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 where I-35W crosses Hickory
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. They were stationed near Torrey's on the
Brazos and Captain Shapley Ross' was 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.
The following article was written by Bill Fairley and published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Middleton Tate Johnson did not move to Texas until he was 29 years old, and he died at 56.
But in his Texas years, he fought in a vigilante war, in the Mexican War, in Ranger regiments against American Indians and in the Civil War, where he was also a blockade runner.
He developed a plantation in what is now Tarrant County, where his many slaves raised hundreds of acres of cotton and other crops.
Johnson ran for office in Texas several times. He won only twice, but he was a force in the politics of the young state.
The settlement that grew up around his plantation became known as Johnson's Station in what today is Arlington. Johnson County was named for him.
And without Johnson, Fort Worth might not be where it is today.
He was born in 1810 in South Carolina and later lived in Georgia and Alabama, where he was elected to the Legislature at age 22 and was re-elected four times.
In 1839, three years after Texas became a republic, Johnson moved to Shelby County, where, in 1842, the vigilante violence known as the Texas Regulator-Moderator War broke out. Johnson became a captain in the Regulator forces. As that conflict drew to a close, he won a seat in the Congress of the Republic of Texas, serving briefly in the Senate.
Johnson was awarded "immigrant headrights" to 640 acres in the part of Navarro County that became Tarrant County.
When the Mexican War began in 1846, Johnson formed a company of volunteers from his old companions in the Regulators. Discharged later that year, he returned to Navarro County, where he raised a mounted company in Col. Peter H. Bell's Ranger Regiment to fight Comanche and Kiowa on Texas' northern borders.
He was promoted to lieutenant colonel, but because of injuries, he went home to recuperate. There, he became commander of a company of Texas Rangers with headquarters near Marrow Bone Springs in present-day Arlington. He also was put in charge of Indian Trading Post No. 1.
With his wife, Vienna, and eight children, he began building the plantation, buying hundreds of additional acres, and became one of the largest slave owners in Tarrant County.
On June 6, 1849, Brevet Maj. Ripley Arnold and 37 men of Company F, Second Regiment of the Army Dragoons arrived at what had become Johnson's Station.
Arnold gave Johnson a letter of introduction from Johnson's Mexican War friend Gen. William J. Worth asking for help selecting a site for an Army post and fort on the Trinity River.
Johnson and other men from the area guided the party to a spot on the bluff above the confluence of the West and Clear forks of the river. Arnold approved the site, and by August, a log barracks and other structures were almost complete.
Fort Worth was born.
In 1849, Johnson ran for lieutenant governor but lost. He ran for governor in 1851, 1853, 1855 and 1857 and lost each time.
By 1861, Johnson owned the land around where the fort had been and donated some of it for Tarrant County's first courthouse.
Johnson opposed Texas' secession from the Union, but after Texas joined the Confederacy, he organized the 14th Texas Cavalry Regiment, which saw service in the Civil War on both sides of the Mississippi River.
Later he commanded blockade runners who arranged for cotton from Confederate states to be shipped through Cuba and Mexico to British Jamaica and on to England in exchange for arms, medicine and other supplies.
After the war, Johnson won election to the State Reconstruction Convention in December 1865.
But on May 15, 1866, while returning to Johnson's Station from Austin, he had a stroke and died.
He is buried in the Johnson family cemetery in Arlington.
Sources: the Texas State Historical Association; In Old Fort Worth, Compiled by Mack and Madeline Williams; and Arlington, Texas: Birthplace of the Metroplex, Compiled by Arista Joyner.