruction and the largest US flag in the world at 80' by 150'.

10-12-1917 Fort Worth Star-Telegram
Construction lagged a little at Joyland, but finally the moment came....

10-20-1917 Fort Worth Star-Telegram
As the 1917 season progressed carnivals, musicals and variety stage shows were booked and toward the end of the year the were both professional and amateur fight cards.

11-25-1917 Fort Worth Star-Telegram
"Dainty Girls?" It is a little hard to see how most of these traveling attractions would appeal to the young men that were training daily in ever more deadly arts. Looking back almost 100 years, it appears that many of these shows & events were aimed at the local population.

02-15-1918-Fort Worth Star Telegram

As  the US moved into the European war the US Government ramrodded through a series of Draconian measures. One of them was to "protect" the morals and health of its its youth. This in spite of the fact that they were old enough to be sent into mortal peril to be used as cannon fodder in the muddy trenches of France. A military commission was set up and one of the first emergency rules that came down made keeping houses of ill fame a Federal offense.

02-08-1918 Forth Worth Star-Telegram
The idea was to inhibit soldier visits to districts like what was left of Hell's Half Acre in lower downtown Fort Worth.  The local news media pretty well put a damper on the reporting of any kind of ex-curricular activity like this or bootlegging which was of course rampant during Prohibition. However, the fact was that any soldier on leave could get on the streetcar on Arlington Heights Boulevard and be anywhere he wanted to be in minutes. There were plenty of stories of bootleggers and shady ladies in cars circling around the perimeter of the camp after dark providing drive-by service.

C.W. Parker's amusement concession seemed to start off well in the fall of 1917 as the troops were arriving. However, after the first of the year 1918, almost nothing is found about his operation. It seems to have dwindled away. There are several probable reasons:  The troops were training very heavily with a target embarkation to Europe in the middle of the year. Devastating epidemics including Spanish Flu and meningitis were flowing through the camp and the community and quarantines were common and long.  Although not reported very openly, hundreds and perhaps thousands of troops died at the camp. After the first divisions left to heavy fighting, the war came to an end sooner than expected and operations at Camp Bowie were cut back.

09-17-1917-Fort Worth Star Telegram

After the armistice, Joyland just disappeared as the lease was relinquished.  Lake Como, which had been a part of the Camp land agreement, settled back into its slumber.  There would be another attempt to resurrect it in the 1920's but Lake Worth had become the recreation place of choice. 

In spite of its enormous effect on Fort Worth which continues even today, Camp Bowie was really just a flash in the pan.  It was begun in 1917 and effectively done by the end of 1918, with no hope of it becoming a permanent post.  But while it was here, the Camp made the earth move..

The Stockyard Museum has large-format copies of the 1918 Camp Bowie map in their Museum Store.  This is the only good map ever published of the Camp Bowie area...

Images from the Electric Books Collection. 

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Up the Hill: Memories of Ranger Hill on US-80 and the Bankhead Highway

Old time truckers have many tales of Ranger Hill in the days before Interstate 20 toned things down. It's still quite a hill to climb and there are remnants remaining of the earlier roads that took different, more difficult paths to climb the steep grade.

Ranger Hill really starts in Eastland County at about where IH-20 and SH-16 meet a few miles south of Strawn. It's on the flat plain skirting the lower Palo Pinto Mountains.  For those headed west, the escarpment juts up steeply and is a real barrier to any reasonably straight approach to Ranger and the cities beyond it on the way to Abilene and El Paso. The 300 foot elevation change from the bottom to the top of the hill would have made it almost impossible for use as a wagon road without multiple switchbacks. In times past, Ranger Hill has also been called Thurber Hill, although that usage is not as common today.

Old Road From Strawn to Ranger Pre-1919 ~ No Direct Route From Thurber to Ranger

As far as is known, the earliest main road from Strawn and Thurber followed the Texas & Pacific Railroad as it stayed at water level through Wiles Canyon into what was Tiffin and then Ranger. The Texas and Pacific Coal Co., which owned the coal mines at Thurber and had the oil play around Ranger, seem to have pushed their own privately financed road up across the Hill in about 1919 after which it was taken over by the State Highway Commission as part of SH-1 and the Bankhead National Highway. By this time cars and trucks that could handle the climb were in more common use. 

Ranger Hill From SH-16 to First Crest ~ Click to Zoom
We can see how really steep the Ranger Hill grade is by using the Google elevation display.  Starting at about 1130' above sea level (Almost 600 feet higher than Fort Worth) a sweeping left hand turn ends up about 200' higher in a very short stretch.  Still climbing, it's another 60' to the first crest at 1400' elevation. From this point it levels for a while and then climbs a little more than 100' to about 1530' at the site of the old Ranger Hill Station complex.

Just to the north of the main road is the old US-80/SH-1/Bankhead Highway route that attempts to cut the grade a little by circling wider around a hill and then pushes on up to the 1400' crest point where it rejoins the present highway on the way up.

Ranger Hill Station Today ~ Click to Zoom
For a place that was once known as a welcome landmark on the trip from Fort Worth to points west, Ranger Hill Station looks pretty sad today. However, in its day it was an oasis for those with steaming radiators, flat tires, burned clutches and useless brakes.  A whole community grew up on the Hill, aimed entirely at needy travelers and their vehicles.

The Ranger Hill Community ~ Click to Zoom
The Ranger Hill Station is located about a half-mile up the hill after exiting IH-20 to Ranger. This is the old US-80/Bankhead route. To the west of the station, were other service stations and buildings and shops some of which are in use today for other purposes.

Interestingly enough, it has just recently been announced that much of the area north of Ranger Hill will probably be in the new state park which begins just to the west of Strawn.  

Old Service Station-Now a shop ~ Click to zoom
The station itself had a coffee shop and there were at least two motels to shelter those who got caught at the top of the hill as well as at least one other gas station. There was a well-built field stone motel on the north side across from the station and it also appeared to have a coffee shop in the main building.

Motel Office and sign. Probably a Coffee Shop as Well ~ Click to Zoom
The shells of these buildings and their roofs appear to be in fair shape today. There is no name on what was once a lighted sign.
Stone Motel Office and Cabins ~ Click to Zoom

On the south side of the road to the east of the station and set back a little are the decaying ruins of another motel with cabins. There's no way to know how these might have looked back in their glory days..

Decaying Cabins On South Roadside ~ Click to zoom
Ranger Hill Station and the little service community that grew up around it was the stuff of legends among early truck drivers, oil men, commercial travelers and tourists. It's surprising that there hasn't been a song or two written about the wrecks and near misses and the shady things that may have gone on at the hilltop. Ranger Hill  has faded now, baking in the hot sun or enduring the cold northers, but its a place that ought to be visited before it is no more.

From Ranger.. Looking West ~ Click to Zoom

Once past Ranger Hill Station, it's a few miles into Ranger itself where there are some interesting buildings, some history and  some almost pristine remnants of the old red Thurber brick Bankhead Highway to Eastland......

Another time..

All images from The Electric Books Collection

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Little History is Passing: The Old Saginaw Airfield Is About Gone

Things change around us in the blink of an eye. Last July I was headed into Saginaw to have breakfast at JR's. The sun was in my eyes, and as I moved east on McLeroy past Knowles Street I sensed something was different at the old airport.  Something was missing.  Something was new.

Hangar at Saginaw Airport East End ~ Click to Zoom
What was missing was the older yellow brick house, its garage and the outbuildings around what had been the airport center. In the space of a week, everything was changed. What was new was the hangar.  Not  really new, but you never could really see it before because of the clutter.  It struck me as impressive, in a way.  I stopped and pulled into the driveway for some pictures.

2001 ~ Looking north.  McLeroy Street in foreground..
I have lived west of Saginaw since about 1997 and am into and out of the town several times a week, sometimes several times a day. I knew that the field had been built in about 1945 by a man named McNeil. The land had been sold for development several years ago. The paved runway had been plowed up and the T-Hangers on both sides had been taken down with one exception. 

Hanger East Side ~ Click to Zoom

Now on this day there is just the big hanger. However, that hangar took on a whole new dimension without the clutter around it. The place almost becomes an Aerodrome in the classic sense. Built of common materials it still becomes a little stately in its appearance. Solid. It has seen the best and worst of aircraft and probably some that were unique or improbable. Just picture a stagger-wing Model 17 Beechcraft in front of it, or a big radial engined Cessna 195.  

West Elevation ~ Click to Zoom
I talked to the man who rents the hanger and he told me he thought the owner had the rest of the buildings pulled down and plowed under because they were in bad shape and there were some liability problems. He said he had no idea of what was in the future for the old hanger, but that it was serving his purposes nicely.

There is one old building remaining to the west of the big hangar. It's a closed shed hangar that has been used occasionally for "estate sales", but everything else around it is gone.

Old Hangar Facing McLeroy ~ Click to zoom
I suppose it it hopeless to think that someone might come up with some way to save the big old hangar and use it without too much change. At 65+ years old it could be considered historic in a technical sense, but I have an idea that the land is probably zoned commercial and if the economy ever turns around,  then we'll see it disappear overnight as well.

I'll enjoy it while I can..

Here's' the whole story on the airport history from the Abandoned Airfields website...

All images from The Electric Books Collection

Sunday, August 21, 2011

A Macabre Mansion~Edwards Funeral Home in Strawn Has a Creepy Mascot~I Wonder If They Know?

I was returning from a scout through Ranger Saturday when I decided to take a quick run up to Strawn in hopes that I might be able to get into Mary's Cafe for lunch. I was a little early so I ran up SH-16 to the north end of town and took a right just before the river onto Watson Place a street that runs in front of the abandoned water pumping plant and Edwards Funeral Home.

View From the West ~ Check the East Chimney ~ Click to zoom
The funeral home is in a magnificent old mansion style building. Local history says the business was started in 1963 by Jerry & Pat Edwards in the 1919 George J. Watson home. The home was modeled after a West Virginia mansion and has double-brick walls, 7 fireplaces and elaborate decoration.

What's that thing on the east chimney?
As I was admiring the building, my eye caught something on the east chimney..  Big pigeon?  Hawk?

View From the East ~ Click to Zoom ~ Bird Looking At Me?
I drove over to the east side and got a little closer. It certainly was a bird of some kind... The evil little kid in me started thinking... What if it was a .... Naw!..  it couldn't be.   Perched on a funeral home?

The sentinel of the east chimney ~ Click to zoom
I racked the zoom up to the max to get closer. No doubt about it.  A good size buzzard doing its best to look buzzardly on that fine chimney crown. Probably the highest point, other than the old water tower, in all of Strawn. The murky bird was just sitting, totally unaware of those of us that harbor quirky thoughts.

Just carrion on ~ Click to zoom
What, other than hunger, do you suppose is motivating this big guy?  Is there something significant about the vista to the north?

We are not to know..

Maybe it's prophetic that Halloween is not too far away.

North Strawn ~ Click to zoom
A final note:  The old house is anything but "macabre". It's just that I've always wanted to write the word in a sentence and this was an opportunity..

I never did get into Mary's.  By 11:45 AM every bit of parking within 1/4 mile was crammed and it was way too hot to walk very far..

All images from The Electric Books Collection

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Gordon: The Lost Town On A Bankhead Highway Map ~ Twists and Turns Between Ranger & Fort Worth

The Bankhead Highway History Group has become very active on Facebook. It is open to anyone with an interest in this historic old highway. Some interesting topics have been posted lately.  One of them revolves the development of the Bankhead Highway around the area west of Fort Worth to about Ranger. Much of this area is in the rugged Palo Pinto Mountains. I found some old maps of the 1919-1922 era to show how the routes developed..

By 1920 Rand McNally had established themselves as one of the major road map publishers and their Auto Trails series were widely considered one of the best and most accurate. They were updated often.

Click to zoom
When the State Highway Commission finally set the routes and alternates for State Highway #1 in 1919 they also adopted the Bankhead Highway designation as well. For several reasons alternate routes were often established sometimes for political reasons as well as to offer choices when another route was impassible.

Click to zoom
The Bankhead Highway from Weatherford to Mineral Wells passed through Millsap at this time. Our 1922 map is one of the few to show the very rough northern alternate route which more of less followed the rails of the Weatherford, Mineral Wells and Northwestern railroad and passed through Garner and the Rock Creek mining community. If you will check the map legend above you will see that this route was part of the Dixie Overland Highway at this time.

On past Mineral Wells the terrain becomes very rough and the Bankhead became a challenge to build and later to drive. Here is where we find some surprise destinations on this map and the verification of an obscure mountain valley pass that the Bankhead Highway used for a short time.

Click to zoom
The Orange box shows that at this time, on  this map that instead of dropping south a few miles out of Strawn the highway went straight west following the T & P railroad into the rugged Wilde canyon then west to Tiffin before entering Ranger from the north.  Very few maps show this pass as part of the Bankhead  Highway but since Rand McNally was a respected map maker and motorists depended on them, we have to assume that the route was used as least for a short time at least.

Wilde Canyon West of Strawn ~ Click to zoom
The Red box brings another map surprise: After leaving the city of Palo Pinto, the Bankhead Highway is shown as dropping south to Gordon rather than continuing on west to Metcalf Gap and then down to Strawn as most maps of the period do.  There is almost no documentation of this Gordon route but it also shows it on the earlier 1921 Fort Worth Auto Club Texas Map below:

Click to zoom

Were these two maps showing the little town of Gordon as a destination on the Bankhead Highway a regrettable mistake on their part?  If so, why do two maps published 3 years apart still show the same route?  A map maker would certainly have changed it if it was reported as wrong, wouldn't they?

For now, it's a small mystery.  Perhaps someone on the Bankhead Highway History Group can come up with an answer....

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Balaam's Gotta Lotta Gumption ~ I Found a Book That's a Jewel..

I am a voracious reader, but this 2004 novel by Fort Worth's own Mike Nichols totally escaped me at the time.  That may have been the year I was running from myself or more likely I had my nose in the bag of worms that is the Chisholm Trail story trying to make some sense out of the printed mutterings of aging but arrogant old cowboys. Anyway, I entirely missed it until a friend of mine loaned me her copy and said "you gotta read this".  Thank goodness for friends...

Click for Review

This is a true Texas book. Mike has written a funny, sad and smart book about the Texas a lot of us know. A Texas that still exists in more places than you'd think. Having lived in many small towns including Ralls & Floydada out on the Caprock, I know all these people. I are one. They are the people that show up with me at JR's Cafe in Saginaw at 6 or 7 AM every morning for breakfast. Not all good people, but real people.

Mike's story of a few months in the life of the one-blinking-light town of Willoughby down near Waco, is a gem.  He has successfully written the hardest kind of fiction to create. It was named the "Funniest Texas Book of 2004", but it's a lot more than that.  Gumption has a lightness of spirit coupled with genuine humor and heart that never gets gooey. He successfully walks the fine line that keeps everything together.

Ten minutes after I opened the book, I was hooked.  Click on the review link for the story, but better than that get online or start looking for it in your bookstore.

See you at JR's..

Monday, July 11, 2011

Where The Heck Was Hell's Half Acre? ~ Probably NOT Where You Think It Was..

The other day I was at JR's Cafe in Saginaw having breakfast surrounded by the conversation of the other regulars, mostly older men.  These are people that have lived in the Fort Worth area most of their lives or at least moved into the area many years ago.  Some had fathers or grandfathers who were ranchers, or had worked for Swift or Armour in the packing plants or who had worked on the railroads. Most of them knew some history about the area.

The subject turned to the story of the famous 1887 gunfight between Jim Courtright and Luke Short near the White Elephant Saloon a few blocks north of Fort Worth's notorious Hell's Half Acre.  As I sat there, I realized that most of these guys believed that all this took place down in the Stockyards District and that the White Elephant was in the Acre.


They weren't alone in their misunderstanding.  Over the years of listening to visitors at the Stockyards Museum and sitting in conversations with other Fort Worth residents I have found that while almost everyone has heard of Hell's Half Acre, for a number of reasons, the true location has drifted from the historical memory of many.

In 2007 at the suggestion of some of the people at the Stockyards Museum, I started work on a large poster map that would give a little more perspective to Hell's Half Acre, define it's true location in early Fort Worth, and dispel some of the other myths that surround it.  I decided to base this work on a number of antique maps in my collection that combined together would show the big picture. To begin with, I used a section from the well-known 1886 perspective or "birds-eye" map of Fort Worth.  The red line shows the approximate boundaries.

1886 Birds-eye Map of Fort Worth ~ Click to zoom
Hell's Half Acre was really a few square blocks south of 9th or 10th street down to the the Texas & Pacific railroad reservation.  Front Street (Lancaster Avenue) was the south boundary. On the west was Throckmorton and Rusk (Commerce) on the east. Above that, to the north as far as the Trinity bluffs and the Courthouse was sometimes known as "Uptown". Far from fading away after the cattle drives stopped, Hell's Half Acre endured in its rowdy way until at least 1918 or the end of World War I surviving numerous attempts to destroy it.  The construction of the Fort Worth Convention Center in the 1950's wiped out almost all the remaining buildings.

Rand, McNally Fort Worth Map ~ Click to zoom
The second map  places Hell's Half Acre in perspective to the rest of the city in the middle 1880's.  The Chisholm Trail cattle drives which had spawned the Acre had dwindled after the coming of the T&P railroad and the roads that came later, but Fort Worth was busy shipping cattle, and there was plenty of customers for an "entertainment district" of questionable morality and for sporting people of all kinds.

The "White Elephant Saloon" was not in the Acre. Instead it was at 3rd & main in the "uptown" district which in many ways was as rough n' tough as the area to the south. The Short/Courtright fight was just a few feet away from the Saloon on 3rd street. One of the reasons that many think that the Acre was in the Stockyards, is that the much later White Elephant Saloon there promotes a re-creation of the fight every year in February on Exchange Avenue.

The Texas cattle trail through Fort Worth is also shown based on the markers placed during the Fort Worth Golden Jubilee in 1927.  Obviously, this route was only used until the railroads began coming in 1876.

1885 Hell's Half Acre Detail Map ~ Click to zoom
An 1885 fire map was used as the base for the Hell's Half Acre detail. Shown is a clip from the central portion. In spite of it's reputation, the Acre was not just a few blocks filled with bawdy houses and saloons. Notice how much empty space there was, much of it used as we do today for parking lots for animals & wagons.

The map shows that it was a diverse community where all races lived more or less side by side. It had grocery, jewelry, tack, and candy stores. There were several churches as well as Chinese laundries.  And the Acre was filled with commercial business of all kinds from an illuminating gas generation plant to cotton & lumber yards.

There was probably little danger in the Acre during daylight hours and probably for the average person, not much more danger in the evening than the Sundance Square area in the 1970's before its development.

This map was fun to make and I was fortunate to have lots of help and advice from a number of prominent Fort Worth scholars. I learned a lot on the way.

I you want the whole story , I highly recommend Rick Selcer's 1991 book "Hell's Half Acre".  It's still in print and available at the Stockyards Museum Store in the Livestock Exchange Building, as well as a number of other local book stores. It's a great read.