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Arlington's First Property Owners - 1876 (Part 4 of 5)

There were 22 persons who were original purchasers of lots in the new town of Arlington, from the first auction by the T & P Railway Co. on July 26, 1876, through to the end of 1876. The names of all of these persons were shown in a table in the first installment of this article. In previous issues, we covered the lot purchases of those persons who purchased lots in the western portion of the new town, i.e., on the west side of South Center Street, and on West Main Street. Part 4 will describe purchasers of lots in the eastern portion of the new town, what the buyers did with these lots, and what subsequently happened.

W.W. McNatt

W. W. McNatt bought three Arlington lots on July 28, 1876: lot 1 block 19 on East Main Street (100 block) at the southwest corner with Mesquite Street and lot 1 block 50, the latter a residential lot on South Mesquite Street. McNatt also purchased lot 3 block 48 on the west side of the 100 block of South Center Street, but we have already seen (in Part 2) what became of his lot 3/48, sold to Mrs. Eager and ending up as part of the Ditto and Rose enterprise.

Within the year, McNatt negotiated purchase of 151 acres outside the town at its southeast corner, which led to several impacts on the future of Arlington. Later he bought town lot 3/19 on East Main Street two doors west of the store which was his main legacy (previously mentioned).

In the 1870 census McNatt lived in Union County, Arkansas, with Dianne and three children. He was a dry goods merchant with an estate of $6,200. Handy H. McKinley and his family lived nearby. The family story is that McNatt brought the family here by covered wagon with the intent of establishing a mercantile business and livery stable. He did that, and more.

The hardware store was built on the north half of lot 1 block 19 on the south side of East Main Street at the southwest corner with Mesquite. The business was successful and drew attractive offers for which it was sold, several times. Buyers usually sold it back after several months or a year. D. M. Thomas bought it in January 1878, sold the front half to Daniel R. Monk and John W. Cook in March as one half of a lot with improvements. They sold it back to W. W. McNatt in July, described as having a "store house" known as McNatt's Store. Now, we would call that branded. It was back in his hands from July 1879 to November 1884, when it was sold to James T. McKinley, one of the sons of Handy McKinley, whose troop had followed the McNatts to Texas. In the deed it was described as the store house of McNatt and McKinley. The store was later operated by Jesse S. McKinley for years.

The lot two doors west (lot 3/19) became the livery stable. It was sold by the T & P to David M. Thomas and C. H. Norvell in February, 1877. W. W. McNatt bought it in 1878 and operated it until 1887. A livery stable was an asset to a town and a convenience to business, if well kept. Advertisements in the Arlington Journal for August 20, 1897 featured the line "McKinley and McNatt sell stoves, ranges, saddles and harness."

The residential lot 1/50 that W. W. McNatt bought from the T & P was on South Mesquite near downtown. It is not clear that they built a house there, since it was sold to S. S. Ramsey for $100 on April 10, 1878.

On July 28, 1876 while the T & P land sale was going on, S. S. Ramsey signed a Bond for Title to W. W. McNatt pledging to sell him a tract of land consisting of 151.52 acres and lot 3/99 in the town. The deed signed on December 21, 1876 for $3,000 described this tract of farm land in the John Huitt survey which we could now say runs south on Mary Street from Abram Street to the southeast corner of the townsite and west along Border Street from the corner to South Center Street, extending from there roughly to Mitchell Street on the south and nearly to Collins Street to the east. S. S. Ramsey had obtained it in 1869 at a sale on the courthouse steps by "M. J. Brinson and John Peter Smith, Administrators of the estate of Middleton Tate Johnson and Vienna Johnson, deceased." In 1883 W. W. McNatt donated the southeast corner of the tract to the City of Arlington for a cemetery. That is now the oldest part of Arlington Cemetery. W. W. McNatt and Dianna are buried in Arlington Cemetery, along with eight others with the McNatt surname.

W. W. McNatt also platted the McNatt Addition to Arlington, south of Border Street between Center Street and Mary Street, much of it redeveloped now.

N. H. Gammage

Nathan Hamilton Gammage bought lot 1/49 on the east side of Center Street, south of Main Street, for $75. In the 1870 census he was a 20 year old farmer living in Conway County, Arkansas, married to Sarah and with an estate worth $240. His father Floyd Gammage with his family was next door.

N. H. Gammage sold the "land lots and property" to his father, still in Arkansas, for $200 on January 19, 1878. Evidently, he had run up a debt to Dallas merchants T. L. Marsalis and W. C. Howard, who sued and got a court order that resulted in a sale of the property on the courthouse steps on May 7, 1878 at which Marsalis and Howard were the high bidders, winning the property for $36.

In 1880 the Gammage family consisted of N. H., Sarah 'Sallie,' her mother Jane Procter and John Price, 21 years old, living in Arlington. Their neighbors were grocer Thomas B. Collins and shoemaker J. P. Clark and their families. N. H. Gammage was a locomotive fireman.

By some means, Floyd Gammage recovered the property and sold it to J. W. Ditto for $100 on February 16, 1898.

J. P. Smith

John Peter Smith, who preferred to be called Peter Smith, is well known to us today from the name of the large general hospital in Fort Worth. However, he was important to the development of Fort Worth in many ways, and contributed to Arlington. A native of Kentucky and well schooled in that region, he came to Fort Worth in 1853. He opened the first school there in the building that had served as the hospital of the abandoned U. S. Army fort, learned to survey, and read law. When the issue of Texas secession from the Union came up beginning in 1860, he, along with Middleton Tate Johnson and some others from Tarrant County, opposed it. However, once secession happened, he went into Confederate service and became Colonel of a cavalry unit. After the war, he married, promoted a school in the Masonic Hall and qualified to practice law, which was useful in banking and real estate, which became his principal activities.

When his old friend Middleton Tate Johnson died in 1866, Peter Smith and M. J. Brinson were co-executors of the great estate, which included extensive farm tracts around Arlington as well as many blocks of Fort Worth. He also dealt with Arlington land on his own account, exemplified by participating in ownership of the 20 acre tract in the northeast corner of the John Huitt survey between McNatt's land, the cemetery and Collins Street. It passed from J. W. Ditto à J. P. Smith (1876) à Abram Harris (1877) à James T. McKinley (1884).

Peter Smith bought lots 2-3/49 on the east side of Center Street and 2/50 on South Mesquite Street in the land sale on July 28, 1876. Clearly these were investments and he would have made a timely sale thereafter.

Eastern Portion of 1900 Sanborn-Perris Map (Block numbers are in bold—4, 5, 19, 20, 49, and 51) (Lot numbers are at the foot/front of each lot)

J. D. Cooper

James Daniel Cooper was born in Crawfordsville, Georgia, moved to Alabama with his parents, clerked and then owned a store. He married Luna Dickson and in 1870 they were in Dadesville, Alabama with two young sons and he reported to the census an estate of $3700. They came to Dallas in 1874 and two years later moved to 400 acres of unbroken prairie in Tarrant County to farm about four miles southeast of Arlington on the Dallas County line.

On July 28, 1876 he bought Arlington lot 4/49 on the east side of South Center Street for $62. He sold it unimproved to J. W. Elkins and J. P. Clark for $75 on February 16, 1877. Clark sold his half interest to W. C. Smith for $90 on September 21 in the same year, the price indicating that improvements had been made. The other half-share went to J. W. Hightower and then to W. C. Smith for $100 on February 5 1878. Clearly, this location was paying off.

Wife Luna (Dickson) Cooper died in 1879 and in the 1880 census J. D. Cooper was living with their four sons and an employed housekeeper on the farm in Precinct 7, Tarrant County.

Early in his time in Tarrant County J. D. Cooper bought several large farms. He tended to hang on to them and owned a total of 963 acres at the time Luna died. He settled with sons William D. and James N. Cooper for their share of community property by a division of some of this land.

He bought smaller tracts when they were available on the near west side of Arlington, accumulating 145 acres in the O. Medlin survey immediately west of Cooper Street. Most of that he sold as one or two acre homestead lots to individuals but also sold two larger tracts for the establishment of the Berachah Rescue Society Home for homeless, unmarried and often pregnant young women. These were 7 acres in 1901 and 20 acres in 1906.

For his own homestead he bought 5⅝ acres in the northwest corner of the John Huitt survey, now the southeast corner of the intersection of West Abram and Cooper Streets, for $1200 in 1882. The Cooper House was a landmark characterized by four large columns at the entrance porch. He brought his new wife Mary Frances Caroline Thomas, daughter of pioneer William S. Thomas, to live there and raise two more sons. The house itself would eventually be moved to Willis Street near Meadowbrook Park and serve for a time as the Arlington Public Library. After that it became the base for the Arlington Woman's Club until it burned as a result of arson in 1998.

James D., Luna D., and Mary T. Cooper and descendants are buried in Arlington Cemetery.21 J. D. Cooper’s great grandson, Cooper Neil Tucker (1932-2010) was President of the Arlington Historical Society for some four years, starting in 1999. Neil’s wife, Becky Tucker, is currently on the Board of the Historical Society.

L. T. Fort

Laban Taylor Fort bought lot 6 in block 19 for $93.75 on December 12, 1876. It is on the south side of East Main Street in the middle of the first block. The deed said "in the town of Arlington" rather than Johnson, showing that the railroad acted on that change before the U. S. Postal Service did. Fort had just arrived in Tarrant County along with his son John S. Fort and daughter Margaret A. Fort. They came from Kentucky, where Laban at age 64 had an estate worth $8000 reported in the 1870 census. Family tradition is that they stayed in Sherman, Texas for three weeks before continuing to Arlington. This may be the clearest case of a family being attracted by the opportunity that the railroad and the new town provided. However, they put down roots. John married Sarah Sallie Watson and lived to the age of 94, known then as "Uncle Johnnie."

Laban sold the Main Street lot to N. V. Kinkle of Dallas for $100 on November 11, 1887. He and daughter Margaret are buried at Johnson Station Cemetery. John and his family are in the Watson Cemetery.

W. A. Bledsoe

Willis A. Bledsoe bought lot 1 block 4 and lot 6 block 20 on December 2, 1876 for $232.50. He was said to be a resident of Tarrant County but he and several other members of his family who became early businessmen and residents of Arlington came from Dallas County.

In the 1860 census, Willis, wife Pamela Jane and baby daughter Lala were in Lancaster, Dallas County, where he was a 28 year old grocer. In 1870 they were in Precinct 2 where he got his mail at the Dallas post office and was occupied at "running mill," reporting an estate worth $6500. At that time, his father Abram Bledsoe and most of the family were in Austin where Abe was State Comptroller from 1870-1874 in the reconstruction government of Edmund J. Davis.

Lot l/4 is a business lot on East Main Street in the northwest corner of the intersection with Mesquite Street. Diagonally across that intersection, 6/20 is a residential lot facing East Main Street. After the two town lots, the next land acquisition in Tarrant County was 60 acres in the L. Randel survey about two miles west of Johnson Station for $75 on July 3, 1877. This was a result of a Constable's sale on the courthouse steps after the owners defaulted on a debt to Willis Bledsoe. The 1880 census counted his family there in Tarrant County Precinct 7 near Johnson Station, a miller 48 years old and a native of Missouri. In a list of "other pioneers" he is said to have operated a flour mill on South Center Street producing "Rise and Shine Flour," presumably at a later time.

Willis's brothers and sisters were connected to Arlington families, businesses and public service. Betsy George Bledsoe married Thomas Spruance, businessman in Johnson Station and then Arlington, postmaster in 1886. Moses Bledsoe followed the same trail to become an Arlington grocer, Mayor, and briefly postmaster in 1889. Isaac C. Bledsoe was a saloon keeper in 1880. Willis' daughter "Lollie" married R. W. McKnight who was in business with Ditto and Yates, a grocer, cotton trader and banker.

Far from selling Arlington property, W. A. Bledsoe continued buying more, acquiring seven additional residential lots by the end of 1878. These included lots 4 and 5 in block 20, on which in combination with lot 6 he apparently built a large home on the oversize tract. Willis and Jane Bledsoe are buried in Arlington Cemetery.

Read Part 5