Sunday, March 27, 2011

Went to (see) The Wizard! ~ A Sunday Scout To A Place That Might Have Been

A gray Sunday morning but the itch was on me.  I had recently picked up an interesting 1958 Jack County Texas Highway Department map. It got me thinking about some almost hidden places in the Cross Timbers, so I decided to snoop around a little. After Springtown, SH 199 begins to get pretty and the clutter is a little less noticeable.  The real beauty begins as you climb the hill east of Agnes and then pass the little store.  On through a little bit of Wise and then into Jack County and then a turn to the north on FM 1156 at Joplin.  Still gray and a little chilly, but even so this little run up to Vineyard is pretty.  With the old Rock Island ROW on the left, the US 380 intersection brings us to a stop. This is the area on the old map that interests me today.

1958 THD Jack County ~ Click to enlarge

If you enlarge this 1958 map you will see that US 380 from Bridgeport to Jacksboro did not exist at that time. Nor did its predecessor SH 24, until 1968.  There was no road at all on the section between Vineyard to about ten miles east of Jacksboro which I show in red. This means then that Wizard Wells was on the main road (FM 1156) between Jacksboro and Vineyard and then to Bridgeport as late as 1968. I crossed US 380 and headed for Wizard Wells about 2 miles further north.

On the outskirts I passed Jim Ned Road on the right. I have no idea what if any, historical significance is attached to this road.

Click to enlarge image
I passed a number of mostly well kept mobile homes as I turned to the east and then at the main corner, the remains of a small brick store showed up.  This is what happens when you lose a main road through your community.  

Wizard Wells Retreat~ Click image to enlarge
The main building which is now a Holistic retreat, is in excellent shape and there were a number of cars around it.  It is built of brick tile with an entry on the second floor. It stands in stark comparison to the rest of its surroundings.

Click to enlarge image
I drove around in back of the main building and turned up some interesting rubble and remnants from the time when Wizard Wells was a popular place to come and get healed or at least get away for awhile.

Click to enlarge image

Here's the old well and a very good historical marker that tells the whole story.

I decided to nose north on a gravel road and came across the Wizard Wells Cemetery which is very well kept and lays next to a small creek in a pretty setting.  I left the Wells heading west on FM 1156 which was very scenic and showed signs of being a much more important road in the past than it is now.

The loss of a major highway through the town is not the first event that has hurt this little resort.  In the late 1890's the Rock Island railroad built from Bridgeport to Jacksboro and on to Graham. Because of the difficult terrain, they elected to go through Vineyard, thus cutting vital public access to the Wells. The railroad was abandoned in the early 1970's and is shown on the map clip.

Maryetta Store & Station

Maryetta School ~ Click to enlarge image
After a barbecue sandwich at the Dairyland in Jacksboro I decided to head back by the northern route on SH 59 which was the original main road between Jacksboro and Bridgeport. Just north of the bridge across the West Fork of the Trinity, I came to the crossroads that was Maryetta and added a couple to the collection.  

The Square at Chico 
The final stop was at Chico.  Although this is a dusty, depressing little town that spawns the gravel trucks that clot SH 114 and SH 199, the little town square has some interestingly old buildings and the area is well kept.  Absolutely deserted on this day. 

It was spitting a little rain and getting chillier so I headed down to Bridgeport, picked up SH 114 and beat it for home. 

All images from The Electric Books Collection

Friday, March 25, 2011

Wheelspin ~ A New Fort Worth Map CDROM ..For No Good Reason At All

Back on this page now after a couple of weeks of fairly intensive effort involved in publishing a new CDROM full of Fort Worth maps.  Well.. really just one map on 344 pages, plus three supplementary maps that have been published before. I call it: The 1924 Plat Map of Fort Worth. Snappy title isn't it? 

This volume has become one of the most important references I use in pursuing the general and map history of Fort Worth after World War I. While it certainly isn't suitable for a wall hanging or a coffee table it has a special place in my library. I've had it for a number of years and because its relative scarcity made it expensive, at least for my limited resources, I had to spend a some time thinking about making the investment when it became available.  It has been worth every cent that I put into it. 

It's a big, heavy, hardbound book that has had lots of use and has been re-bound at least once. The black and white pages are about 11" by 14". There are over 350 pages counting the excellent Guide Maps and the Index pages. Every single part of Fort Worth that was in existence in 1924 is included as are some adjacent lands.  It is all done in standard plat map format which means that a casual viewer will instantly become bored beyond belief and may be in danger of losing some eyesight.    

Click to enlarge map
As I came to realize how useful this set of maps was to me, I began thinking about getting them into digital form and onto CDROM so that others could use it. After all, that's one of the things I do. I guess my real ambition is to somehow get all of the hundreds and hundreds of Texas and southwestern maps I have into a form where everyone can see and use them, rather then just let them sit unseen in my storage. Of course reality eventually hits me and I realize that only a fraction of them are ever going to make it to hard disk. At last count there are something close to 500 megabytes stored with a few more added every day. 

Click to enlarge Index
As I was considering putting this volume on CDROM, there were many obstacles to face.  How to find time to scan this huge number of pages which would require time on a large, relatively slow flat bed scanner?  More importantly, what would I do with it, if I ever did get it published in a useful form?  After all, there was less than zero possibility that anyone else would be interested in a highly specialized reference tool like this.  With considerable doubt, I began scanning pages as I had time and decided that I would make up my mind about its public fate whenever I could look at the finished product. That was several hundred hours ago. And here we are now..

Click to enlarge map
A small tour: This is Page 1 of the plats. Obviously it shows the area around the Tarrant County Courthouse including the Trinity Bluffs and the river below. There are a couple of interesting features on this page alone. Look how now-forgotten Franklin Street dropped off the side of the bluff where Heritage Park is today.  It didn't connect with Henderson, because Henderson wasn't built yet, but did continue on along the river bank to its own bridge across the Clear Fork. And then there is Bridge Street that once connected the Trinity Bottoms to the lower bluffs with the Wire Bridge. The bridge was still  there, although the it was probably not in use at that time. Ford Street which connected to the river at what once was the original low water crossing is still shown. 

Those that follow public transportation in this period will see that the map shows the complex Northern Texas Traction streetcar and interurban tracks in the Uptown area. In fact this set really is the only map of the period with an accurate picture of the car lines.  The railroads are also well detailed. 

Click to enlarge map
Another of the plats shows the upper Samuels Avenue area which is under strong development today. The trolley still runs down Samuels by Pioneers Rest Cemetery. The grand homes with the Trinity overlook along Samuels Avenue were still in their prime. 

As the production work went on, I combined the 344 city maps into a single large PDF file that would run on any Windows or Mac computer as long as they had the Adobe Reader version 7 or later installed. Almost every computer running today has this program.  With the Adobe Bookmarks activated, navigation through the pages turned out to be pretty easy.  The Guide Map which are indexed to the pages and the other Index pages are separate so they can be easily printed to help navigation. Things were going pretty well.

1920 Fort Worth ~ Click to enlarge
I found I had a little room left on the CDROM so to give some balance I added a section with three more full Fort Worth and Tarrant County maps dated from the 1920 to 1925.


Now that the CDROM was done there was still the question of what to do with it.  Because of its specialization, none of my stores would be likely to display it.  I let things spin for a few days and then just decided to park it in my Amazon store and eBay store, available if anyone wanted it......

I'm glad I took the time and did the work, and now I'm glad it's off my mind so I can get on to other projects that are hopefully not quite so obscure..

All images from the Electric Books Collection

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Sam Street's Great 1895 Tarrant County Map ~ A Look Deep Inside

In 1895, long time Fort Worth resident and business man Sam Street published what was to become one of the most important maps of Tarrant County. It is considered the benchmark reference for Fort Worth and Tarrant County in the late 1890's.

Click to enlarge map
When one first looks at the entire map, the effect is overwhelming.  There is so much detail and even on a fairly large sheet, the text and script is so fine that it is very hard to pick a point to start. A good glass is very useful to pick out the detail.  This gets very tedious.  That is why the digital map scans are so important. A good high resolution scan reveals details that are often overlooked or ignored. I have selected a few clips from inside this great map as examples.  Red dots have been added to highlight specific places.

Click to enlarge Title
This map was originally printed in several sizes. Some time ago I found what is one of the smaller printed copies that had been closely trimmed to about 17"x 17". Except for the smallest script, it was very readable.  Later owners have added comments and colored portions. 

Click to enlarge Legend
As far as is known, Sam Street was not a professional mapmaker or surveyor.  This map and his later map of Dallas County should be considered as primitive's even though their content is unmatched by any of its other contemporaries. Using the Tarrant GLO ownership map, he laid in over 3000 separate details by hand.

Arlington Heights ~ Stove Foundry ~ Click to enlarge map
Because of space limitations Street did not try to detail inside the city limits. This clip shows West 7th Street out past the city limits which were on the east bank of the Trinity at this time and then the angle southwest onto Arlington Heights Boulevard. The streetcar line and Lake Como are also shown.  Notice that Ye Arlington Inn is "burnt".  The Stove Works which started in 1891 and gave its name to Stove Foundry Road is marked.  The location is just to the east of today's Vickery and Montgomery Street intersection. 

Glenwood ~ Poly ~ Handley  Click to enlarge map
In 1895 Handley and its gin was a long way from downtown Fort Worth.  The Interurban was about 7 years in the future. The road was mostly mud and seldom graded, but the T&P railroad did come through. In between Handley and Glenwood was the now seldom remembered community of Manchester Mills which later became a part of Polytechnic Heights.  The map shows the Palace Stables, Polytechnic College and Tyler Lake. Notice how Street indicated areas that were wooded at the time.

North Fort Worth ~ 1st Stockyards ~Click to enlarge map
It is generally not well remembered that the first stockyards in North Fort Worth started up in the early 1890's and continued off and on until Swift and Armour came in 1901. The Packing House location a little south & east of where Swift is today is shown as well as the Stockyards Hotel, and the early streetcar line that came out over a rutted North Main up to around 20th street and then angled off to cross Marine Creek.  

West on White Settlement Road was a Powder House just about where the road drops off the low bluff into the Clear Fork plain. Street has at least one other powder house on this map. New Cemetery was the common name of what is now a much larger Oakwood. 

On the east side is Drumm's Nursery on the Birdville Road and further south in Riverside is the Brickyard which was the namesake for the Brickyard Crossing near 1st street.

06-14-1901 Fort Worth Morning Record 
Sam Street and two sons are buried at Oakwood Cemetery in Fort Worth.

The clips above show just a fraction of the detail that Sam Street put on this map. Days could be spent analyzing and referencing it to other sources.  After completing a Dallas County map in 1900 he died in 1901 leaving an historical legacy that he probably could not have imagined.  

Map images from The Electric Books Collection..