Birdville Historical Society
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Birdville History


First encroachment into the Birdville vicinity occurred as early as the spring of 1840, when Captain Jonathan Bird and 20 three-month service Texas Rangers from Lamar and Red River Counties were sent into the frontier by General Sam Houston. Their mission was to establish a fort, make the area safe for settlement, and guard the area from Indian attacks to the north and west. Bird's Fort was situated about twelve miles southeast of Birdville and six miles north of Arlington on the north bank of the Trinity where Calloway's Lake is located. A wooden blockhouse with trench defenses was constructed.

Sam Houston

In 1841, General Edward R. Tarrant led a successful militia force against an Indian encampment at present-day Arlington in the Battle of Village Creek. Such action served notice to hostile tribes along the frontier that a peace treaty was advisable. General Houston, Indian Commissioners and several early settlers and trappers signed and witnessed a treaty at Bird's Fort on September 29, 1843, with the chiefs of nine tribes. Soon after this, the fort was abandoned, Settlements gravitated around a few homesteads, water sources and trading posts, Many pioneer settlers were recipients of Peter's Colony land, consisting of 320- to 640-acre tracts granted by the Republic of Texas between 1841 and 1843. Peter's Colony spread over a wide area encompassing the present-day counties of Collin, Dallas, Denton, Grayson and Tarrant.

 

On June 6, 1849, Camp Worth was established by General Ripley A, Arnold and his troops nine miles west of Birdville on a bluff overlooking the confluence of the West Fork and the Clear Fork of the Trinity River. Named to honor Brigadier General William Jennings Worth, the new outpost offered welcome protection to fledgling settlements around Birdville and Denton until 1853, when the troops were sent to Fort Belknap. Birdville in 1849 ,.had an estimated fifty people in town surrounded by scattered farms and ranches. Roads radiated out to Johnson Station, Dunneville (now Grapevine), Dallas and new settlements springing up on the prairie around Fort Worth.

 

In an effort to obtain self-government, some one hundred area residents petitioned the State Legislature for a new county and elected temporary county officials, On December 20, 1849, the Texas Legislature created the new county, and called it Tarrant in honor of General E. H. Tarrant. Tarrant County consisted of parts of Navarro County and Peter's Colony.

 

Birdville area resident Ed Terrell offered his log cabin for an election polling site to choose the new county seat and to elect officers who would succeed the temporary persons appointed the preceding December, 1849. The election, on August 5, 1850, was won by Birdville. Tarrant County in 1850 had a population of 599 whites and 65 slaves, and covered 877 square miles.

 

Birdville Plat Map - 1851

The First Tarrant County Courthouse was a wood-frame structure located in the vicinity of the present-day Haltom High School Coliseum, An eighty-acre tract, bounded by Walker, Carson and Broadway Streets, was donated by George Akers and William Norris in August, 1851, for the erection of county buildings. A plat of the new town drawn the same year depicts 12 city blocks, including a public square. Bonds valued at $17,000 were issued to insure completion of the construction work by W. S. Suggs and others. Bricks were collected and a foundation excavated. The first annual jury list drawn up at Birdville's temporary courthouse in 1855 by District Clerk William Quayle showed 280 men qualified to serve.

 

The permanent courthouse was never completed because in November, 1856, in a highly contested special election, Fort Worth won the county seat by a margin of three to thirteen votes (the official count varies). Jubilant Fort Worth citizens took the county records, equipment and furniture back to Fort Worth for deposit in their own temporary courthouse. All early Tarrant County records were later lost in a courthouse fire on March 29, 1876.

 

Colonel Albert G, Walker,, a Birdville resident, State Senator and founder of the Birdville Union, petitioned the State Legislature on his town's behalf to no avail in 1858. The issue of the county seat and the election was taken to the new Texas Supreme Court, which, having no precedent, let the election results stand. However, a new election was called in 1860.

 

Fort Worth, which had at that time a population of about 450, received 548 votes; a non-existent site at the center of the county received 301; and Birdville received 4 votes. Had Birdville retained its seat, chances are good that it would have attracted in the years ahead the population that made Fort Worth. The furor over the election cost several lives and the State of Texas about $30,000.

 

Birdville, until 1856, had the Monday county court sessions and the associated commercial benefits. It also had two newspapers, the Birdville Western Express, with John J. Courtney as its editor; and The Birdville Union, with Colonel A. G, Walker as its editor. Walker killed Courtney in a shoot-out stemming from disagreements concerning the elections and states' rights regarding slavery.

 

Miss Alice Barkley at the age of fifteen served as Birdville Postmistress in 1866. The Birdville Post Office was discontinued on June 14, 1906, and rural service begun from Fort Worth.

Old Birdville School - 1932

Birdville may have had one of the first public tuition schools in the county with classes taught by Professor William A. Hudson in 1858. Professor Hudson taught Birdville pupils in an old wooden building and later in a three-room schoolhouse. By 1864, enough students attended to require two teachers, and by 1869-1870, three teachers were required. The first public school in Birdville dates to about 1882, and a neighborhood school was established soon after by parents who employed a teacher. The first mention of a school for black students is in the 1895-1896 school year records; Oscar Lloyd and Ed Boaz were trustees. The Birdville School District was established in 1896. Today the district encompasses forty square miles, serving the cities of Haltom City, Richland Hills, North Richland Hills, Watauga and Hurst.

 

After the loss of the county seat., Birdville developed very slowly around a farming and ranching economy. The period of Reconstruction after the Civil War was especially hard. Many young men from the area had been lost in the fighting. Cattle roamed unclaimed, untended or unbranded and money was scarce. Hope of the Texas and Pacific Railway reaching Fort Worth from the east by early 1874 swelled Fort Worth's population to 3,000, but expectation fell short of reality when the financial firm of Jay Cooke and Company failed. Without money, the tracks stopped twenty-four miles east at Eagle Ford. The trains finally arrived in 1876.

 

The Birdville business district comprised four stores and a blacksmith shop in 1870. Growth was in scant evidence even in 1911 when six merchants, including two blacksmiths, occupied space on Broadway and Carson Streets. Wagons traveling east still had to ford Big Fossil Creek until 1915 when a $3700 bridge was completed. In 1916, grading, smoothing and graveling work was begun on Old Birdville Road running due west to Niles City.

 

Birdville's population was reported at 107 in 1930, and at 40 with seven businesses in 1936, just four years after the business district moved south to the new location. In 1950,the population rose to 3,000 within an incorporated area of four square miles, and in 1960 to 23,000, the result of continuing growth and annexations.