Birdville Historical Society
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Early Birdville Settlers

This page is dedicated to early settlers in the Birdville area. As more information comes in, these settlers and their families will be divided into the following catagories:

 

1. Bird's Fort to the Founding of Tarrant County (1840 - 1849)

2. Birdville as County Seat to Fort Worth as County Seat (1850 - 1856)

3. Birdville's County Seat Loss to End of the Civil War (1857 - 1865)

More catagories will be added as needed.

 

If you have any information about any 'Early Birdville Settlers' please fill out a form on our page or e-mail us at info@birdvillehistory.org. Please include any and all information including names of settlers and their families, the year they came to the Birdville area, approximately where they lived, dates of birth and death, and any other pertinent information that may be useful in preserving the history of these families.

 

The names and histories of Northeast Tarrant County's early and influential settlers are currently being developed and researched for accuracy. These histories will be coming soon. Please enjoy the below history of how the early settlers came to and established Northeast Tarrant County. This history was researched and written by Evyonne Andrews Eddins, a member of the Birdville Historical Society.

 

 

 

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General Attributes Of The Area

During the Republic of Texas days, the area of present-day Tarrant County was located within the Robertson District. Tarrant County was created in 1849 being carved from Navarro County consisting of 898 square miles of gently sloping to level terrain.  The Trinity River is the major watercourse and flows from the northwest to the southeast across the county, with the Clear Fork and the West Fork draining the western half and other smaller tributaries draining in eastern half.

 

The northeast area of Tarrant County abounded with large and small creeks feeding into the Trinity River, rolling grasslands, with rich clayey and loamy soil, with portions consisting of shallow loamy and alternate layers of limestone and marl.  Throughout the region were found blackjack oak, live oak, and hardwoods such as American elm, pecan and box elders along the creeks and the river.  Exposed rock formations in the area are almost exclusively of the Cretaceous period.  Mineral resources consisted of sand, gravel, and stone.  Buffalo, deer, wolves, and other native wildlife roamed the area.  The buffalo would water in and along the Trinity River, then travel toward the area later known as Sandy Land (present location of the southern extension of Beach Street from Belknap).  Within this deep, sandy soil, the buffalo would wallow in the sand to dry and cleanse their long, hairy coating. The weather was found to be moderate with an average low of 35 degrees to an average high of 96 degrees.  Average rainfall was a little more than thirty-two inches per year, and the growing season extending for a good 230 days out of 365.

 

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Native Americans Living On The Land

The environment was ideal for camps of various Indian tribes; providing food, clothing and shelter.  The earliest tribes thought to have been in the area were the Tonkawas and the Hasinai Caddos.  By the late 1700s, the Comanche, Kiowa, and Wichita tribes had also moved into the region.

 

When the first few white settlers came, they clashed with the native population.  The Battle of Village Creek, in 1841, was the first major military conflict led by Gen. Edward H. Tarrant.  He seized and destroyed three Indian villages. As a result of his efforts, as well as others, the area cleared the permanent Indian settlements from the area, yet the Comanche and Kiowa continued their intrusions into the 1870s. In the fall of 1841, General Tarrant ordered a military outpost built near Village Creek.  Fort Bird (most call it Bird's Fort) was named after Capt. Jonathan Bird.  The fort was abandoned in less than a year because of threatened Comanche attacks.  At this site, in 1843, a treaty negotiation dividing the area between the Anglo settlers and the Indians was signed.  Many of the immigrants, who settled within the area, gave up and left due to the Indian attacks and depredations.  Veterans returning from the Civil War found most of their stock gone, and homes and barns damaged or destroyed.  Most started over rebuilding or repairing their homesteads as well as their assets thus becoming the icons of progression in the growth of the northeastern part of the county.  Independent and determined, they were survivors.

 

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Origination Of The County

After the Treaty of Bird's Fort in 1843, immigrants from Tennessee, Virginia, and Kentucky began to enter the territory. The Texas Congress recognized the opportunity to settle the western frontier of Texas and offered large grants to companies such as the Peters Land Company to entice additional settlers into the area.  In 1845, a group from Missouri settled to the south of the present northern Tarrant County line (present-day Southlake area), with another group founding Birdville on the banks of Big Fossil Creek.

 

As these settlements grew, the need for military protection was evident due to the never-ending, sporadic Indian raids.  In 1849, Major Ripley Arnold chose a site at the conflux of the Clear Fork and West Fork of the Trinity River, naming the post Camp Worth, honoring Gen. William Jenkins Worth of Mexican War fame.  CampWorth was later officially named Fort Worth. With the protection of the fort, many settlers chose to make their homes close by.

 

The Texas Legislature was beginning to take notice of the western expansion of their state.  On December 20, 1849, they carved a new county out of a portion of the existing Navarro County.   This new county was founded with Birdville, Texas, being the county seat with the selected site being the most center location of the county. The county was named after General Tarrant who had "cleared" the area of Indians.  Tarrant County was formally organized in August of 1850, when the first elections were held.

 

The 1850 census of Tarrant County showed a population of 499 whites, including the many soldiers stationed within the fort, and sixty-five slaves.  By 1860 the number of whites had grown to 5,170 with the number of slaves increasing to 850.  The fastest growing area was in the northeastern portion of the county.

 

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Controversy Over The County Seat

Fort Worth was disbanded as a military post in 1853.  Even when Tarrant County was organized, many citizens of the settlement of Fort Worth soon questioned the selection of Birdville as the county seat.  Influential citizens living in Fort Worth lobbied to have Fort Worth made the county seat with their efforts resulting in the Texas Legislature calling a special election in November of 1856...Fort Worth or Birdville as the county seat? Influential citizens on both sides of the Trinity River put their best efforts forward to defend their community to stay as is or become the county seat.

 

Birdville leaders had cached a barrel of whiskey for their voters in an oak grove.  Fort Worth citizens found our about the plans, sent out "scouts" to find the cache of hidden liquor, and siphoned it  out of the Birdville barrel into their own, then brought it to Fort Worth where it was served to the Fort Worth voters.  When voters came to Birdville, there was no whiskey to cool their throat after a hard ride.  To add to the insult, a former resident of Fort Worth, who had moved to another county, brought in fourteen (some say twenty-five) of his cowboys they lingered around long enough to vote but not be conspicuous, then he told his men: "It is a penitentiary offense if they find us defrauding the ballot and we will have to leave home for several years".  Never the less, the rancher and his men, according to legend, turned the tide.  Fort Worth was declared the county seat by a narrow margin - - some say thirteen votes, some say three, and some say one.

 

Ill will developed on both sides of the Trinity resulted in broken bones, caused four killings, one of the four murders occurred when a Birdville citizen was approached by three Fort Worth men and slain (the three were acquitted).  A little known duel (not repeated often amongst the settlers due to embarrassment) was when two settlers raised ruckus, stepped off their distance, and shot this bitter encounter ended harmlessly because their powder was wet and their guns failed to fire. These acts of violence resulted in the election returns to be declared invalid. Another election was scheduled for April 1860. This time, Fort Worth campaigned heavily to build a permanent courthouse that turned the tide.  The 1860 election declared Fort Worth a clear winner and the issue was finally settled.

 

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Rural Vs. Urban Living

Ironically, local politicians with progressive views of their new county seat settled for an urban lifestyle.  However, the rural amenities were favored by most, especially through the 1870s, and had educated, professional, influential settlers also involved within state, urban and rural politics. They preferred a quieter rural lifestyle to raise and educate their children, even though there were continual threats of Indian attacks occurring throughout the 1870s.

 

Fort Worth became a bustling town especially during the cattle drive days with drovers taking time to enjoy themselves with drink and "fallen doves".  Sam Bass, Jesse James, Bell Starr and their "gangs" frequented the town as it grew.  Even John Wesley Hardin of Ellis County was known to come into the town, leaving unscathed. Fort Worth grew leaps and bounds with the coming of the railroad, the Stock Yards, and refineries. The cattle and oil barons built their mansions, and neighborhoods of modest, well-built, urban homes began to surface.  Many of the professional businessmen living a rural home lifestyle eventually located their business or office within the town, returning to their rural home in the evening.  While others remained totally rural, the farmers grew their crops, others built syrup and grist mills, opened a trading post, and started businesses for cabinet makers, wheel wrights, etc., with all providing necessary services, as well as horses, mules, beef for meat, and vegetables as needed for the entire county.

 

Cheap land with plenty of timber and an abundance of water made the area a promising place for families to start a new life.  They built their small communities with churches, schools and cemeteries, similar to the ones left behind, with land donated by the settlers.  Eventually the smaller communities merged to become present day Haltom City, Richland Hills, North Richland Hills, Watauga, Euless, Hurst, Bedford, Keller, Colleyville, Grapevine, and Southlake.

 

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Early Social & Survival Skills Taught At Home

Children were not allowed to interrupt when adults were talking. No man should enter the house with his hat on.  Table manners were very strict.  Everyone sat down at the table, keeping their hands in their laps until the head of household returned thanks.  It was most improper to reach across the table or put their elbows on the table.  They were taught to say "Please pass the... ", and then returned the request by saying "Thank you".

 

Homes were kept spotless and beds were adorned with handmade pillows, quilts and spreads.  The girls were taught the art of cooking, sewing and maintaining a home; while the boys were learning the skill of caring for, handling, and branding the animals.  They were taught the varied aspects of cultivation, carpentry, and repair skills, and many times followed the profession of their father.  Schooling was done at home until a local school was established, with practice work being done at home after the evening meal at the eating table under the supervision of their parents. Everything had its time and place.  The same principle applied outside of the home. Yards and barns were always neat and orderly, fields and/or fencerows were well maintained.  Fathers taught their sons how to hunt for game, with many teaching their entire family members how to shoot a rifle to protect the family from unexpected Indian raids.

 

Outhouses were built as a "one seater" up to a more elaborate "four seater".  The larger ones did double duty they were built with a partition down the middle with the men and boys using one side and the women and girls using the other.  Many kept a crock of water on a bench outside the door where you washed your hands before leaving.  Life was extremely harsh and work never ending.  With their early training, the children of the frontier learned to respect and be respected by their manners and their conduct with people of all ages.