N. Texas History from the Battle of Stone Houses to the Establishment of Fort Worth
Within a year of the Battle of Stone Houses, other Ranger companies
entered the Trinity Valley. Captains Sloan and
Journey brought their Fannin County Rangers in the spring of 1838.
In the fall, General Jonathan Dyer, commander
of the Red River County Rangers (volunteers), led his men to the Indian
village on the upper Trinity where they engaged a band of Caddos and
killed six warriors while suffering two wounded in their party. Also
in early October of 1838, eighteen of twenty-five surveyors were killed
in an Indian attack near the site of today's Dawson. Later that month,
General Thomas Jefferson Rusk coordinated a three-prong attack on the
Historian Clay Perkins states that the expedition was "weakened
by diversions to other areas and lack of food for men and horse."
Perkins continues in his book, The Fort in Fort Worth:
Mirabeau B. Lamar succeeded Sam Houston as president of the Republic
of Texas on December 10, 1838. He wanted to drive the Indians out of
Texas, and he authorized a series of expeditions to clear all the Indians
from the republic. In the summer of 1839, Texas militia drove the Cherokee
Indians from east Texas. As the Indians were pushed out of east Texas,
whites began to move into the Three Forks region. Surveyors were working
in the area by 1839. However, they were liable to being attacked and
killed at any time.
To protect whites advancing from the east, the Texas Congress voted
to establish a line of forts to defend what was then the western frontier.
The line would stretch from the Nueces River in the south to the Red
River in the north. To connect the frontier forts, a military road
would be needed. Construction of the "Military Road" began
in August 1840, when about two hundred infantrymen under Col. William
Cooke marched north from Austin. The expedition crossed the Brazos
at the Waco village and continued north to the Trinity, following
the approximate route of today's Interstate Highway 35 and 35 East.
They crossed the Trinity near Dallas, and made their way to the Red
River. Cooke and his men established outposts at the Cedar Springs
crossing (in today's Dallas) and on the Red River. The Red River post
(a few miles west of today's Denison) was named Fort Johnston, probably
in honor of Albert Sidney Johnston, Lamar's Secretary of War.
President Lamar's campaigns made east Texas safe for settlers, but
bankrupted the treasury. In the spring of 1841, the Texas Congress
disbanded the army. Cooke's soldiers returned to Austin for discharge.
Although the forts were abandoned, the road became an important route
for pioneers. Settlers could travel directly from Austin to the Red
River for the first time. The fight would now be left up to the local
Brigadier General Edward Hamilton Tarrant, whose men called him "Old
Hurricane", led less than one hundred men from Fort Johnston to
Village Creek, where they engaged a larger
Indian force but retreated after Captain John Denton was killed. Tarrant
returned to the battle site in July with four hundred men but found
the Indian villages had been abandoned. He ordered Major Jonathan Bird's
company to construct a fort in the area. Bird chose a spot to the north
on the Trinity near the south end of Main Street in present day Euless.
The Rangers soon abandoned the fort after discovering it was built on
land that belonged to the Peter's Colony and the major was not reimbursed
for his expenses. Settlers remained until the next summer. (More
Bird's Fort) In 1845, Isaac Spence and a partner obtained the rights
to open a trading house on the Trinity. A.G. Kimbell and partner had
previously established a post somewhere between Fort Worth's hospital
district and the Botanical Gardens, which was operated for about a year
by Edward Terrell and John P. Lusk until they were temporarily captured
by hostile Indians. In September, Spence reported to officials in Austin
that Ranger Colonel Smith and two Indian chiefs helped him select the
site called Marrow Bone Spring.
the most suitable place for the Trading House and the one where
all the Indians wish it to be placed. I have put up a House 36 feet
long by 16 feet wide with a frame roof, covered with two foot boards
nailed and enclosed with half logs as pickets fastened together in a
substantial manner, I am putting up some other necessary outbuildings
for our convenience comfort and security all of which I am having enclosed
with strong and substantial pickets.
Map from the book The Fort in Fort Worth by Clay Perkins
On December 29, 1845, Texas became a state, sparking a war with Mexico.
As the armies moved to the south, the frontier was left unprotected
and the governor ordered new Ranger companies to protect the settlements.
Companies were sent to Bryant's Station, about eighteen miles south
of today's Temple, Torrey's Trading House near today's Waco and stationed
at the trading house at Marrow Bone Springs. Captain Andrew Stapp's
company from Collin County took charge of the Marrow Bone Station. He
subsequently split his force, ordering William Fitzhugh to establish
an outpost on the Elm Fork of the Trinity, about ten miles south of
the Red River. (An 1852 Peters Colony map indicates the outpost to be
about three miles southeast of Gainesville off of Farm Road 372.) Stapp's
men were ordered to maintain contact with Fort Washita, located near
Durant, Oklahoma about forty-five miles northeast of Fitzhugh Station.
Enlistments ran out in February of 1847 and the reorganized company
was given to Fitzhugh, along with a promotion. He sent part of his men
thirty miles south to Hickory Creek where they built a post on the west
edge of present-day Denton. (The Peters Colony map shows the Hickory
Creek Station about one mile northeast of Pilot Knob or about two hundred
yards southwest of where I-35W crosses Hickory Creek.)
In the summer of 1847, Lieutenant Colonel Peter H. Bell was overall
commander of the Ranger companies on the frontier including Middleton
Tate Johnson's, who were stationed near Torrey's on the Brazos and Captain
Shapley Ross', who were ordered to establish a post on the North Bosque,
fifteen miles above Torrey's. In January of 1848, Johnson was ordered
to move his company to Marrow Bone Springs which they renamed Kaufman
Station but was widely known as Johnson Station. Indian agent Neighbors
argued against these moves because along with a lax policy, they encouraged
white settlement far to the west. (Dillingham Prairie in southern Jack
County was first cultivated in 1847.) In May of 1848, Captain John Conner
led his company to Smith Station on Richland Creek, about four miles
west of today's Milford. Early in 1849, most of the companies were mustered
out and the army was to station dragoons in their place. Colonel Johnson
claimed Marrow Bone Springs, as the last of the Peter Colony contract
had expired. He expressed his dissatisfaction with the fact that the
army was only manning Torrey's and Conner's Station, which left him
and countless other settlers on the northwestern frontier unprotected.
The army responded by agreeing to establish Fort Worth.