Established as an army outpost in 1849, Fort Worth, Texas, is known as “Cowtown" for its cattle drive history. Located along the Trinity River where millions of cattle were herded on the Chisholm Trail, Fort Worth calls itself the "place where the West begins."
Along the Chisholm Trail
On June 6, 1849, Mexican-American War hero General William Jenkins Worth, established a camp on the bank of the Trinity River to protect settlers from Native Americans, and the fort became his namesake. In August 1849, Major Ripley S. Arnold was ordered to move Camp Worth to the north-facing bluff which overlooked the mouth of the Clear Fork. The United States War Department officially named the post Fort Worth on November 14, 1849.
Because of its proximity to the Chisholm Trail and convenience to Midwestern markets, transportation and communication played a key role in Fort Worth’s growth. The Yuma Stage Line made Fort Worth its eastern terminus for Yuma, Arizona, and the Texas and Pacific Railway made the town its eastern terminus for San Diego, California, during the 1870s. When the Pacific Railway connected to Fort Worth in 1876, the Fort Worth Stockyards were transformed into a prized livestock center.
During the wild era of cattle drives that passed through Fort Worth, gambling parlors, saloons, and bakeries sprang up around town and became known as “Hell’s Half Acre." The city continues to celebrate its wild west heritage and is currently referred to as “Funkytown" by urbanites from neighboring Dallas.
Into the 20th Century
During World War I, the U.S. Army established Camp Bowie, which trained 100,000 men in Fort Worth. Located in the Arlington Heights area west of Dallas, the United States Army Air Force converted three airfields into training centers for aviation activities at Camp Bowie. When oil was discovered in Texas, such refinery and pipeline companies as Sinclair Refining Company, Texaco, and Humble Oil and Refining Company (later Exxon Company, U.S.A.) established operations there, it led to the establishment of oil stock exchanges in Fort Worth.
Fort Worth’s cultural life and higher learning centers
Fort Worth has established itself as a center for higher education offering students such institutions as Texas Christian University, Texas Wesleyan University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth, and the Fort Worth campus of the University of Texas at Arlington.
Many interesting museums, as well as cultural and historic centers, exist and flourish in Fort Worth, including the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History/Omni Theater, which is one of the largest science and history museums in the Southwest, and “The Modern," formerly known as the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Considered a “temple of modern art," the Modern showcases contemporary American and European art from 1945 to the present.
Celebrating the history of the area is the Texas Civil War Museum, which contains the largest collection of Civil War artifacts west of the Mississippi River. For a history of World War II flyers, the Vintage Flying Museum offers a unique view of that era with 20 WWII aircraft on exhibit. Exhibiting the contributions women made to the taming of the American West is the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame. This museum is one of a kind and dedicated to displaying examples of the pioneering spirit and remarkable courage women showed during their trailblazing undertakings. The hall of fame has inducted such significant women as Sacagawea, Annie Oakley, Laura Ingalls Wilder, and former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.
Fort Worth contains many other interesting and culturally diverse activities for visitors. Among those are the Fort Worth Zoo, which opened in 1909 and is the oldest continuous zoo site in Texas; Fort Worth Water Gardens, which is known as “cooling oasis in the concrete jungle" of downtown; Six Flags Over Texas Amusement Park* in nearby Arlington; and the Fort Worth Opera. The stockyard's National Historic District, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, has a rodeo and the world’s only daily cattle drive on its 125 acres. NASCAR and IRL IndyCar racing, along with every other major form of American car racing, is held at the Texas Motor Speedway where driving classes are open to the public. Speeds of up to 150 mph can be easily reached by student drivers.
Sporting activities in Fort Worth include NCAA football at the Fort Worth Bowl, professional baseball, hockey, and two basketball teams. The Fort Worth Flyers, founded in 2005, are a D-League team that plays at the Fort Worth Convention Center and the Fort Worth Sparklers, from the ABA league, play at the Blue Line Arena. Founded in 2001, the Fort Worth Cats play their games at the LaGrave Field and is a member of an independent minor league.
*The six flags that have flown over Texas during its long history are France in 1684, Spain from 1690 to 1821, Mexico from 1824 through 1846, the Lone Star since 1846, the 28-star U.S. flag in 1846, and the first Confederate flag in 1861.