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Fort Worth Characters

Richard F. Selcer

Publication Year: 2009

Fort Worth history is far more than the handful of familiar names that every true-blue Fort Worther hears growing up: leaders such as Amon Carter, B. B. Paddock, J. Frank Norris, and William McDonald. Their names are indexed in the history books for ready reference. But the drama that is Fort Worth history contains other, less famous characters who played important roles, like Judge James Swayne, Madam Mary Porter, and Marshal Sam Farmer: well known enough in their day but since forgotten. Others, like Al Hayne, lived their lives in the shadows until one, spectacular moment of heroism. Then there are the lawmen, Jim Courtright, Jeff Daggett, and Thomas Finch. They wore badges, but did not always represent the best of law and order. These seven plus five others are gathered together between the covers of this book. Each has a story that deserves to be told. If they did not all make history, they certainly lived in historic times. The jury is still out on whether they shaped their times or merely reflected those times. Either way, their stories add new perspectives to the familiar Fort Worth story, revealing how the law worked in the old days and what life was like for persons of color and for women living in a man’s world. As the old TV show used to say, “There are a million stories in the ‘Naked City.’” There may not be quite as many stories in Cowtown, but there are plenty waiting to be told—enough for future volumes of Fort Worth Characters. But this is a good starting point.

Published by: University of North Texas Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. iii

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pp. v-vi

This book would not have happened without some very important people. At the top of the list must be Shirley Apley, “the Goddess” of the Genealogy, Local History, and Archives Unit of the Fort Worth Public Library. More than a goddess, Shirley is a wizard at genealogical research. ...

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pp. 1-4

The twelve people in this book are not counted among Fort Worth’s Finest. But neither are they all scoundrels and ne’er-do-wells. They are mostly people who slipped through the cracks of Fort Worth history. Our city has more than its share of larger-than-life figures, although for some odd reason we have never put up statues to them: ...

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Chapter 1: The Curious Story of Brevet Major Ripley Arnold

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pp. 5-30

As the American frontier marched westward in the nineteenth century, a number of obscure, even junior-grade Army officers would make their marks on history. For instance, Fort Worth, Texas, was named for Major General William Jenkins Worth; Dodge City, Kansas, for Major General Grenville Dodge; ...

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Chapter 2: Legendary Marshal Timothy Isaiah Courtright

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pp. 31-58

“Longhair Jim” Courtright is remembered in Fort Worth history for his tonsorial style—à la Wild Bill Hickok—and one legendary gunfight, which he lost. But there was far more to the man than the twodimensional figure of legend. Large swaths of Courtright’s personal life and career are unknown. ...

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Chapter 3: Hagar Tucker: Fort Worth’s First Black Policeman

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pp. 59-66

Before I. M. Terrell and “Gooseneck Bill” McDonald there was Hagar Tucker, Fort Worth’s first black citizen of note. The first two were exemplary gentlemen, Terrell as an educator and McDonald as a businessman-politician. Tucker made his mark as a lawman, or more specifically, a “special policeman” with ...

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Chapter 4: Marshal Sam Farmer: Fort Worth’s First Professional Peace Officer

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pp. 67-87

Sam Farmer was a man of principle. Sam Farmer was a scoundrel. Sam Farmer was a dedicated lawman. Sam Farmer was a slacker. He was all of these depending on which aspect of his life and career one chooses to focus on. Like so many Western lawmen (see Jim Courtright), Sam Farmer’s character had its dark side. ...

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Chapter 5: Al Hayne: The People’s Hero

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pp. 88-106

Today, practically anyone born and raised in Fort Worth knows who Al Hayne was: the celebrated Hero of the Texas Spring Palace. But much of what they think they know is wrong. Hayne is described in various sources as a Welshman, a Canadian, and a fireman, none of which he was. ...

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Chapter 6: The Strange Case of Maggie Tewmey

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pp. 107-130

On a blustery winter afternoon in January 1893, Margaret Tewmey set out from her downtown home to give a regularly scheduled music lesson. She wore an old flannel dress over a gray woolen underskirt and pulled a black woolen cloak tight around her to keep out the cold. Atop her head perched a nondescript hat with a silk veil, ...

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Chapter 7: Black Sheep Jeff Daggett

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pp. 131-148

Jeff Daggett was bad news his whole life, from his unwelcome birth in 1863 to his unfortunate end fifty-four years later in a hail of bullets in the Tarrant County Courthouse. He was born in 1863 on the plantation of Captain Ephraim M. Daggett, remembered as the Father of Fort Worth. His mother was Matilda Smith, ...

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Chapter 8: Quanah Parker: Fort Worth’s Adopted Native Son

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pp. 149-173

In the heart of the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District stands a statue of legendary Comanche Chief Quanah Parker. It is fitting that the statue stands in front of a hotel because Quanah himself was never more than a visitor to Fort Worth. He never resided here, did not have family roots here, and visited the city only rarely ...

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Chapter 9: Wayward Policeman Thomas Finch

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pp. 174-189

There is a big difference between dying while a police officer and dying in the line of duty. Ever since 9/11 there has been a wave of popular sentiment nationally to honor fallen peace officers, including those who died decades ago and have been forgotten. Thomas Finch was a commissioned, badge-wearing Niles City policeman ...

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Chapter 10: Crazy Mary Rea: A Real “Corker”

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pp. 190-203

Every family has a black sheep, and the Rea family of Fort Worth was no exception. The Reas were known as a family of lawmen, marshals, and sheriffs. Then there was Mary Rea, who was only related by marriage, but still, she wore the family name and that was all that mattered. She was an embarrassment to the family ...

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Chapter 11: Madam Mary Porter: Mary, Mary Quite Contrary

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pp. 204-219

Few people have ever heard of Mary Porter, although many think they have. That is because Mary is usually confused with Fannie Porter, the notorious San Antonio madam who became famous as the consort of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. In the 1970 documentary “The Making of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” ...

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Chapter 12: James W. Swayne: Straight-arrow Judge

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pp. 220-235

A Southern lawyer who also happened to be a man of high principle. A friend of the black man and defender of black civil rights when doing so was the exception rather than the rule. This could be a description of Atticus Finch, the fictional hero of Harper Lee’s bestselling 1960 novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, ...


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pp. 236-268


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pp. 269-276


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pp. 277-288

E-ISBN-13: 9781574413588
Print-ISBN-13: 9781574412741

Page Count: 296
Illustrations: 43 b&w illus.
Publication Year: 2009

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Subject Headings

  • Fort Worth (Tex.) -- History -- 19th century -- Biography -- Anecdotes.
  • Fort Worth (Tex.) -- History -- 20th century -- Biography -- Anecdotes.
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