Fort Worth is where the West begins, and nothing embodies Western heritage better than the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District. From the original brick walkways to the wooden corrals, every inch of the Stockyards tells the true history of Texas’s famous livestock industry.

A Most Texas City—Fort Worth

The tagline “Where the West Begins” has been capturing Fort Worth’s charm and amazing history for 100 years now.

Just 32 miles west of Dallas lies the second great city of metropolitan North Texas, Fort Worth. Yet, the vibe of these two cities of Dallas and Fort Worth could not be more distinct. Complete a private tour of Fort Worth and you will quickly discover that Fort Worth defines itself over and against its big brother city to the East, and with no small measure of sibling rivalry. Old-timers in “Cowtown,” as it is known to this day, will tell you with a twinkle in their eye that Fort Worth is the city where “the West begins.” Of course, that makes Dallas the city where “the East finally peters out.” From soon after their respective foundings, Dallas would indeed become largely oriented toward the business and financial centers back East and toward the proper societal norms of the Old South, while Fort Worth looked to the rugged West and the more homespun culture of frontier settlers, ranchers, and cattle drovers, more commonly known as cowboys.

Fort Worth was established in 1849 as a US army fort along the frontier of “Comancheria,” the vast plains inhabited by the fierce warriors and expertly skilled horsemen of the native Comanche tribe. The fort, as a military outpost was abandoned in less than 4 years as the frontier pushed farther and farther west. Local settlers immediately occupied the abandoned fort and the fledgling city of Fort Worth picked up where the military fort left off. The city struggled for survival in the early years and fell on especially hard times during and immediately following the Civil War. However, by the late 1860s a vast lucrative cattle enterprise would not only put the city on the map, but forever secure its place in the history and legendary folk lore of the American West.

Texas Longhorn cattle left behind by earlier generations of Spaniards and Mexicans had not only survived but thrived on the hot Texas prairie. These extremely fertile creatures bred like rabbits and were often found just roaming around here there and everywhere. Worth only a dollar or two in Texas, these hardy bovines were worth upwards of $40 to the meat-packers back east. The age of the great cattle drives was born. Since the railroads had not yet made it to Texas, The Longhorns would be driven up trails like the storied Chisholm trail running from south central Texas up through Fort Worth and on to the Oklahoma territory and all the way to rail-heads in Kansas where they could be shipped east.

Cattle drovers made darn good money for all that brutally hard work. With Fort Worth being the last stop on the long, lonely trail north, and the first major stop on the return trip south, ample enterprising Fort Worth establishments sprung up with the singular aim of separating a cowboy from his money. The plethora of saloons, gambling houses, and bordellos in one Fort Worth district would earn it the moniker, Hell’s Half Acre. Even after the railroads reached Fort Worth in the 1880s bringing the cattle drives to their logical end, the Acre lived on. Notorious outlaws the likes of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid and their hole in the Wall Gang would frequent Hell’s Half Acre. In 1887 Fort Worth’s most notorious gun fight would leave former Fort Worth Sheriff and protection racketeer, Long Hair Jim Courtright, dead. Courtright was out drawn by Luke Short the owner of the White Elephant Saloon and gambling house who didn’t take kindly to Courtright’s efforts to “shake him down” for protection money.

Both the history and the legends of old Fort Worth live on to this day at the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District. By the early 1900s the Fort Worth Stockyards and Livestock Exchange would bring not only thousands of head of cattle, but hogs and sheep to Fort Worth as well. Meatpackers like Swift and Armor would build huge processing plants on the grounds. The Stockyards National Historic District has preserved much of Fort Worth’s storied past while providing tourists and locals alike with no shortage of opportunities to “kick up their heels” and have a “Texas Good Time.” Whether you’re more interested in the twice daily cattle drives down the main street, enjoying a local craft beer at an authentic western saloon, or hitting the dance floor to do a little “Texas Two Step,” you have come to the right place. Combine your trip to the Stockyards with stops at downtown Fort Worth’s Sundance Square entertainment and shopping district, along with more modern attractions like the iconic Fort Worth Water Gardens, and you will have had yourself a full day of fun and adventure even by Texas standards.

So folks, what do you say you make plans now to hit the trail on your own private tour of this truly great Texas city?

Recommendations / Places to Visit

  • Book a Fort Worth Sightseeing Private Tour
  • Stockyards National Historic District
  • Sundance Square
  • Kimbell Art Museum
  • Sid Richardson Museum
  • The Nancy Lee and Perry R. Bass Performance Hall
  • Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth
  • Fort Worth Botanic Garden
  • Water Gardens

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