Sam HoustonThe first recorded encroachment into the Birdville vicinity occurred as early as the spring of 1840, when Captain Jonathan Bird and 20 three-month service Texas Rangers from Lamar and Red River Counties were sent into the frontier by General Sam Houston. Their mission was to establish a Fort, make the area safe for settlement, and guard the area from Indian attacks to the north and west. Bird's Fort was situated about twelve miles southeast of Birdville and six miles north of Arlington on the north bank of the Trinity where Calloway's Lake is located. A wooden blockhouse with trench defenses was constructed.
In 1841, General Edward R. Tarrant led a successful militia force against an Indian encampment at present-day Arlington in the Battle of Village Creek. Such action served notice to hostile tribes along the frontier that a peace treaty was advisable. General Houston, Indian Commissioners and several early settlers and trappers signed and witnessed a treaty at Bird's Fort on September 29, 1843, with the chiefs of nine tribes.
On June 6, 1849, Camp Worth was established by General Ripley A, Arnold and his troops nine miles west of Birdville on a bluff overlooking the confluence of the West Fork and the Clear Fork of the Trinity River. Named to honor Brigadier General William Jennings Worth, the new outpost offered welcome protection to fledgling settlements around Birdville and Denton until 1853, when the troops were sent to Fort Belknap. In 1949, Birdvillehad an estimated fifty people in town surrounded by scattered farms and ranches.
In an effort to obtain self-government, some one hundred area residents petitioned the State Legislature for a new county and elected temporary county officials and on December 20, 1849, the Texas Legislature created the new county, and called it Tarrant in honor of General E. H. Tarrant. Tarrant County consisted of parts of Navarro County and Peter's Colony.
Birdville area resident Ed Terrell offered his log cabin for an election polling site to choose the new county seat and to elect officers who would succeed the temporary persons appointed the preceding December, 1849. The election, on August 5, 1850, was won by Birdville. Tarrant County in 1850 had a population of 599 whites and 65 slaves, and covered 877 square miles.
The First Tarrant County Courthouse was a wood-frame structure located in the vicinity of the present-day Haltom High School Coliseum. An 80-acre tract, bounded by Walker, Carson and Broadway Streets, was donated by George Akers and William Norris in August, 1851, for the erection of county buildings. A plat of the new town drawn the same year depicts 12 city blocks, including a public square. Bonds valued at $17,000 were issued to insure completion of the construction work by W. S. Suggs and others. Bricks were collected and a foundation excavated. The first annual jury list drawn up at Birdville's temporary courthouse in 1855 by District Clerk William Quayle showed 280 men qualified to serve.
The permanent courthouse was never completed because in November, 1856, in a highly contested special election, Fort Worth won the county seat by a margin of three to thirteen votes (the official count varies). Jubilant Fort Worth citizens took the county records, equipment and furniture back to Fort Worth for deposit in their own temporary courthouse. All early Tarrant County records were later lost in a courthouse fire on March 29, 1876.
Colonel Albert G, Walker,, a Birdville resident, State Senator and founder of the Birdville Union, petitioned the State Legislature on his town's behalf to no avail in 1858. The issue of the county seat and the election was taken to the new Texas Supreme Court, which, having no precedent, let the election results stand. However, a new election was called in 1860.
Fort Worth, which had at that time a population of about 450, received 548 votes; a non-existent site at the center of the county received 301; and Birdville received 4 votes. Had Birdville retained its seat, chances are good that it would have attracted in the years ahead the population that made Fort Worth. The furor over the election cost several lives and the State of Texas about $30,000.
Birdville, until 1856, had the Monday county court sessions and the associated commercial benefits. It also had two newspapers, the Birdville Western Express, with John J. Courtney as its editor; and The Birdville Union, with Colonel A. G, Walker as its editor. Walker killed Courtney in a shoot-out stemming from disagreements concerning the elections and states' rights regarding slavery.
Old Birdville School - 1932Miss Alice Barkley at the age of fifteen served as Birdville Postmistress in 1866. The Birdville Post Office was discontinued on June 14, 1906, and rural service begun from Fort Worth.
Birdville may have had one of the first public tuition schools in the county with classes taught by Professor William A. Hudson in 1858. Professor Hudson taught Birdville pupils in an old wooden building and later in a three-room schoolhouse. By 1864, enough students attended to require two teachers, and by 1869-1870, three teachers were required. The Birdville School District was established in 1896. Today the district encompasses forty square miles, serving the cities of Haltom City, Richland Hills, North Richland Hills, Watauga and Hurst.
For more information on the area’s history, please visit www.birdvillehistory.org