Danny: Norris, many of the visitors to the museum eventually get around to asking how the community originally got its start. Tell us how the area came to be settled.
Norris: 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.
Danny: So, with the passing of the "Homestead Law," Texas was primed for immigration. Who were some of the first to move into the White Settlement area?
Norris: 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 1,476 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.
Danny: So, with the treaty in place and the Indians signaling they would not cause problems for the new settlers, the problems with settling the land were put to rest?
Norris: This treaty did not settle the Indian problem. Apparently both whites and Indians were not too eager to observe its terms. 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.