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The Treaty of Bird's Fort between the Republic of Texas and several Native American tribes was signed in 1843 at Bird's Fort in present-day Arlington, Texas. Article XI of the treaty provided that no one may "pass the line of trading houses" (at the border of the Indians' territory) without permission of the President of Texas, and may not reside or remain in the Indians' territory. These "trading houses" were later established at the junction of the Clear Fork and West Fork of the Trinity River in present-day Fort Worth. At this river junction, the U.S. War Department established Fort Worth in 1849 as the northernmost of a system of 10 forts for protecting the American Frontier following the end of the Mexican–American War. The city of Fort Worth continues to be known as "where the West begins".
A line of seven army posts was established in 1848–49 after the Mexican War to protect the settlers of Texas along the western American Frontier and included Fort Worth, Fort Graham, Fort Gates, Fort Croghan, Fort Martin Scott, Fort Lincoln, and Fort Duncan. Originally, 10 forts had been proposed by Major General William Jenkins Worth (1794–1849), who commanded the Department of Texas in 1849. In January 1849, Worth proposed a line of 10 forts to mark the western Texas frontier from Eagle Pass to the confluence of the West Fork and Clear Fork of the Trinity River. One month later, Worth died from cholera in South Texas.
General William S. Harney assumed command of the Department of Texas and ordered Major Ripley A. Arnold (Company F, Second United States Dragoons) to find a new fort site near the West Fork and Clear Fork. On June 6, 1849, Arnold, advised by Middleton Tate Johnson, established a camp on the bank of the Trinity River and named the post Camp Worth in honor of the late General Worth. In August 1849, Arnold moved the camp to the north-facing bluff, which overlooked the mouth of the Clear Fork of the Trinity River. The United States War Department officially named the post Fort Worth on November 14, 1849.
Native American attacks were still a threat in the area, as this was their traditional territory and they resented encroachment by European-American settlers, but people from the United States set up homesteads near the fort. E. S. Terrell (1812–1905) from Tennessee claimed to be the first resident of Fort Worth. The fort was flooded the first year and moved to the top of the bluff; the current courthouse was built on this site. The fort was abandoned September 17, 1853. No trace of it remains.
As a stop on the legendary Chisholm Trail, Fort Worth was stimulated by the business of the cattle drives and became a brawling, bustling town. Millions of head of cattle were driven north to market along this trail. Fort Worth became the center of the cattle drives, and later, the ranching industry. It was given the nickname of Cowtown.
During the Civil War, Fort Worth suffered from shortages of money, food, and supplies. The population dropped as low as 175, but began to recover during Reconstruction. By 1872, Jacob Samuels, William Jesse Boaz, and William Henry Davis had opened general stores. The next year, Khleber M. Van Zandt established Tidball, Van Zandt, and Company, which became Fort Worth National Bank in 1884.
In 1875, the Dallas Herald published an article by a former Fort Worth lawyer, Robert E. Cowart, who wrote that the decimation of Fort Worth's population, caused by the economic disaster and hard winter of 1873, had dealt a severe blow to the cattle industry. Added to the slowdown due to the railroad's stopping the laying of track 30 miles (48 km) outside of Fort Worth, Cowart said that Fort Worth was so slow that he saw a panther asleep in the street by the courthouse. Although an intended insult, the name Panther City was enthusiastically embraced when in 1876 Fort Worth recovered economically. Many businesses and organizations continue to use Panther in their name. A panther is set at the top of the police department badges.
The "Panther City" tradition is also preserved in the names and design of some of the city's geographical/architectural features, such as Panther Island (in the Trinity River), the Flat Iron Building, Fort Worth Central Station, and in two or three "Sleeping Panther" statues.
In 1876, the Texas and Pacific Railway finally was completed to Fort Worth, stimulating a boom and transforming the Fort Worth Stockyards into a premier center for the cattle wholesale trade.] Migrants from the devastated war-torn South continued to swell the population, and small, community factories, and mills yielded to larger businesses. Newly dubbed the "Queen City of the Prairies",] Fort Worth supplied a regional market via the growing transportation network.
Fort Worth became the westernmost railhead and a transit point for cattle shipment. Louville Niles, a Boston, Massachusetts-based businessman and main shareholder of the Fort Worth Stockyards Company, is credited with bringing the two biggest meatpacking firms at the time, Armour and Swift, to the stockyards.
With the boom times came a variety of entertainments and related problems. Fort Worth had a knack for separating cattlemen from their money. Cowboys took full advantage of their last brush with civilization before the long drive on the Chisholm Trail from Fort Worth north to Kansas. They stocked up on provisions from local merchants, visited saloons for a bit of gambling and carousing, then rode northward with their cattle, only to whoop it up again on their way back. The town soon became home to "Hell's Half-Acre", the biggest collection of saloons, dance halls, and bawdy houses south of Dodge City (the northern terminus of the Chisholm Trail), giving Fort Worth the nickname of the "Paris of the Plains".
Certain sections of town were off-limits for proper citizens. Shootings, knifings, muggings, and brawls became a nightly occurrence. Cowboys were joined by a motley assortment of buffalo hunters, gunmen, adventurers, and crooks. Hell's Half Acre (also known as simply "The Acre") expanded as more people were drawn to the town. Occasionally, the Acre was referred to as "the bloody Third Ward" after it was designated one of the city's three political wards in 1876. By 1900, the Acre covered four of the city's main north-south thoroughfares. Local citizens became alarmed about the activities, electing Timothy Isaiah "Longhair Jim" Courtright in 1876 as city marshal with a mandate to tame it.
Courtright sometimes collected and jailed 30 people on a Saturday night, but allowed the gamblers to operate, as they attracted money to the city. After learning that train and stagecoach robbers, such as the Sam Bass gang, were using the area as a hideout, he intensified law enforcement, but certain businessmen advertised against too many restrictions in the area as having bad effects on the legitimate businesses. Gradually, the cowboys began to avoid the area; as businesses suffered, the city moderated its opposition. Courtright lost his office in 1879.
Despite crusading mayors such as H. S. Broiles and newspaper editors such as B. B. Paddock, the Acre survived because it generated income for the city (all of it illegal) and excitement for visitors. Longtime Fort Worth residents claimed the place was never as wild as its reputation, but during the 1880s, Fort Worth was a regular stop on the "gambler's circuit" by Bat Masterson, Doc Holliday, and the Earp brothers (Wyatt, Morgan, and Virgil). James Earp, the eldest of his brothers, lived with his wife in Fort Worth during this period; their house was at the edge of Hell's Half Acre, at 9th and Calhoun. He often tended bar at the Cattlemen's Exchange saloon in the "uptown" part of the city.
In the late 1880s, Mayor Broiles and County Attorney R. L. Carlock initiated a reform campaign. In a public shootout on February 8, 1887, Jim Courtright was killed on Main Street by Luke Short, who claimed he was "King of Fort Worth Gamblers". As Courtright had been popular, when Short was jailed for his murder, rumors floated of lynching him. Short's good friend Bat Masterson came armed and spent the night in his cell to protect him.
The first prohibition campaign in Texas was mounted in Fort Worth in 1889, allowing other business and residential development in the area. Another change was the influx of Black residents. Excluded by state segregation from the business end of town and the more costly residential areas, the city's black citizens settled into the southern portion of the city. The popularity and profitability of the Acre declined and more derelicts and the homeless were seen on the streets. By 1900, most of the dance halls and gamblers were gone. Cheap variety shows and prostitution became the chief forms of entertainment. Some politicians sought reforms under the Progressive Era.
When oil began to gush in West Texas in the early 20th century, and again in the late 1970s, Fort Worth was at the center of the wheeling and dealing. In July 2007, advances in horizontal drilling technology made vast natural gas reserves in the Barnett Shale available directly under the city, helping many residents receive royalty checks for their mineral rights. Today, the city of Fort Worth and many residents are dealing with the benefits and issues associated with the natural-gas reserves underground