Fort Worth in 1886
The arrival of the railroad ushered in an era of astonishing growth for Fort Worth as migrants from the devastated South continued to swell the population and small, community factories and mills yielded to larger businesses. Newly dubbed “Queen City of the Prairies,” Fort Worth supplied a regional market via the growing transportation network. More smokestacks are evident in Henry Wellge’s 1886 view, which the editor of the Fort Worth Gazette called “the most accurate and complete drawing ever made of the city.” Depicted from the north or northeast, the view makes a stunning comparison to the village that artist D. D. Morse documented only a decade before.
By 1886 Fort Worth had realized the city fathers’ dream of becoming a rail hub, with a number of lines serving the city, including the Texas and Pacific Railway (1876); Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway (1880); Fort Worth and Denver City Railway (1881); Fort Worth and New Orleans Railway (1881); Gulf Colorado and Santa Fe Railway (1881); and the Fort Worth and Rio Grande Railway (1886), one of more than 330 predecessors to what is today the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway (BNSF). Appropriately, most of the smokestacks, marking flour mills or cotton gins and presses, are located along the tracks, including the Fort Worth Ice Company and Electric Light Station (24 on map) and William Annesser’s Roller Flour Mills (28) on the Missouri, Kansas, Texas line and Murray P. Bewley’s Anchor Mills (27) and the Fort Worth Machine and Boiler Works (23) on the T&P line. At least six locomotives may be seen puffing along the tracks, and the mule-drawn streetcars that ran between the downtown area and the train station are also shown. Many West Texas cities such as Abilene date their founding to the arrival of the railroad as it built west of Fort Worth, and this growing network increased the city’s potential as a regional distributor of all kinds of goods and merchandise, including in 1876–77 more than one million hides from West Texas buffalo hunters as the slaughter of the southern herd reached its peak.
Wellge showed that the city had spread beyond the T&P tracks on its southern edge to the prairie beyond. Two new bridges had been constructed over the Trinity River, brick buildings had replaced the wooden structures in the downtown area, and substantial homes had been built along Penn and Summit streets on the west side of town. Texas Wesleyan College (not to be confused with the present Texas Wesleyan University) is shown on Warren Street on the south side of town.