Texans were divided on the issue of statehood. Pioneers wanted all
the border protection they could get but generally were against surrendering
control to any government, much less one as distant as Washington on
the Potomac. Many Texans believed if there was to be an alliance with
a distant power, it should be Britian, who coveted San Francisco and
offered expansion of Texas territory to the Pacific.
Acquiring Texas had long been one of Andrew Jackson's dreams. He sent
his protege, Sam Houston, there in 1832 to cool the Indians in the name
of the United States. The hero of the Battle of New Orleans could hardly
sit still for a British Texas. He spurred another protege, James Polk,
into the presidency on the platform of immediate Texas annexation. Liberal
conditions included the U.S. delivery of cash, soldiers and forts while
Texas retained all it's public land, the right to fly it's flag at the
same height as the stars and stripes and divide itself into six states.
That is, assuming of course, there could ever be an agreement on which
state would get the Alamo.
It was the public land issue that caused the United States trouble
in its negotiations with the Indians. It promised but couldn't deliver
Texas soil to the Comanches nor could anything do much to curb western
expansion. A decade before when Houston was confronted with a Comanche
request for a permanent border, he sadly shook his head and said, "If
I could build a wall from the Red River to the Rio Grande, so high that
no Indian could scale it, the white people would go crazy trying to
devise a means to get beyond it."
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 edge
of Denton. (The Peters Colony map shows the Hickory Creek Station about
one mile northeast of Pilot Knob or about two hundred yards southwest
of 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 xfexpressed 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.
With the Mexican War over, the Federal government turned its attention
to Texas, the new state annexed on the eve of the war. The treaty
of annexation stated that the United States would assume control of
Indian defense in Texas. In the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which
had concluded the Mexican War, the United States had agreed to prevent
American Indians from marauding into Mexico. To comply with these
agreements Uncle Sam ordered, in 1849, a cordon of eight forts to
be erected in Texas beyond the line of settlement, and to be garrisoned
by regular troops of the United States Army.
The projected line of defense was to enter Texas to the north and
east of the 98th parallel and proceed in a southwesterly direction
to the Colorado and Guadalupe rivers and thence west to the Rio Grande.
Assigned to the duty of locating these forts was General William Jenkins
Worth, stationed in San Antonio in command of the Eighth and Ninth
departments of the army, which included the vast areas of Texas and
In February, 1849, General Worth had commissioned Major Ripley A.
Arnold to use companies F and I of the Second United States Dragoons
to found two of the forts in the chain. The eastern end of the cordon
of forts was to begin, in the words of official instructions, "somewhere
near the confluence of the Clear and West forks of the Trinity River,"
and extend southwestward to the Rio Grande.
By April 17, 1849, Major Arnold had established one of the forts-Fort
Graham, one mile east of the Brazos in Hill County. Now he was ready
for the next post, which must have a strong, strategic, and healthful
site. So with a detachment of dragoons, he proceeded to Mary le Bone
Springs with a letter addressed to Colonel Johnson from General Worth.
The general wanted assistance, and Johnson was the man he knew could
best advise Major Arnold for the new site. Johnson in a masterful
and lengthy letter to the supreme military authority in Washington,
D. C., had voiced the discontent of settlers because of lack of defense
and the gravity of the situation on the frontier.
Projects are outlined and men act. From Mary le Bone Springs on an
early May morning of 1849, men of good will rode together to find
a site for a fort "somewhere near the confluence of the Clear
and West forks of the Trinity River." The party was comprised
of Major Arnold's escort of blue uniformed dragoons and Colonel Johnson
in command of Rangers: Henry Clay Daggett, W. B. Echols, Simon B.
Farrar, and Charles Turner.
A controversy had disturbed historians. Was Major Arnold in that
party which selected the location of the post? Peak stated that "Colonel
Johnson and four of his rangers accompanied the major to the camp
site," and Simon Farrar, who accompanied Colonel Johnson wrote
in 1893, "We started in company with Major Arnold's command up
the Trinity River in search of a place to locate the regular troops."
Who could better describe the epoch-making event than Farrar since
he was there and the only one who has left a written record?
It is out of my power to describe the grandeur of the wild
and beautiful scenery of the place where the grand city now stands.
After staying about a week at Johnson's Station, we started in company
with Major Arnold's command up the Trinity River.
through and across timbers, crossing the different creeks as best
we could, through a wild, beautiful country inhabited only by Indians,
wild mustang horses, innumerable deer, wolves and wild turkey.
About three o'clock in the evening we halted in the valley east of
where Fort Worth now stands and killed a deer for supper. We could
have killed many more but did not wish to be encumbered with them.
We passed our first night near Terry Springs east of Fort Worth later
to be known as Cold Springs where we enjoyed ourselves with jokes,
etc., indifferent to Indians, wolves, and all the wild enemies of
Next morning Col. Johnson, Major Arnold
started to locate the
barracks. We went west until we reached the point where the Court
House now stands, there halted and reviewed the scenery from all points
and I thought it the most beautiful and grand country that the sun
ever shone on and while we were at that place in view of all advantages
of a natural point of defense, and our late experience at Monterrey,
wherein the strategic action of General Worth had so terribly defeated
the Mexicans, we there, in honor of that grand old hero, named the
point Fort Worth.
This chosen site was on the property of Colonel Johnson and his partner,
Archibald Robinson. There was no quibbling about price. Johnson and
Robinson were settling a frontier. They gave the land to the United
States government for use until the post should be abandoned; at which
time, it was to revert to the owners. The post was to have the military
rating of a camp, not a fort. However, five months after the founding
of the camp, it was awarded the title of a fort.
Dragoons and Rangers had completed a momentous mission. Surely that
day, as the small band stood there in the stillness, someone captured
the significance. Their action meant something-it was a beginning,
a break with a period of uninhabited wilderness, an opening of a prairie
empire; it would unloosen forces from which would be born a great
Rifle shots clapped with ear-piercing sharpness cutting through the
heavy silence on June 6, 1849, to climax the raising of the United
States flag of thirty stars at the forks of the Trinity. A military
ceremony in good form for the records of the War Department in Washington
had taken place. The Second Dragoons, Company F, United States Cavalry
under the command of Major Ripley Allen Arnold had formally begun
the establishment of the military post called Camp Worth.
Tired but happy soldiers, amazed by the beauty of the country, were
pleased with the location of their new camp. In the coolness of a
live oak grove northeast of the present courthouse square and near
what is known as Pioneer Rest Cemetery, the dragoons found that nature
had met man's every need. Three-quarters of a mile away cold water
gushed from the south bank of the Trinity, which never lost its coolness
under the thick shade of great oaks and giant pecan trees. They called
it Cold Springs. Throughout all seasons the supply of cold water never
failed even when the streams of the Clear and West Forks were reduced
to stagnant pools during the hot, slow summers.
This spring was to provide the source of drinking water later when
settlers moved in, and until they could dig wells. Later still, it
served as a recreation resort for picnics and Fourth of July celebrations
up through the turn of the twentieth century. By 1949, a hundred years
from their discovery by the dragoons, only a faint bubbly trickle
remained due to the south bank being denuded of trees. A road and
a bridge leading to this location still bear the name Cold Springs.
Weary, worn soldiers, on that evening of historic June 6, made their
beds almost as early as the thousands of wild chickens that came to
roost in the nearby trees. Dragoons would sleep away their exhaustion.
From June 4 to 6 they had been on the road from Fort Graham, over
fifty miles away. Many creeks had been a problem to cross with mule-drawn
vehicles loaded with twelve-pound bras field guns, six-pound brass
field guns, Springfield smooth-bore muskets, Harper's Ferry sharpshooter
rifles, army smooth-bore percussion pistols, one six-pound howitzer,
a small mill, carpenter and blacksmith tools, camp equipment, food
rations, and medical supplies.
It did not require a bugle to awaken the dragoons at sunrise on June
7. The squawking of a thousand wild chickens as they left their roost
in the trees at the break of day, brought the dragoons from their
sleep to begin months of unremitting labor. Major Arnold, the only
officer with the company that June, had to bear over much. There was
the duty of operating efficiently a military post with the problem
of keeping the soldiers well; for this camp, though in a beautiful
location, was not in a healthful one. Situated in the lowlands and
heavily timbered, mosquitoes swarmed, causing illness. This in turn
contributed to meager manpower to construct the necessary buildings.
Nine days after camp had been made, Major Arnold revealed his discontent.
The post was not taking form rapidly enough in his eager vision. He
needed help. From the archives of the War Department, we learn that
he wrote to Major General Roger Jones, the adjutant general of the
United States, on June 15, in a testy mood and underlined words for
The major's June report did not bring immediate relief. Mail
was slow. The nearest post office was "Dallas, thirty-five miles
to the east, more than a full day's journey." In mid-August,
the War Department received the major's testy report.
Lack of manpower was not the only trouble, but the problem of rations.
In another letter, the major informed the adjutant general on July
Now permit me to say, that his being a Frontier Post, near
sixty miles from any other Post; and a considerable distance from
settlements that all entertainment necessarily falls upon the officers
of the Post. Many Citizen Gentlemen are traveling through this Country,
who cannot always provide themselves with all that they need; and
who gentility and necessities call loudly for our Hospitality.
I think that I may safely assert that the Comdt. Officer of this
Post will be obliged to entertain more Persons, than the Comdt. Officer
of any Atlantic Station.
Double rations were granted Camp Worth by the War Department.
Fall came. On October 6, there was excitement in Camp Worth.
Company F, Eighth Infantry, two officers and thirty-nine men under
the command of Captain Robert P. Maclay and Second Lieutenant John
Bold, joined Major Arnold's garrison. Lonely dragoons welcomed the
arrival of much needed help, as well as men with new stories. And
the infantrymen had good stories to tell. They had come from inhabited
country "on the Steamboat Jack Hays up the Trinity as far as
it was navigable," then overland through the Trinity Valley to
relax in the pleasurable abundance of Colonel Johnson's plantation.
A new burst of energy took hold of the men. Building of the fort went
forward. More trees were cut in the little forest on the banks of
the Trinity. Sergeant Abe Harris, a veteran of the Mexican War with
a good record, commanded the group of infantrymen cutting the trees.
Talented as a cabinetmaker, he knew good wood. His skill was pressed
into service in building the officer's quarters. By late fall, the
handiwork of the dragoons and infantrymen was established.
Camp Worth was a sight to gladden the wayfarers as they rode into
the West-an assemblage of log buildings with their ever freshly whitened
walls in regular lines rising from the knee-high grass. Over all,
floated the Stars and Stripes. A fort and the American flag in an
ocean of prairie were heartening.
Looking west, the soldiers saw the West Fork of the Trinity meandering
toward them to join the Clear Fork beneath the fort where the waters
ran almost bank full, clear as crystal and swarming with fish. On
the west and north horizons "buffalo herds grazed but did not
come near the timber" which outlined the rivers. Soldiers off
duty, if good fishermen and hunters, were not at a loss for amusement.
Facing the soldiers' barracks and distant some two hundred and fifty
feet south, were the officers' quarters, consisting of three houses.
Arnold occupied the center building. Each house had two rooms separate
by a runway or porch. Officers, facing the south, looked out across
the Grand Prairie where today are the busy streets of Main, Houston,
and Throckmorton. To the southwest they looked where now are Trinity
and Forest parks and saw the Clear Fork cutting through the prairies
in a winding path heavily outlined by trees. Gazing eastward, they
beheld the East Cross Timbers interlaced with the creeks called Village
The eastern boundary of the quadrangle consisted of long lines of
stables with their backs to the present Tarrant County Courthouse.
The hospital, quartermaster, and commissary offices completed the
enclosure on the west facing out upon what is today the Ripley Arnold
Housing Center. An ample parade ground in the center of the quadrangle
covered the space now called Belknap Street. East of the center stood
the flagstaff which Abe Harris had made by joining two of the tallest
cottonwoods he could find with an iron band. This flagpole stood where
today, on the Tarrant County Criminal Courthouse grounds, stands a
granite monument marking the site of this military post.
Outside the quadrangle, warehouses containing quartermaster commissary
stores were on a line with, and west of, the officers' quarters. Supplies
in these warehouses were freighted by oxteams of the post from San
Antonio, headquarters of the United States Eighth Military District.
Still west and north of the commissary warehouse on present-day West
Belknap, was a sutler's store-a shop licensed by the government to
operate on the premises of military posts or nearby, in order to provide
the soldiers with extra frills. George Press Farmer, the first sutler,
opened for business two months after the garrison was established.
The Trinity River, Cold Springs, and a well dug by the soldiers under
Major Arnold's direction, provided the fort with water. This first
well was ninety feet deep and was located in the center of present
Houston Street opposite the west entrance of the Tarrant County Courthouse.
In the winter of 1849 Camp Worth was completed, the last in the chain
of eight federal forts. It stood a lone sentinel fifty-four miles
about Fort Graham in a somewhat northerly direction. By 1850, an excellent
road skirting the western edge of the lower Cross Timbers was etched
by travel between the two military posts.
On November 14, 1849, there was an event over which to rejoice. The
War Department lifted the military post from the rank of a camp to
that of a fort. And the city of today cherishes this award by continuous
use of the name and by jealously preserving its military heritage.
That year closed auspiciously. Christmas day was the climax. Second
Lieutenant Samuel H. Starr of the Second Dragoons arrived with a detachment
of recruits and remained at the post the following year. Another officer,
First Lieutenant W. F. Street, Eighth Infantry, had already joined
Company F the previous October. These troops of dragoons and infantrymen
constituted the garrison from that date until April 6, 1851.
Major Arnold commanded the outpost of Fort Worth at the age
of thirty-two. Six feet tall, slender, graceful, gray eyes, a dominant
forehead topped with auburn hair, a good chin and a mouth set in purposeful
lines-he had the bearing of youth. Youthful strength with power drive,
he was symbolic of the trait that would dominate Fort Worth's city
It is not to be denied that Fort Worth was a wilderness outpost.
But the major, the Frenchman, and the soldiery made it a vibrant center
with the niceties enjoyed by affluent city dwellers. There were dinners
when gentlemen of men came to see the country; or when officers of
the United States Army came on tour of inspection. And during Fort
Worth's existence as an army post, military men of distinction were
visitors: "Lieutenant Colonels Wm. J. Hardee, George H. Thomas,
Robert E. Lee, Earl Van Dorn, John B. Hood and Fitzhugh Lee."
There were times when the entire garrison gave festive parties, inviting
By 1850, according to Margaret Ann Loving, there were about a half-dozen
double log cabins near the fort, pioneers who had arrived in December
of 1849. These families were headed by Archibald Robinson, Archibald
Franklin Leonard, Press Farmer, W. R. and Samuel Loving, and Henry
Daggett. Within riding distance were a few other families; and in
the words of a young non-commissioned officer, Abe Harris, some of
these families had pretty daughters who made him sigh, referring especially
to the girls in the Wright Conner and Elijah Farmer cabins, west of
For the parties, tables in the commissary quarters were heaped with
the best that the military larder could provide. The guests ate and
danced their way through the evening. If it were summer, Mrs. Arnold
was in residence and acted as hostess. It was said that she was a
beauty with a queenly carriage, a well-educated mind, and possessed
a voice unusually winning, impressing those whom she met. Since her
husband was frequently called to Washington, Mrs. Arnold made homes
both in the capital and in frontier posts. In winter, Mrs. Arnold,
with a Negro maid, usually remained in Washington for the schooling
of the five children: Sophie, Willis, Catherine, Nannie, and Flora.
In summer, they joined the major at his military post.
The Arnold children discovered that their sojourn at Fort Worth was
equally as educational as at the national capital. There were nature
lessons, even to the domestication of the wild animals, one of which
was the pet antelope of Kate. When he strayed away, he was rounded
up by the jovial Sergeant Major Harris. Doctor Gounah taught them
music, language, and how a gentlewoman sat a horse and rode with grace.
There were playmates. And like all pioneer children on the frontier,
they played within sight of their parents and under certain restrictions,
one of them being "they were never to cross the parade ground
of the fort." These playmates were Margaret Ann Loving and the
three daughters of the "post surgeon" Standifer-Castera,
Eliza, and Julia Caroline.
When the dragoons came to build Fort Worth, Doctor Standifer had
left his wife and three daughters in the home of Colonel Johnson at
Johnson's Station until he completed a home close-by the colonel's
in which he established his family with four trusted slaves. On most
Fridays, he journeyed to Johnson's Station to spend weekends with
them. Mrs. Standifer died at Johnson's Station in January 1851; after
which time, the doctor resigned his post at the fort.
A fort, like a house which knows great joys, does not escape its
share of sorrow. In the first summer of 1850, Sophie and Willis Arnold
were stricken in death. About a mile northeast, the children were
laid to rest in land donated by the major's friend, Doctor Gounah.
The two small graves were walled up with rock and capped with a sandstone
slab bearing the date 1850. Time has made slight inroad against this
tribute of the major's love. Today, one may find this tomb in the
extreme southeastern portion of Pioneer Rest Cemetery, skirting the
main driveway. Nearby are two graves of unknown soldiers who had also
died in the year 1850.
The day after Major Arnold had been killed at Fort Graham,
Brevet Lieutenant Colonel William Grigsby Freeman, assistant adjutant
general, paid an inspection visit to Fort Worth while Major Merrill
was still there. Dated September 7, 1853, the report follows:
The company had only fatigue clothing of the old pattern, but some
of the men wore sky blue, instead of the dark blue jackets. They were
with musketoons, sabres, and Colt's revolver pistols.
They were reviewed as foot, but inspected and required to exercise
both as horse and foot. The clothing, though not new, was in good
order and generally well fitted; the arms and accoutrements clean
and, except the musketoons, serviceable
The horses (60) are
all serviceable, and in finer condition than those of any mounted
troops in Texas. Their equipments were also neat and well preserved.
In the manual, marching and sword exercises, dismounted the company
showed a fair degree of proficiently. In the saddle they acquitted
themselves very handsomely, marching with accuracy by twos, fours
and company front at a walk, trot, and gallop; skirmishing as dragoons
on foot and as mounted foragers; and leaping the bar and ditch with
great spirit and a perfect mastery of their horses. It was evident
that much attention had been given to this part of their instruction.
I was gratified to find it was the solitary exception throughout
without a prisoner. But Major Merrill
informs me that most of his men belong to the temperance society and
that he ha rarely occasion to confine any one of them
the discipline and police of the post excellent. A fine garden of
eight acres is cultivate by the men
No Indians have visited the post since last autumn, except a small
party of Caddoes and Ionies.
The report was not all praise: there was also place for progress.
He did not approve of the mail service. Waco was the post office for
Forts Worth and Graham; therefore, each week a wagon express travelled
fifty-six miles to Fort Graham for the mail. "The nearest towns
or villages are Dallas with 350 inhabitants, thirty-eight miles east;
and Birdville and Alton with a population of fifty each, distant nine
and thirty-five miles respectively." And his next remark did
not commend the fort for good business. The post was located "on
a disputed tract of land," for which "nothing had been paid
either for rent or the timber cut for fuel." This was the last
military report on Fort Worth. Nine days later the dragoons moved
In dusty, dry September, the dragoons headed north across the sun-browned
prairies, while wagons heavy with artillery and all the equipment
of Fort Worth trailed behind. They were moving to Fort Belknap. It
was September 17, 1853. The history of Fort Worth as a military post
had ended for a time. Colonel Middleton Tate Johnson and Archibald
Robinson were again proprietors of the land.
Fort Worth had served its purpose form 1849 to 1853. The flag,
sound of bugle, clatter of cavalry, click of guns, and boom of cannon
were gone; but the abandoned army post did not become a ghost fort
on the prairies. Home-builders were gathering about it, while a few
families found shelter within its walls. They were the inheritors
of General Worth's and Major Arnold's good design for living. With
labor, care, and faith Fort Worth would make a victorious transition
from a military post to a Fort Town.