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100th Anniversary of James and Mattie Fielder's Initial Acquisition of What Became the 217-Acre Fielder Farm

On 25 Feb 1910, James Park Fielder bought 76.6 acres of land in the northwest corner of the Owen Medlin Survey just west of Arlington. This turned out to be the initial purchase of what eventually became the 216.6-acre Fielder Farm.

Eleven days after that initial land purchase, on 8 Mar 1910, James and Mattie Fielder sold a ten-acre strip along the east edge of the tract (along both sides of what is now Elliott Avenue) to Joe A. Elliott, who filed a plat for the Elliott Addition to Arlington on the land on 19 May 1910. The Elliott Addition was the first subdivision in what has since become the Oak Hill neighborhood. It would appear that these transactions are all part of a plan; this article will attempt to give the rest of the story.

Mollie Gee is the key figure. Willoughby P. Gee brought his family (first wife Mary Ann, and daughters Nancy, Bettie, and Margaret) from Columbia County, Arkansas, to a farm near Johnson Station after the end of the Civil War. However, Mary Ann died in 1873 at the age of 48. Willoughby returned to Arkansas to marry (on 6 Jan 1876) Mrs. Mollie Tye, herself recently widowed, no doubt needing help raising three daughters while farming.

Mollie Gee, Willoughby’s new wife, purchased 60 acres in the northwest corner of the Owen Medlin Survey on 2 Sep 1876, the deed styled “to Mollie Gee, her heirs, and W. P. Gee, his heirs.” She also bought a 30-acre wooded lot on the hilltop diagonally northwest, in the W. W. Warnell Survey, followed by 45 acres immediately east of the 60 acres she already owned. Thus, by 1890 she owned all the land on the south side of West Abram Street from Fielder Road to South Davis Drive (using present names). The Sam Street Map of Tarrant County in 1893 shows the home there, identified “Gee,” roughly opposite where the Masonic Home was later built to the north. Willoughby and Mollie Gee were recorded there in the 1900 census, the daughters having married and moved away.

However, Willoughby died at home “one mile west of town” on 18 Apr 1904 without a will. Needing income, Mollie began selling lots of two and four acres each along West Abram Street at the east end of the 105 acres she owned there. In doing so, she set aside land in 1906 for a road of 50 feet width running south from Abram Street to give access to the interior land to be sold later. This was the first lane into what is now the Oak Hill neighborhood; it later became known as Sunset Court.

Soon one of her buyers attempted to resell his lot, whereupon the deed was questioned on account of the omission of the heirs of W. P. Gee from the deed. Under Texas community property laws, they had been part owners of the land. This conflict would also prevent her from making any further sales. She tried to clear up the deficiency by an affidavit filed in 1905 that “the 45 acres of land… was bought with her own individual money, part of said money being an inheritance, the rest accruing from her own means.” This did not suffice.

Joe A. and Eliza M. (Collins) Elliott lived on the hill in the W. W. Warnell Survey very close to Mollie's wooded 30 acres. Joe Elliott’s family had moved out west to Merkel, Texas to ranch but soon came back to Arlington, possibly because of dust storms, because the cattle all froze, or perhaps to be closer to the numerous Collins and Elliott kin. He was ready to try real estate development and probably being aware of his neighbor Mollie's difficulties at that time, told J. P. Fielder about it. Thus Joe Elliott would eventually be privileged to buy ten acres for the Elliott Addition from Fielder “for $10 and other valuable considerations.”

James Park Fielder was an LLB graduate of Vanderbilt University and had briefly practiced law in Alvarado when he first came to Texas. He gave up the bar (both kinds) when he married Mattie Barnes, and thereafter was engaged in business, banking, and farming. He did continue to use his legal knowledge when making land deals. It can be assumed that he suggested a “friendly” lawsuit to the Gee family for the purpose of clearing the land title. The Court ordered that Mollie should receive 30 acres in her own name and share title in the remainder with the Gee heirs for her lifetime. The disposition of the remaining 75 acres, actually 76.6 acres when resurveyed, had already been agreed between Mollie, her three step-daughters and their husbands. It was sold to J. P. Fielder, the master of the events, for $10,100, to be divided among the members of the Gee family in a way that was not disclosed.

So Mollie Gee got the 30 acres of land she chose, at the southwest corner of the intersection of West Abram Street and South Davis Drive. She had to take that acreage in order to clear titles that she had already sold. Joe Elliott soon got his ten acres from J. P. Fielder and platted the Elliott Addition. J. P. and Mattie Fielder had the 66.6 acres in the northwest corner of the Owen Medlin Survey, and soon began building the Fielder House now at 1616 West Abram Street (it was finished in 1914). J. P. Fielder later acquired 150 more acres adjoining on the south and reaching to what is now Park Row, which made the Fielder farm 216.6 acres when fully developed. The Fielder House is now, of course, the home of the Arlington Historical Society.