Updated by Norris Chambers
The history of White Settlement dates back to the earliest days of the Texas Republic. Soon after his election to the presidency of the Republic of Texas in September of 1836, Sam Houston attempted to increase land values by encouraging immigration to Texas. A General Land Office was established in 1837 for the purpose of granting large tracts of land to those who would homestead it. The "Homestead Law" was passed to guarantee that the land could not be taken away from the settlers for any reason other than defaulting on the terms of the acquisition.
One of the earliest men to take advantage of the liberalized land policy was Logan Vandiver, who received a "headright certificate" dated February 16, 1838, to a 1476 acre tract just west of the Trinity river where the present city of White Settlement is located. The area was heavily populated by Indians, and in 1840, across and east of the Trinity river, Bird's Fort was built. This stockade was about twenty miles east of the settlers on the west side of the Trinity and afforded them little, or no, protection. In September of 1843 a treaty was signed at Bird's Fort by representatives of the Republic of Texas and the Indian tribes. This opened the door for more settlers to claim the fertile plains of the "grand prairie" in what is now Tarrant and Parker Counties.
Apparently neither whites nor Indians were too eager to observe the terms of the treaty. Other tribes, not included in the original agreement, moved into the area. After many pleas from the settlers, a small fort was established on the bluff overlooking the junction of the Clear Fork and West Fork of the Trinity. The camp was started on June 5, 1849 and on November 14, 1849, the War Department officially named it Fort Worth. On December 20, 1849, the creation of Tarrant County from the northern portion of Navarro County was signed into law by Gov. George T. Wood and was named in honor of Gen. Edward H. Tarrant, a veteran Indian fighter and a representative from Navarro and Limestone Counties.
In the 1840's there were seven Indian Villages in the vicinity of what later became Fort Worth. There was one non-Indian settlement west of the Fort, and it was known as White Settlement because no Indians lived there. Some of the pioneers jokingly said that "No Indians lived here because they couldn't stand the Rowlands!" The Rowland family was highly respected, and the remarks were made in "fun" only. A street in western White Settlement is named "Rowland".
Pioneers from Tennessee and Kentucky came to Texas in search of a better way of life for themselves and their families. They were willing to take their chances with Indian uprisings and other hardships that were common in this area during those times. Texas was thought of as the "Land of Promise" where settlers could buy land for fifty cents an acre, and those who were willing to settle on land without deeds were given preemptive rights to buy 320 acres at that price.
One such settler was John Press Farmer, who, with his wife and daughter, was living in a tent on the new site. A native of Tennessee, Farmer had sampled East Texas before moving westward.
He and his wife had cut some timber and their home was almost complete when they sighted a band of Indians. The Farmers fled on horseback, and when they returned their house was a mass of charred rubble.
Life was not easy for these early settlers. The pioneers produced a sturdy type of citizenship that the people of this area are proud to honor. White Settlement can be rightfully proud of its first citizens.
White Settlement became a trading outpost on which comparatively peaceful Indians came to rely because of the honesty of the white settlers and the goods they dealt in. Here the migrating pioneers from the east found a fine rich country carved out of homesteads among the Indians, and others called their area the "white settlement." The road leading to Fort Worth was called White Settlement Road. It extended on west into Parker County and on to Weatherford.
In 1854, a well-equipped ten wagon train with a number of residents from Kentucky, leaving crowded conditions and what they believed to be exhausted land, headed west with Texas as their destination. The new arrivals hoped to get a fresh start. They settled west of Fort Worth in a community that had came to be known as White Settlement. Some of the planters brought slaves with them. Some settled on land pre-empted from the state and grazed herds of fine cattle along the banks of a creek known as Farmers Branch. Early settlers streamed in and made their living from the rich land. Cabins were built near a branch or creek as this was the source of pure, clear water. The bottom lands were rich and fertile, and the virgin land yielded bumper crops. The settlers caught fish, trapped deer, wild turkeys and prairie chickens for food.
As the pioneers continued to move westward, bringing their families to the area, the need for a school came about in the early 1860's. It was a small, one room log cabin, which stood where the runway of Carswell Air Force Base, now known as the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, is now located. It was known as Pecan Grove. It also served as a central gathering place for the community.
Like other settlements in those early days, the religious needs of the people were soon provided. Soon after the one room log school house was built, the Baptist Church was organized and on February 8, 1868 became known as the New Prospect Baptist Church.
During the early days, as other pioneers migrated to this part of Texas, the area of White Settlement became a prosperous farming community. This way of life continued through the reconstruction period, and the growth of White Settlement was steady. The community went through World War I and the depression of the 1930's. The depression did not begin to ease until the threat of war became a reality, and the awful struggle had already begun in Europe. As the United States began preparing for the inevitable war, a boom of prosperity came to White Settlement, whose population was about 500 at the beginning of the growth period.
An aircraft factory was constructed on its northeast boundary, and an air field on the east side.
The City of White Settlement was incorporated in 1941, and later expanded its boundaries by consolidating with Worth Hills, an area on the south side of the city.
In a matter of months, White Settlement's population grew to 10,000. Most of the new residents were employed at the new Consolidated Aircraft Corp. plant and as civilian employees at the new Army Air Field. Many families of servicemen stationed at the air base also lived in White Settlement. The school district doubled in January of 1943 and the homes increased from 200 to 1200. The government constructed thousands of apartments for defense workers. The largest group, located on the east and west side of Cherry Lane, was known as Liberator Village. The name "Liberator" was taken from the bomber that was being built at the aircraft plant. The B-24's were known as the Liberator bombers. Another group of smaller, two-story apartments was located at the north end of Cherry Lane at Clifford, and was called "Victory Apartments."
As housing developments progressed, streets were named for early pioneers. Cherry Lane, Dale Lane, Farmer Road, Grants Lane, Harwell Street, Normandale Blvd., Redford Lane, Rowland Street, Smith Street, Tinsley Lane and Mirike Drive as well as many more, such as Carlos, Richard, Downe, Pemberton, etc. These pioneers were well respected throughout the area and were proud of White Settlement.
The building boom after the war continued, as the aircraft plant continued to operate. Many of the houses in White Settlement were built entirely by the owners, as the pioneer cabins were. Developers such as Curby Mirike made available thousands of building lots for $15.00 up on terms of $10.00 down nd $10.00 a month. Several builders would construct a shell house, which included the four walls, doors and windows, and a roof for prices ranging from $1500.00 to about $3000.00 for one with inside walls and sheet rock installed. The wiring and plumbing were done by the owner as he could afford it. There were no sewer lines, no gas lines, no phone service and only unpaved streets for access.
City services were practically non-existent. A private water company provided water from several wells. What street maintenance there was came from the County Commissioner from the district.
Bryan Henderson was the commissioner during this period, and he provided graveled driveways, graveled streets in many areas, civic work for the schools, churches and city as well as many other organizations. There is a ball field in the present Central Park named in his honor.
The city did not provide any enforcement of building codes, and every home owner built his house according to his own ideas and his available capital. In most cases, the capital was small, and the house building progressed a few boards per payday. A few developments provided sewer lines that connected with the Fort Worth system. These lines, when accessible, were soon overloaded and worked only in dry weather.
In the early 1950's Lone Star Gas provided service to all homes. This replaced butane and propane tanks and simplified heating and cooking. The telephone company introduced phone service, although for several months only 8-party service was available. This was not a good service, but soon 4-party was offered and eventually single party lines were available. The City of White Settlement, under the leadership of Curby Mirike, formed a volunteer fire department and built a new city hall where Farmers Branch crosses Meadow Park Drive. The city purchased the private water company and provided an improved service to the customers. There had been no garbage service, and every resident disposed of his trash by his own method. This was usually burning in a barrel and dumping at the side of a road. The city established a garbage pickup service, and this did much to clean up the city.
With these improvements came taxes. There had been no city tax, and many residents did not even know they lived in a city. For the first time the people of White Settlement were unhappy with their government, and many protest meetings were held about the new taxes. School taxes were paid with the county bills, and did not emerge as an irritant until the school district became independent in the late 50's and began sending tax bills. The average tax payer in the early 50's paid less than $30.00 total taxes.
But responsible citizens realized that with progress must come financing, and bond issues were passed in both the city and school district to assure continued improvement. The government offered grants for street improvements, code enforcement and education. The school district received hundreds of thousands of dollars for the construction and operation of a school system.
White Settlement's school system emerged as one of the finest in the state. The high school was named for a pioneer school teacher and later superintendent, Mr. C. F. Brewer, who served the system for many years. Brewer High School has excelled in both academics and athletics and has offered an enriched curriculum to its students in most modern trades. Its students have repeatedly attended colleges and universities and excelled in advanced studies.
At the same time, the city has progressed to a strong, well financed government. A City Manager, Mayor and Council has operated the city's facilities so that White Settlement can point to a city park and recreation program that is second to none in the area, a fine library with many books and services available, a Senior Citizen center that is recognized by most as the best in the Metroplex, streets that are all paved and well maintained, upgraded and regularly improved. The water system is state approved and is available to the entire city. Large sewer mains have provided sewer service to homes that had struggled with septic tanks for years.
From the early days of one constable, White Settlement has established one of the finest police forces in the state with a new headquarters and updated equipment. Police protection is provided at the enviable rate of more than one patrol car per square mile. This type of protection is difficult to provide in larger cities.
With strict code enforcement and continual upgrading of ordinances, the quality of construction in White Settlement is equivalent to that of other contemporary cities. Replacement of the old Village Apartments with modern housing and continual code enforcement on older structures, the architecture of White Settlement is as good as, or even better, than other metroplex communities.
The building boom of the eighties gave White Settlement many large retail outlets such as Sam's Wholesale Club, Wal-Mart, K-Mart, Home Depot, Payless Cashways, Texas Motors and others. A city sales tax of 1 percent provides over $100,000 per month in revenue. The property tax rate is only $.50 per hundred dollar valuation in 1991.
Large and small churches of just about every denomination are located in the city. The original Baptist church has grown into the First Baptist Church of White Settlement. Wesley Methodist, Bethany Christian, Las Vegas Trail Church of Christ, West Freeway Church of Christ, Normandale, Terrace Acres, Cherry Lane, Corina Drive, Tower and many other Baptist churches have impressive congregations and installations. Other denominations include Catholic and Lutheran who have a strong presence in the community, offering schooling as well as religion.
Three motels in the city provide lodging for tourists and visitors to the area. The revenue generated by the room tax funds an active Chamber of Commerce, which has been working in White Settlement on a volunteer basis since the early 50's. The city now provides an office for the Chamber.
A freeway loop around the Fort Worth area, Loop 820, is the border for White Settlement on the west and south. This road was completed in the late 1970's with the dedication of the bridge across Lake Worth on March 31, 1978. The road from the bridge south through White Settlement was name Jim Wright Freeway, in honor of Jim Wright, who represented Fort Worth and White Settlement so well for many years. Much of the progress and growth of White Settlement can be attributed to Mr. Wright, who became Speaker of the House in Washington. This loop opens White Settlement to the entire Metroplex, and makes it an attractive place to locate any enterprise. The continual growth of the city is assured by its location and progressive government.
And to preserve the city's and area's heritage, the White Settlement Historical Society was established in the seventies. This group meets on a regular basis, and has restored the old Allen log cabin. The land for the display was donated by Frances and Sheila Allen, descendants of the Allen pioneers, and is located on the old Allen land on Las Vegas Trail. Another long term project of the society has been the improvement and maintenance of early cemeteries, such as the Thompson Cemetery and the Judd Street Cemetery. A marker has been placed at the old Jud Rowland Spring, an early site on Farmers Branch providing pure, cool water for community residents and campers. It is said that settlers going and coming from Fort Worth made this their camping spot. It was also a favorite Indian campsite at times.
A museum has been established by the society to preserve items relating to the pioneer and ensuing periods in the history of the White Settlement area. The City of White Settlement provides and maintains a building for this purpose. The museum was established in 1991, and it is hoped that it will grow and become an institution that the area can cherish and enjoy for many years in the future.
If the city can continue to prosper and improve in the next fifty years as it has in the last fifty, it will indeed be a showplace that future citizens of White Settlement can be proud of, as the pioneers of the 1800's were at that time.