Fitzhugh Station, Hickory Creek and Johnson Station

Michael has a BA in History & American Studies and an MSc in American History from the University of Edinburgh. He comes from a proud military family and has spent most of his career as an educator in the Middle East and Asia. His passion is travel, and he seizes any opportunity to share his experiences in the most immersive way possible, whether at sea or on the land.

Tarrant County, Texas

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 Creek.)

Map of Stations in Fort Worth
Map from the book, The Fort in Fort Worth, by Clay Perkins

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.

Marrow Bone Spring Historical Marker

Marker Title: Marrow Bone Spring
Address: Matlock and Arkansas St.
City: Arlington
Year Marker Erected: 1979
Marker Location: Founders Park, corner of Matlock & Arkansas Sts., (On trail).
Marker Text: An Indian habitat in the 1700s or earlier, Marrow Bone Spring in 1843 was visited by President Sam Houston's envoys seeking peace. A trading post licensed by the Texas Republic opened in 1845 near the Spring. Hiram Blackwell of the Peters Colony pioneered here before 1848. Soldier-statesman Middleton Tate Johnson (1810-1866) posted troops nearby in the late 1840s. The first Post Office in Tarrant County opened on Oct. 31, 1851, at Johnson's Station. In 1852 Blackwell sold Johnson his rights to land surrounding the spring. The Village of Johnson's Station flourished for many years. (1979)

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.

Johnson Station Cemetery Historical Marker

Marker Title: Johnson Station Cemetery
Address: 1100 block of W. Mayfield
City: Arlington
County: Tarrant
Year Marker Erected: 1986
Marker Location: 1100 block W. Mayfield and S. Cooper (FM 157), Arlington.
Marker Text: Now part of Arlington, this area was established in the 1840s as a ranger station and trading post known as Johnson Station. This cemetery serves as a reminder of that early settlement. The oldest marked grave in the cemetery is that of Elizabeth Robinson, who died November 15, 1863. A number of unmarked graves may date from an earlier time period. A variety of gravestone styles may be found here, marking the burial sites of pioneer settlers, veterans of the Civil War, and charter members of an early Masonic Lodge. Texas Sesquicentennial 1836-1986.

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