Friday, September 2, 2016

Where, oh where is Birdville?

Almost every Saturday morning, a group of the Near-Normal Travelers meets for breakfast.
One of the oldest stores in Haltom City
Most of the time we go back to our one or two favorite places; these places are not over-crowded, particularly expensive, noisy, or gifted with surly waitresses. This weekend, however, we wanted to explore a place that has a rather intriguing reputation, so off we went to Haltom City. There’s not much information easily accessible about the history of Haltom City. Evidently it came into existence sometime around World War II when the war industry plants were built near Fort Worth. It was incorporated in 1950 and now has not only residences, but light industry and manufacturing. Interestingly, Haltom City is home to one of the oldest cemeteries in the area.


We did find information about two historical markers in Haltom City and they led us to New Trinity Cemetery. This cemetery began in 1886 when former slave, Reverend Greene
Top L to R: WWII Veteran, WWI Veteran
Bottom L to R: Stone from 1914, Historical Marker
Fretwell, died. There was no cemetery for African Americans in that part of Tarrant County so Mrs. Frances Fretwell, the Reverend’s widow, raised enough money to purchase two acres of land. It is here that Fretwell Cemetery and a small church were established. The original cemetery needed to be expanded, so in the 1920s adjacent land was purchased; this was referred to as the New Trinity Cemetery.  In 1931 more property was acquired and that section was named the People’s Burial Park. Currently these three cemeteries are called New Trinity Cemetery. There are several hundred souls laid to rest here, many of whom are veterans of World Wars I and II, and Masons. Also interred here is the founder of the first hospital for African Americans in Fort Worth, Dr. Riley Andrew Ransom. Next to his marker is the second Texas Historical Marker; it commemorates Dr. Ransom’s life. We were sad to see that there were lots of unmarked and damaged tombs; it was also obvious that while general mowing takes place occasionally, this graveyard need more complete care.


Children in Haltom City attend Birdville Independent School District. And this raises the
Phlox
question, just where is the town of Birdville and why does it have such a large school district? Unlike Haltom City, Birdville does have a written history. The first recorded settlement was in 1840 and was actually the predecessor to the establishment of a fort to protect the frontier from Indians. General Sam Houston sent Captain Jonathan Bird and 20 inexperienced Texas Rangers to build Bird's Fort on the north bank of the Trinity River. On September 29, 1843, some two years after the establishment of Bird’s Fort and several encounters with hostile tribes, General Houston along with Indian Commissioners, some early settlers, and a few trappers met with the Chiefs of Nine Tribes to sign a peace treaty. The troops at Bird’s Fort got added help in patrolling the area some six years later in the form of the establishment of Camp Worth. Troops remained there, eventually creating Fort Worth, until 1853 when they were sent to yet another dangerous outpost, Fort Belknap.


By 1850 the settlement had about 100 residents. These folks petitioned the state to create a new county which they named in honor of General E. H. Tarrant. The county boundaries at
Site of first Tarrant Count Courthouse
this time encompassed some 877 square miles. Birdville won the election and was named the county seat. A temporary court house was built while the city fathers obtained land, re-drew a map of the town and raised money to construct a brick court building. However, a permanent building was never erected because a special election in 1856, orchestrated by folks living in Fort Worth, over turned the previous decision (perhaps by as little as three votes) and the county seat was moved to its present location. All the records, equipment, and furniture were moved into a temporary building in Fort Worth. This election was contested over the next four years, costing several lives and about $30,000 in court costs. Ironically, all of these early records were lost in a fire that destroyed the courthouse building in 1876. Without the attraction of the county seat, businesses started to move out of the area and eventually the population fell to such a low level that other towns simply took over Birdville’s land area. By 1906 the Birdville Post Office had been discontinued with Fort Worth picking up the rural service. However, the Birdville School District was founded in 1896 and it has continued through today. Now the district covers 40 square miles, serving students from Haltom City, Hurst, North Richland Hills, Richland Hills, and Watauga. At the Birdville ISD administration complex is a small museum that tells the story of Birdville and has pictures from the early days.

Three and one-half carrots
Bluebonnet Café (2223 Haltom Rd, Haltom City, TX 76117, 817-834-4988) is a quirky place
Left T to B: Menu, Chicken fried steak and eggs, Bacon, eggs, grits
and biscuit
Center T to B: Coca-Cola Christmas, Coca-Cola wall
Right: Eggs, pork chop and grits
that, according to the regulars there, has been on that site forever. We got there around 9:30AM and were one of the last groups to be seated that didn’t have to wait. And speaking of places to sit, evidently there are some folks who will only sit in a particular server’s section so we got to watch a lot of jockeying for prime positions. Not only does this restaurant serve a broad cross-section of the Texas population, it also serves a lot of antique folks, as well. I hadn’t seen women with their hair in braided coronets in probably 20 years, but they were at this café. The rooms are also a step back in time; we were in the Coca Cola room, but behind us was the Elvis room and there were more rooms literally filled with memorabilia celebrating actors and singers of the 1950s. Our waitress was well equipped to deal with our nonsense and seemed to enjoy our sense of humor – always a good thing. The food was in much larger portions than I expected when I looked at the prices. Dave and I had large cups of very good, hot coffee. Dave and Andi had two eggs, pork chops and grits. Steve had a chicken fried steak and eggs. I had bacon, eggs and grits. These meals came with huge, fluffy, light biscuits and bowls of gravy. Although the place was jumping, our meal came out in a timely manner and it was correct. Everything was tasty, although both Andi and Dave said that while the pork chop was okay, they will try something different the next time we come. Steve and I were entirely satisfied with our meals. We all agreed that the biscuits were wonderful and that the gravy was good. While I was watching what other folks were eating, I spied the sticky bun; it came out steaming and would have fed at least two people. The order of biscuits and gravy came with three biscuits and a soup bowl of gravy; the woman at the next table looked at me and said, ‘I think I miscalculated the amount I can eat.’ We’ll be going back to this unique restaurant.


For information about my rating system, see Reading the Reviews.
Old tree
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