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Fort Worth and The

Farmers
Before 1840
Fort Worth through the years has been a city of “overpowering drama”. Indian tribes built
their villages in the little forests which lined the banks of the Trinity River long before a
white man ever came there. From these camps they raided white settlements as far south
as the Gulf coast. Buffaloes roamed through the present limits of the city, and herds of
wild horses, said by many to be finer than Arabian horses, were hunted by men from the
United States until 1838.

1840-1850

In the spring of 1846, E. W. Farmer arrived in Texas with his parents. He had been born
and reared in Roane County, Tennessee. At first the family stayed in Lamar County but
after three months they moved to Fannin County, where they raised a crop and stayed until
the fall of 1850.

In an article in the 1930’s, his son, Jim, says:

(My father) entered the ranks of cattlemen by earning a heifer through grubbing a
patch of mesquite trees for a neighbor. Other heifers were added to his herd and
for a time he ranched in Young County. Indian raids were a constant dread and
ranching at that time had many other handicaps unknown to the present day
generation of cattlemen. He helped to drive one herd of cattle from Texas to
Memphis, Tennessee where they were loaded out and shipped to St. Louis. They
could not be sold there and the cattle were sent to a point in Illinois.

In 1850 the Farmer family moved to Tarrant County. Fort Worth at that time was only a
small military post. This is how it appeared in 1849.

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Fort Worth and The
Farmers

At some point E. W. Farmer married Sallie Jackson. He established his home in the old
White Settlement and for many years was connected with agricultural interests. After two
years he located on a place about six miles west of the post which would become Fort
Worth. For many years he was well known as a stockman, being engaged in handling cattle on
the range in the country west of Fort Worth, always retaining his home in Tarrant County.

Another article says:


“E. W. Farmer was one of the pioneer stockmen and kept his herds largely in Young
County and vicinity. Like others in those early days he suffered greatly from the
depredations of the Indians, but with his headquarters at Flag Springs, he sent his
cowboys out upon the range to care for the cattle. The second year after the war
the Indians had become so troublesome that Mr. Farmer sold his cattle and
returned to his home in Tarrant County. He lived out his years in North Fort Worth.

Last Major Indian Battle


After the treaty of 1843, most hostile Indian tribes around Fort Worth retreated to West
Texas. A few remained, however, in Parker and Palo Pinto counties.

In 1849, a group of Comanches, led by Chief Ned, who thought Fort Worth was too close to
the Indian hunting grounds, came from Palo Pinto to obliterate the Fort. A war council was
held, in which it was decided that the tribe would divide into two groups. One, led by Chief
Ned, would take the southwest route to the Fort. The other group, with Chief Featherhead
in charge, would go by the northwest trail. The warriors planned to meet near Fort Worth
on the following night.

On the second night according to the plan, Chief Ned camped and awaited his fellow
Comanches, but a fur trapper spotted the sleeping warriors camped at the foot of the
Trinity Bluff. Within twenty minutes the trapper galloped to the Fort with the news and
soon Major Ripley Arnold’s men were prepared for battle. The Fort’s reliable six-pound
howitzer was rolled to the bluff above the camping Indians and made ready to fire, while
the troops split into three groups for the attack.

Because of a full, bright moon, Arnold’s men were able to make every shot count, and the
frightened Indians fled. In their retreat, they met Chief Featherhead’s advancing braves,
returning with them to Palo Pinto.

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Farmers
Father of Fort Worth: Captain Ephraim Merrill Daggett
“Too big for a man, not big enough for a horse,” mumbled an Indian when introduced to
Captain Daggett in 1853. In truth Daggett was a giant both in stature and in politics. He
distinguished himself in the Mexican War. After the war, he returned to his home in East
Texas and represented Shelby County in the State Legislature for two years. During this
time, he made many visits to the fort to see his friend from the war, Major Arnold.

In 1849, Daggett and his brother staked out large tracts of land around the Fort and in
1853, when the troops evacuated the Fort, Daggett was one of the driving powers which
transformed the abandoned Fort into a town. In 1854, he moved his family and slaves there
and in 1856 obtained an order to have this new town, now called “Fort Town”, become the
County Seat.

James D. Farmer
On June 25, 1858, Jim Farmer was born. He was reared on his father’s home place in White
Settlement and spent some years on the farm of his uncle while his father was in Western
Texas in the cattle business.

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There were three courthouses built (two burned down). This is the third, still
standing today.

From the 1860’s to the 1880’s: Cattle Trails Made Fort Worth
After the civil War, the northern markets called for Texas cattle. Texas cattlemen
rounded up the thousands of unbranded cattle roaming the prairies and drove them to the
railroads in Kansas. For nine years, from 1867 to 1876, when the railroad finally reached
Abilene, the only way to get Texas cattle to Kansas was up the trails. Since Fort Town, now
renamed Fort Worth, was the last outpost of civilization on the trail to Dodge City or

Abilene, Kansas, the cowboys stopped on the drive to shop, to restock the chuck wagons,
and to take a last fling in the saloons before continuing their lonely and difficult journey of
two months up the trail. As one old-timer later put it, “Fort Worth was less conscious of
her morals than some of her neighbors”. Some city fathers encouraged the somewhat
boisterous cattle trade for the money it attracted.

Exchange Avenue was born, a place where saloons (thirteen in it’s heyday), hotels, saddleries
and boot makers thrived.

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(This is a drawing of how it looked then. It has been preserved and looks the same
today—even to the point of having longhorns driven down the street in the summer for
the tourists.)

Also thriving were the cattle commission companies and meat packing plants.

At this time, as a young man, Jim Farmer was engaged in the cattle business and was
“successful in the undertaking, handling his herds in Parker and adjoining counties, and
having a ranch in Parker County for about ten years.” With the establishment of the stock
yards in North Forth Worth, he was among the first to engage in the cattle commission
business and organized the first firm for this purpose: the Fort Worth Live Stock
Commission Company.

His first office was in hotel. One of the large pictures in the family was taken outside it.

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Note the little guy in the left rear holding up his hat to be seen! Also note the way
these businessmen (and women) dressed for business each day in the Texas heat.

As an historical aside, one of the chief rivals for Fort Worth in those days was Fort
Richardson in Jacksboro. The two towns were each vying to get the cowboys to use the
trails which went through their areas. (See Thompson family history for more on Fort
Richardson). At this time, this major business area was actually north of Fort Worth (a
point which became important in later years).

A new nickname stuck: Cowtown.

1870’s Coming of the Railroad


Steamboats on the Mississippi made New Orleans the “Queen City Of The Gulf”. Railroads
across the prairies to Fort Town would make that town the “Queen City Of The Prairies”.
At least, this was the business logic of Fort Town’s boosters in the 1870’s. To transform
that logic into fact plunged the citizens in 1872 into a series of mighty battles and heart-
breaking delays which lasted until July 19, 1876, when the Texas and Pacific Railway came
snorting into the town.

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In June of 1872, several eastern capitalists who represented the railway visited Fort
Worth. A committee of citizens, including Captain Daggett, entertained them and donated
land for the railroad and station. In August, a contract was signed to build the railroad by
January of 1874. Before that could happen the “Panic of ‘73” brought financial ruin to the
eastern capitalists, and the railroad was left stranded a few miles east of Dallas. This
financial crash also spelled potential ruin for Fort Worth.

From the fall of 1872 to the panic of 1873, Fort Worth had boomed into a bustling city of
4,000 with people flooding in in anticipation of the railroad. When the railroad plan
collapsed, the thriving city again became a hamlet, and “grass literally grew in the streets”.

The faith of the town’s founders, however, did not waver. Each succeeding Texas
Legislature extended time for the construction of the railroad another year. Finally, in
1875, the town citizens, despairing of the railroad being completed by the Texas Pacific
company decided to build it themselves. And so they did, laboring through the day, working
by torchlight until midnight, and resting until dawn. From sunset until midnight, ladies of
the city served coffee and sandwiches to the workers.

To meet the necessary deadline, ties were laid on top of the ground supported at each end
by fieldstones and rails. The track was so crooked and unstable that the train was forced
to creep the last three miles into the city. But they did it—the railroad was officially built
by the deadline imposed.

On July 19, 1876, the first train puffed into Fort Worth. At daybreak, inhabitants, many
seeing a train for the first time, thronged into town. They came on foot, in wagons, and in
carriages. Cowboys rode in groups to view the spectacle.

When they arrived at the station, the people stood a great distance from the track, ready
to make a fast break for open country if necessary. Indians, who had come to the city with
great trepidation, stood far off, calling the monster a “puff wagon”. As the whistle blew a
warning and the train screeched to a stop, it blew steam and the frightened spectators
scattered. But after their first scare, they returned to marvel at the huge train.

If that locomotive had not screamed its entrance into Fort worth by that date the town
would have stayed just another hamlet, as did all the other towns which the railroads by-
passed. With the coming of the railroad, however, Fort Town became Fort Worth, the
town, “Where the West Begins”.

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Farmers
1880’s Promises and Struggles
Population more than tripled during this decade to more than 23,000. Beef production
increased sharply by 51 percent. Registered breeds finally outnumbered the longhorns.
The Texas Live Stock Journal, published in Fort Worth for the Cattle Raiser’s Organization
reached a circulation of 18,000. However, events of the decade would destroy many of the
optimistic hopes of the Fort Worth businessmen.

On April 19, 1883, James D. Farmer married Cherokee Thompson. This picture would have
been in the 1880’s.

1890’s Business depression


Uneven supplies of cattle contributed to the depressed situation, particularly during the
spring of 1892. The packing plant seemed at the mercy of the large Chicago packers. The
frequent unavailability of refrigerator cars when needed also created problems. An
entrepreneur from the north, Simpson, convinced all cattlemen to sign pledges to market all
of their cattle at Fort Worth until January of 1895. He then bought out all the existing
cattle commission companies and created the Fort Worth Stock Yards Company in 1893. In

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1896, the first Southwestern Exposition and Livestock Show and Rodeo, which continues to
this day, was born.

The Coliseum was build it 1908 (photo about 1920). It was the “Home of the World’s
first Indoor Rodeo”.

With an eye to helping business and calling more attention to their market, the Fort Worth
Stockyards Company, early in the summer of 1897, offered to build vats to dip cattle for
ticks, something which was killing large portions of the herds. One of the family pictures is
of these vats.

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1900-1920: Cattle Industry Thrives


In 1901 numerous cattlemen joined together with officials of the Fort Worth Stock Yards
Company and commission firms to incorporate into the Fort Worth Livestock Exchange to be
headquartered in the Exchange Building of the stockyards company. This exchange
functioned like the New York Stock exchange. All sheep, hogs, cattle, mules, and horses
sold on the Fort Worth livestock market was cleared through the exchange. Jim Farmer’s
Commission Company became “a very profitable undertaking” by reason of the great impetus
given to the cattle industry of these enterprises. At that time his company joined the
National Live Stock Commission Company and he became vice president and was in charge of
cattle sales for that firm. An article of the time says, “He is an experienced and expert
cattleman, being among the foremost representatives of the business.” The sales there
made Fort Worth the largest livestock market in the nation and by 1913, Fort Worth
became the largest speculator and feeder market in the world.

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Live Stock Exchange building built 1902

1905

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A small sampling of the acres of cattle pens.

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Interior of the Fort Worth Livestock Commission Company, 1903


James D. Farmer is on far left. Mother said that the man in the center is Mr. Cal
Calloway, Jim’s assistant for many years. The newspaper article I found said he was
Mr. Farmer’s partner, A.W. Wardlow, who later became President of the Exchange
State Bank. The woman is Miss Carrie Low, first stenographer at the Stock Yards.

James D. Farmer becomes Mayor


This profitable area was actually north of Fort Worth, and in 1902, a vote came to
incorporate this large area as it’s own city: North Fort Worth.

Quote from Livestock Legacy:


“Predictably, most candidates for the new community’s city council owned
commission firms or held other stockyards interests. James D. Farmer, a partner
in a commission firm on the yards, became the first Mayor of North Fort Worth.

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He owned land in the area and encouraged development by lending money to
newcomers to build houses if they would come there and work in the packing plants.“

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By the spring of 1903 the city council had adopted a resolution prohibiting the hitching of
horses on Main Street for longer than thirty minutes and reminded farmers bringing their
livestock to market to take note. “Perhaps the city fathers did not want the men to linger
to long at Frenchy’s Blue Goose Saloon”.

The council also adopted a resolution to expel “squatters” living in tents. People apparently
were moving in faster than carpenters could construct houses. Furthermore, many of the
immigrants from Eastern Europe were “tenting up” to save money for down payments on
their own homes rather than staying in the available boarding houses or renting from the
“company”. To expedite permanent settlement, the council announced that tent dwellers
would be fined $10 for every day they stayed after being given notice to move. “North Fort
Worth had begun taking itself seriously”.

The growing community soon acquired its own city hall and jail, both contained in a single red
brick building at the southeast corner of Twentieth Street and North main. At the council
meeting on February 11, 1903, the members even presented Mayor Farmer with a beautiful
wooden gavel with silver bands and a silver tip.

North Fort Worth existed as an independent municipality for only a little over seven years—
1902 – 1909. During that brief period it faced the same problems and concerns as any
burgeoning frontier community, including law enforcement, budgets, and public policy. Just
before Christmas in 1903 the council passed an ordinance prohibiting the shooting of
firecrackers and Roman candles on Main Street. This represented a considerable
improvement over earlier days when citizens more frequently shot off six-shooters than
Roman candles on Main Street. The following May, the council instructed the city attorney
to draft an ordinance forbidding the use of slingshots in North Fort Worth and also
“prohibiting leaving horses unhitched on streets and alleys and prohibiting some to awning
posts or lamp posts or fences”. Some stockyards cowboys must have angered citizens--a
civilized city could not allow horses just anywhere. The next month, the council passed an
ordinance to prevent persons from hopping steam cars while in motion.

The stockyards and related activities remained the city’s major industry and took
precedence over all other considerations. For example at the March 1906 meeting the
council authorized the city marshal to pay for four extra policemen during the livestock
show.

In 1909, North Fort Worth abruptly ceased to exist. At that time the state legislature
could merge incorporated cities whenever it chose and, with no consultation and in secrecy,

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the legislature annexed this lucrative area into Fort Worth for its tax base. Since the
smaller city did not have a State Legislator living in its midst to advise them of
developments, the city fathers literally awoke one morning to find themselves no longer a
town. They had been swallowed whole by Fort Worth.

1911-1930: Continued Success


These years were memorable and profitable, marred only by two major fires on Exchange
Avenue. The first was on March 14, 1911, the day that former president Teddy Roosevelt
was visiting. The second, presumably started by a spark from a locomotive was on June 25 a
year later. Great losses of livestock and buildings occurred in both of these.

In the 1920’s the raising of livestock remained the predominant industry of Texas, with
Texas providing eleven percent of the cattle for the entire country, nearly as much as any
other two states combined. Toward the close of the decade, however, cotton was growing
increasingly important, pushing livestock to second place.

1930’s:The Depression Years.


The decade of the thirties began badly, with an attempted robbery by a man carrying
nitroglycerine. He accidentally blew himself up, killing many around him and causing
extensive property damage. From there the decade saw erratic market receipts,
plummeting prices, and federal programs designed to stabilize the markets. Lower profits
came to stockyard owners, not only because of the national business decline, but also
because the use of trucks and the expansion of feedlots nationwide began to break the
power of the meat trust. Even so, it was reported that Fort Worth employment still
enjoyed a ten percent advantage over the state as a whole, thanks to the activities
encouraged by the livestock market.

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Mother wrote:
I forgot to write on those three pix you took home—I am not sure but I think the chuck
wagon one was taken on a ranch in Archer County near Wichita Falls around 1915 and that
the man is Uncle J.D. Farmer.

The other two are uncle Jolly Farmer (that was his name—he was the ninth child and maybe
they had quit caring by then? Also a Captain Jolly was a close family friend). The horse is
Centipede, whom he later gave to me and who was either my best friend or worst enemy for
a lot of years—I was never sure which! The pictures were taken at our place in
Weatherford.

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The 1923 Model T truck was my first “Driver’s ED” vehicle! Picture is around 1930, I
think.

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1940’s
Jim Farmer, now known as the “Grand Old Man of the Fort Worth Stockyards”, died in
1942.

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Sources:

Much of the history of Fort Worth is taken from Down Historic Trails of Fort Worth and
Tarrant County by the Arlington Heights Junior Historians. It is edited by Kathryn Garrett
and Mary Daggett Lake, designed and produced by Dudley Hodgkin’s Company in Fort
Worth, Texas. Copyrighted 1949. It is a collection of history of Fort Worth essays by
high school students. The second major source is Livestock Legacy: The Fort Worth
Stockyards by J’Nell L. Pate, Texas A&M University Press, College Station, 1988.
Information on James D. Farmer and his parents is from History of North and West Texas.
(There are just some photocopied pages so the rest of the information is unknown).

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