Birdville Historical Society
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Historical Markers

 

These markers are the ones in the Birdville community consisting of those in Haltom City, North Richland Hills, Richland Hills, Smithfield and Watauga.

 

 

 

Historical Buildings, Cemeteries, & Other Landmarks

 

Historical People

Historic Trails, Trees, Etc. 

 

 

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When the Rev. Greene Fretwell, a former slave, died in 1886, there was no black cemetery in this part of Tarrant County. With donations collected by his widow, Frances, the trustees of Trinity Chapel Methodist Church bought two acres in 1889 for a church and burial ground. Worship services were held under a brush arbor until a frame church was built here. By the 1920s, burials began on adjacent land, known as New Trinity Cemetery. Additional property was designated in 1931 as People's Burial Park. Today the three sites are commonly called New Trinity Cemetery.\r\n(This marker was placed here by the Texas Historical Commission in 1985. New Trinity is located in Haltom City.)
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The community of Birdville, named for pioneer Jonathan Bird, became the first seat of Tarrant County in 1851. It continued to hold that position until 1856, when an election changed the county seat to Fort Worth.\r\nLocated within the community, on this site know as Birdville Hill, was a school operated by Professor William E. Hudson. Named Birdville Academy, the school opened in 1858 and attracted students from Tarrant, Dallas, Parker, and Denton counties.\r\nThe school grew quickly from a one-room wooden building to larger facilities serving an increasing student population. By 1919 the need for additional room resulted in a bond election which authorized the erection of a new brick building adjacent to the original school site. In 1926 the Birdville Independent School District was incorporated, and additional school facilities were added to the property in later years.\r\nIn 1961 Birdville High School was renamed Haltom High after a second high school, Richland High, was opened. Still occupying the original Birdville School site, the school district now includes facilities throughout Haltom City and retains the Birdville name.\r\n(This marker was placed here by the Texas Historical Commission in 1989. The site of Pioneer Birdville School is in Haltom City and is occupied by Birdville ISD's H.D. Shannon Center and Administration Building.)
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Established in 1840 by Jonathan Bird on the military road from Red River to Austin. In its vicinity an important Indian treaty, marking the line between the Indians and the white settlements, was signed September 29, 1843 by Edward H. Tarrant and George W. Terrell, representing the Republic of Texas. The ragged remnant of the ill-fated snively expedition sought refuge here, August 6, 1843.\r\n(This marker was placed here by the State of Texas in 1936. The Bird's Fort site is located near Calloway's Lake between the cities of Euless and Arlington.)
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This church was organized by 12 charter members in 1895; the Rev. G.W. Green served as first pastor. A sanctuary was built here in 1902 on town lots donated by G.W. Gunter. The church supported area missions and organized a youth union, Sunday school, and Woman's Missionary Union. The congregation established Shady Grove Baptist Church in 1954. The church was renamed First Baptist Church of Smithfield in 1958. A new sanctuary was built in 1962 and several facilities were added over the years. The church serves the area with a variety of programs.\r\n(This marker was placed here by the Texas Historical Commission in the year of the Texas statehood sesquicentennial, 1995. Smithfield Baptist Church is located in North Richland Hills.)
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Eli Smith (1848 - 79), for whose family the town of Smithfield is named, came from Missouri to Texas about 1859. In the early 1870's he donated part of his farm for this cemetery. The oldest marked grave is that of Mattie J. Brownfield, who died on Oct. 13, 1872. More than seventy-five graves, including that of Eli Smith, date from the 1870's. Pioneer physician Lilburn Howard Colley (b. 1843), for whom nearby Colleyville is named, was interred here in 1924. Numerous Civil War veterans, including men from both the Union and Confederate armies, are also buried here.\r\n\r\n(This marker was placed here by the Texas Historical Commission in 1983 and Smithfield Cemetery is located in North Richland Hills.)
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This congregation can trace its history to October 25, 1888, when J.E. and Mary E. Turner deeded two lots of land in the new railroad town of Smithfield to Christian church trustees Uriah French, Lewis Jones, and Thomas Garrett. A one-room building was constructed on the property for worship services. Known as the Smithfield Church of Christ after a doctrinal split in the early 1900s, the congregation purchased property on this site in 1956, across the street from its original location, and completed a new building in 1960. Programs of study, worship and outreach continue to keep the Smithfield Church of Christ a significant part of the community's heritage.\r\n(This marker was placed here by the Texas Historical Commission in 2002. Smithfield Church of Christ is located in North Richland Hills.)
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Alfred M. Hightower came to Smithfield from Illinois with his family in 1858 and became a rancher. When the debate over secession arose, Hightower opposed it, but when the Civil War began, he sided with the South. As a mounted rifleman in the Confederate Army, Hightower fought in many battles, including Elkhorn Tavern (Pea Ridge) in Arkansas, one of the biggest battles west of the Mississippi. After the war, he relocated to Kansas during the 1870s, but returned here in 1880 and continued ranching until his death. Nearby Hightower Street is named in his honor.\r\n(This marker was placed here by the Texas Historical Commission in 1991 and it stands next to Hightower's grave at Smithfield Cemetery. Smithfield Cemetery is located in North Richland Hills.)
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A native of Pennsylvania, Archibald Franklin Leonard (1816 - 1876) moved to Missouri in the 1830s, where he married Mary Ann Foster (1822 - 1904) in 1839. In 1845, along with many of their neighbors, the Leonards migrated to Texas. Leonard was awarded land in the Peters Colony and settled near present-day Grapevine. Much of Grapevine's business and residential areas are sited on land once owned by him.\r\nArchibald Franklin Leonard's significant record of achievements in this part of the state includes active leadership in early area Baptist churches, along with Henry Clay Daggett, he opened the first civilian store in Fort Worth. After the creation of Tarrant County in 1849, Leonard was elected to the office of first county clerk. He later represented Tarrant and surrounding counties in the twelfth Texas Legislature.\r\nKnown as a prosperous businessman and farmer, A.F. Leonard helped lay out the town of Grapevine in 1855, two years after opening a mercantile store there. In 1856, he helped establish Leonard's Mill on the Trinity River around which a community developed and which later became known as Randol Mill. Leonard served as part of the home guard during the Civil War and died at his home in Birdville in 1876.\r\n(This marker was placed here by the Texas Historical Commission in the year of the Texas Sesquicentennial, 1986. It stands next to Leonard's grave at Birdville Cemetery. Birdville Cemetery is located in Haltom City.)\r\nBirdville Fact: The first official election in Tarrant County took place under a tree next to A.F. Leonard and H.C. Daggett's civilian store. This election took place in 1850 and it was voted that Birdville should be the first county seat of Tarrant County.
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A native of Kentucky, Riley Andrew Ransom studied medicine at Louisville National Medical College. Upon coming to Gainesville, Texas, during the early 1900s, he opened the Booker T. Washington Sanitarium. In 1918 Dr. Ransom moved the hospital to Fort Worth, where he served as chief surgeon until the facility closed in 1949. He is remembered for his community leadership and for his significant contributions to the development of health care in Fort Worth.\r\n(This marker was placed here by the Texas Historical Commission in 1985 and it stands next to Ransom's grave at New Trinity Cemetery in Haltom City.)
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A native of Missouri, Eli Smith moved to Texas in 1859 with his parents. They settled in this part of Tarrant County, and in 1868 Smith married Sarah J. Hightower. About 1876 Smith donated part of his farmland to the community, then known as Zion, for a Methodist church and cemetery. Residents of the area honored Smith for his generosity and community service by renaming the settlement Smithfield. Smith remained an active mason and a successful farmer until his sudden death shortly before his thirty-first birthday. He is buried at this site.\r\n(This marker was placed here by the Texas Historical Commission in 1984 and it stands next to Smith's grave at Smithfield Cemetery. Smithfield Cemetery is located in North Richland Hills. This marker is one of two honoring Eli Smith.)
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A native of Missouri, Eli Smith moved to Texas in 1859 with his parents. They settled in this part of Tarrant County and in 1868 Smith married Sarah J. Hightower. About 1876 Smith donated part of his farmland to the community, then known as Zion, for a Methodist church and cemetery. Residents of the area honored Smith for his generosity and community service by renaming the settlement Smithfield. Smith remained an active mason and a successful farmer until his sudden death shortly before his thirty-first birthday.\r\n(This marker was placed here in 1984 and is located in North Richland Hills. This marker is one of two markers honoring Eli Smith; the other marker is next to Smith's grave at Smithfield Cemetery and was placed there by the Texas Historical Commission in 1984.)
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In 1855 Benjamin F. Barkley, a Kentucky physician, with his wife Malinda Elizabeth Duncan (1827 - 1917) and their children settled on a farm at Birdville. There he practiced medicine, became a lawyer, and a charter member of Masonic Lodge No. 148 in Fort Worth. In 1856 Dr. Barkley tried unsuccessfully to keep the county seat at Birdville. As a republican leader, he spoke out against slavery and secession. Barkley was admired for donating land for Birdville's cemetery and participating in Indian campaigns, but his strong will and pro-union stand stirred anger in the area. He barely escaped death several times.\r\nBarkley treated wounded Confederate soldiers and aided their families despite his opposition to the Civil War, and served as local postmaster during the war.\r\nDuring reconstruction, Barkley headed the county registration board which denied the vote to former Confederate supporters, he was appointed county judge in 1867 and used federal troops to maintain order. With great courage he fought to protect the rights of the ex-slaves. He left office after democrats won all county offices in 1873, but remained active in law and medicine throughout North Texas for the remainder of his life.\r\n(This marker was placed here by the Texas Historical Commission in 1979 and it stands next to Barkley's grave at Birdville Cemetery. Birdville Cemetery is located in Haltom City.)
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To protect lands of the Republic of Texas for settlement, General Edward H. Tarrant commissioned Maj. Jonathan Bird to build a fort near Caddo Village on the West Fork of the Trinity River.\r\n\r\nMaj. Bird and 36 volunteers left Fort Inglish, later Bonham, in October 1841, and built a fort some three miles north of modern Arlington. They cleared a wagon trail from the fort, which was the first Anglo settlement in Tarrant County, back to Fort Inglish. Both the trail and the for were named for Maj. Bird, and shortly thereafter, some 20 families followed Bird's Fort Trail to the new settlement. The Beeman family from Illinois, which in 1842 resettled downriver at John Neely Bryan's Village, later Dallas, was among this group.\r\n\r\nSam Houston, President of the Republic, traversed Bird's Fort Trail via Grapevine Spring during August/September 1843, to negotiate with several Indian tribes. Subsequently, "A treaty of peace and friendship" was signed September 29, 1843, at Bird's Fort and became the best observed of all Indian treaties in Texas.\r\n\r\nBird's Fort Trail followed this ridge, from which the Boy Scouts of America National Headquarters overlooks the Grapevine Prairie and modern Irving.\r\n\r\n(This marker was placed here by the Irving Heritage Society along with the Boy Scouts of America in 1990 and stands in a courtyard in front of the Boy Scouts of America National Headquarters in Irving.)
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Henry Clay Daggett & Archibald Franklin Leonard Established a trading post on this site in 1849. The first election in Tarrant County was held under this tree in 1850 and Birdville voted the first county seat. (This historic tree is located at Trader's Oak Park in Fort Worth.)