Category: Local History

Charles Wall: Grapevine’s Indiana Jones

You may be familiar with the fictional move character Indiana Jones, played by actor Harrison Ford, who became involved in various, sometimes hair-raising adventures around the world. The small community of Grapevine, Texas can claim title to somewhat the same type of individual in the person of Charles “Charlie” Wall, who left home in the Pleasant Run Community about 1876 and returned in the mid-1890s. Few documents exist to provide evidence of Charlie’s travels; some evidence is anecdotal; some sources contradict each other, and some are plain incorrect. In fact, he refused to tell his story for twenty-five years afterward because he was certain that nobody would believe him. Nevertheless, Charlie’s story demonstrates how the evidence we have allows us to understand how an ordinary resident of a small Tarrant County community experienced a wider and wilder world during the late nineteenth century. Charles Wall was born in Madison Co.,...

Genealogy and The Great Depression

(Credit: U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=16629774) Oh, say, don’t you remember, they called me AlIt was Al all the timeSay, don’t you remember, I’m your palBuddy, can you spare a dime? Source: LyricFind – Songwriters: E. Y. Harburg / Jay Gorney – Brother, Can You Spare a Dime? lyrics © Songtrust Ave, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC US government responses to the Great Depression of the 1930s generated some unique resources for genealogists and family historians. Today we’re going to look into some genealogically valuable records generated as a result of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal and see how they can be used to enhance family history research. We need to look for these records for two main reasons. First, the Depression was an all-encompassing event that changed family narratives. Second, how relatives responded to or weathered such a crisis formed an essential aspect of family history....

Ancestors Fall on Hard Times? Check Out the Poorhouses!

(Wythe Co. poor farm image credit: By Nyttend – Own work, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=57704286) What is a poorhouse? Simply put, it’s a county- or town-run residence where paupers were supported at public expense. It was known by several names – almshouse/alms house, poorhouse/poor house, poor farm, county farm, county home, and workhouse. And it’s possible that an ancestor or other family member may have spent some time in one. American poorhouse resources are little-known or vastly underutilized. According to Linda Crannell, formerly known as “The Poorhouse Lady, “The poorhouse seems to remain so invisible to us today. This is despite the fact that the poorhouse was probably one of the most extensively publicly document institutions in 19th century America.” These institutions have not been places that genealogists would normally think to look for when dealing with “disappeared” ancestors. This blog will demonstrate the value of poorhouse research, availability of poorhouse...

“A Diabolical Concentration of Power”: How Home Rule Almost(?) Put Grapevine in Dallas County, 1933-1936

In February 1933 two plans for increased economic efficiency in the organization and working of county and municipal governments were pending in the Texas State Legislature. One was a revised Home Rule Bill presented in the Senate by Frank H. Rawlings of Fort Worth and in the House by R. Emmett Morse of Houston. This bill was originally presented by Walter Beck in 1931 but failed to pass. The second plan, presented to the House by Z. E. Coombes of Dallas, consisted of a resolution calling for the addition of a new section consisting of four paragraphs to Article 5 of the state constitution. The Home Rule Bill focused on modifying Article 9 of the Texas state constitution, which dealt with administration of counties. Its primary purpose was to give home rule powers to counties with populations greater than 60,000. It would add Section 3, the home rule amendment, to...

The Great Grapevine Road Fight, Part V

In mid-June 1931 a large motorcade of about 150 cars and 500 people from Riverside visited Grapevine to celebrate the East Belknap project. This project was seen as very important to Riverside and all of Northeast Tarrant County because it would give easy access to Fort Worth through Riverside from Grapevine, Lewisville, Irving, Smithfield and places farther northeast. The Grapevine Sun urged as many citizens as possible to greet the group and attend its 1½-hour entertainment program. This, however, was not the end of the Great Grapevine Road Fight. Grading of four miles of State Highway No. 121 had been completed across Tarrant and Dallas Counties to the Denton County line by December 1931, and concrete paving began in early June 1932. But roadwork stopped at the Denton County line because six Denton County property owners holding twenty-four acres had not given right-of-way for the 1½-mile stretch through there to...

The Great Grapevine Road Fight, Part IV

On March 13, 1929 Commissioner Sandy Wall announced that the right-of-way for the new Fort Worth-Grapevine Road, known officially as State Highway No. 121, would increase from eighty to 100 feet wide. The eighty-feet increase was already in place so the additional twenty feet would be sought in order to meet the State Highway Commission’s requirement. The first authorized offer for the first strip of land near Pleasant Glade was made by County Engineer Damon A. Davis to Carl Yates at the end of March. Commissioner Wall stated that no more than this one parcel of land would be condemned; all other right-of-way would be obtained through negotiation with land owners. The road grading and building process from the A. J. Anderson corner to Grapevine was almost finished around this time, and in due course would be ready for paving. When completed, about two miles would be cut from the...

The Great Grapevine Road Fight, Part III

Tarrant County Forges Ahead The initial cost of putting in the new road from Anderson’s Corner to Grapevine was $70,000. Commissioner Wall had saved $60,000 out of the Tarrant County road and bridge fund, and the State Highway Commission found it so unusual for so much of this money to be saved that it decided to match the cost dollar for dollar. In February 1927, Tarrant County commissioners decided that instead of waiting until an audit of the State Highway Department made state funds available the following autumn, they would select the right-of-way for the Grapevine stretch of the road. It would be the first link in the improved road to be graded, drained, and graveled. Doing so would allow the roadbed to settle and be traveled for at least a year before the hard surface was laid using state and federal funds. Grading would start in May 1927. On...

The Great Grapevine Road Fight, Part II

In January 1919, the Tarrant County Commissioners court designated twenty-three miles of the Grapevine Road to be maintained from the county’s part of automobile license revenue. The previous year $55,000 had been received but not yet spent, so soon there would be $100,000 in the county coffers for road maintenance. In March, the National Good Roads Association held its annual convention in Mineral Wells, Texas, and as part of the Texas delegation J. E. M. Yates and H. F. Saunders were appointed to represent Grapevine. The Road To Improvement Pushes Forward By the end of April a movement to call a good roads election, chaired by H. R. Wall, Commissioner of Precinct 3, was endorsed by over twenty-five Grapevine citizens at the Farmers National Bank. All but two attendees signed a petition favoring a bond issue to give Tarrant County the best possible roads. Commissioner Wall told the group that...

The Great Grapevine Road Fight, Part I

In today’s blog post we begin the colorful history of the road connecting Fort Worth to Grapevine in the latter part of the 19th century that went by several names, including Grapevine-to-Fort Worth Cardinal (main) Road, Cardinal Road, Grapevine Pike, Fort Worth-to-Grapevine Road, and eventually, State Highway 121. By whatever name it was called, the road to its completion was far from smooth. Although Grapevine’s growth as a town included the development of its internal infrastructure, the transportation network beyond the township limits remained a significant problem throughout much of the historic period. Finally in 1884 a commission was appointed in Fort Worth to establish the alignment of four main (cardinal) roads in Tarrant County heading north, south, east, and west from Fort Worth. One of the results of the commission’s planning activities was the construction of the sub-cardinal Grapevine Road running northeast from Fort Worth. A sub-cardinal road is...

Origin and History of Lake Grapevine, 1919-1953, Part 7: A New County Lake Is Born

Icy weather hit the dam area on January 5, 1950, temporarily halting construction. J. W. Mosley was just a week away from finishing the raising of the dam’s embankment, but since most contractors were ahead of schedule, the weather would not affect their deadlines. On January 18, the government hiked its land purchases for the four Trinity lakes going in near Dallas. At that time it already owned 2,955.53 acres of Grapevine. The “taking lines,” or peak elevations at which the government will take lands, had still not been announced, so the army of speculators and land plungers would have to buy blindly, except for studying the pattern of lands taken by the government. Those persons were chiefly interested in cabin and weekend homesites, recreating building locales and sites for all types of businesses catering to lake visitors. Costly lakeside estates planned by Dallas residents were also held up. More...