Step Back Into the Early Days of Fort Worth
Welcome to the "Fort In Fort Worth Exhibit" in the "Heritage Room" of the Tarrant County Courthouse.
All the pictures and drawings in the room are based on extensive research, and show how things looked to a visitor back then. The uniforms, weapons, and equipment are actual artifacts or replicas of things that could have been at the fort from 1849-1853.
The display starts to the right as you entered the room, and progresses in a counter-clockwise direction. The display cases are not numbered and titled, so the description is here.
(1) "Before the Fort" describes how the Cross-Timbers and the "Three Forks of the Trinity" area affected events here. The Indians pushed into this area, by advancing white settlement, raided south and east killing and stealing. The pictures of the Indians and the area are to indicate how things looked back then to the settlers in the surrounding areas. They wanted to clean out this "den of thieves and murders". A number of punitive expeditions were made into the area beginning in 1837. The first battle known to be in the county in 1841, was on Village Creek between Arlington and Fort Worth. Pictured is Texas Brigadier General Edward H. Tarrant, "Old Hurricane", who led the Texas Militia in the "Battle of Village Creek." This county is named for him. The county to the north is named for John Denton who was killed in the battle. Young and Cooke counties are also named for men who were involved.
(2) "Orders for a Fort" displays a replica of a uniform and sword of a field grade officer of Dragoons. One like it was worn by Brevet Brigadier General William Harney, who, as Colonel of the Second Regiment of U.S. Dragoons, and the senior officer in Texas, issued orders to establish a fort at the junction of the Clear and West forks of the Trinity. There is a copy of his order to Arnold.
(3) "Building the Fort" pictures the man who lobbied for and got the fort here, and for whom the county to the south is named, "Colonel" Middleton Tate Johnson. It includes a description of the scouting party that led Brevet Major Ripley Allen Arnold, commanding officer of F Company, 2nd U.S. Dragoons, to the fort. Arnold is still here, buried beside two of his children who died here. The tools are like the ones the soldiers would have used in building the fort. The old songbook is open to "Benny Havens Oh" a drinking song that Arnold helped in writing while a cadet at West Point (Class of 1838). The drawings are "Dawn at Fort Worth," and "First Fort" which was in near the riverbed somewhere to the northeast of the bluff.
The cabinet will someday contain a television set and a VCR with tapes describing the room, and the history of the fort and the area. The picture and letter in the frame on the north wall, is a portrait of General William Jenkins Worth, for whom the fort and the city are named, and a letter signed by him. He was the original colonel of the 8th U.S. Infantry, and a hero in the war of 1812, the 2nd Seminole War and the Mexican War. Though the fort was named for him he did not want a fort here, and if he had not died of cholera there probably would not have been one.
(4) "History of the 2nd U.S. Dragoons and F Company" (on the west wall) displays a replica uniform and an authentic sword. Mounted soldiers were "dragoons" until the word "cavalry" was adopted in 1855. The regiment is now the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment. It has served in every American war since 1836, and is now stationed at Fort Polk, LA. Thirty-five of the 47 dragoons in F Company, who came here, were Mexican War heroes, and seven had won an honor equivalent to today's Medal of Honor. Right of the case is a replica of the guidon, which the company would have carried on parade, on a march or in combat.
(5) "History of the 8th Infantry and F Company" shows a replica of the uniform of an infantry sergeant, who has served 10-years or more (his rank is on his cuff the stripes show time in service in 5-year increments). The swords are a replica of an NCO sword, and two different styles of "foot officers" swords. The Infantry Company arrived on October 6, 1849 and would stay off and on for three years. Left of the case is a replica Ringgold saddle used by the Infantry on patrols to the Red River. The infantry was mounted in an ill-advised attempt to save money.
(6) "Dragoon Weapons" are all the weapons used by dragoons here. First they were armed with single shot pistols and Hall carbines (both are authentic). The pistol was replaced by the Colt "Walker" revolver and then the Colt "1st Dragoon" revolver (both are replicas). The Musketoon, which was an inferior weapon, replaced the Hall in 1850. The one here is authentic and very rare. It may be the only one in this condition on display in the state.
(7) "Infantry Weapons and Equipment" shows muskets, bayonets, belts, haversacks, canteens and other equipment used by the infantry when Company F arrived here.
(8) "Fatigue Uniforms and Weapon" shows replicas of the working uniforms, the cotton whites, and the great coat. The infantry got two new weapons here, the percussion musket and the "Mississippi" rifle.
(9) "Command and Control" lists the commanding officers of the fort, and the bugle calls, which controlled the workday before clocks took over. All four commanding officers and 9 other officers who served here were West Pointers. The drawings show activity at two of the bugle calls - "Mess Call" and "Boots and Saddles".
(10) "The Fort" displays a drawing of how the fort looked just before it closed. It is based on detailed research. Note the tree behind the stable. It is northwest of the courthouse.
(11) "Disease and Medicine" shows two medical books from the time. One is opened to quinine because it was one of the few drugs of that era that actually worked. The drawing is titled "Sick Call." Copies of all the medical records from the fort are either in the window sill to the right, or on the table in the center of the room.
(12) "No Longer Known Only to God" is a picture of the memorial stone to the 11 soldiers who died while serving here, and Major Arnold's monument. All are still resting here in nearby Pioneers Rest Cemetery, along with General Tarrant. A bigger memorial is needed.
(13) "Our Rocking Chair" The rocking chair behind the ropes is the only item we know was at the fort. It was probably build by First Sergeant Abraham Harris, who settled in the new city. It was given to Mrs. Florence Peak, pregnant wife of the first doctor when the Army left. It still brings hope and good luck to this room as it did to the pioneers who used it at times of birth and illness. The drawing "Ghosts of the Fort" shows the rocking chair on the "dog run" of the commanding officers house. The drawing above the chair shows the old fort and the new fort.
(14) And (15) "Life at the Fort." The two displays on the southeast wall show that there were women and children at the fort and how they looked back then. The drawings are "Sunset" and "Lights Out."(Taps was not written until the Civil War.)
You should also visit the replica of the fort's flagpole on the east
lawn, and the site of the fort, "Heritage Park" across the
street to the northwest. The three trees in the rock planter, between
the fort diagram water wall and the parking garage, were behind the
stable of the fort.
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company, the Fort Worth Convention and Visitors Bureau, and Cross-Timbers Area Heritage Publishing Corporation, publisher of the book The Fort In Fort Worth and the drawings of the fort displayed in the room, provide primary funding for the display. The items in the room are on loan from a number of organizations and individuals. The William H. Davis family contributed the display cabinets. Steve King, Willard Thomas, Douglas Harman, John Gattis, Clay Perkins. Walter Leonard, Ben Tamhakara, and Jim Breen have loaned items on display. Steve and Willard prepared most of the text in the panels. Your contributions would be welcomed and acknowledged.
A thoroughly researched book about the fort, The Fort in Fort Worth,
and the military situation in north Texas from 1837-53, by Dr. Claude
Clayton Perkins is now available for only $29.95 plus tax and shipping
and handling. It can be ordered from The Cross-Timbers Area Heritage
Publishing Corporation, P.O. Box 820646, Ft. Worth, TX 76182-0646; (817)
498-5150, or on the web at www.cross-timbers.org A full sized complete
copy of the Fort In Fort Worth Medical Records is also available for
$150.00 plus tax shipping and handling. Color drawings, of the fort
based on the official quartermaster general's report in 1853 can be
ordered in any size from the same company, or purchased directly at
the Stockyards Station Gallery, or the North F.W./ Historical Society
Museum in the Fort Worth Stock yards.