You’ve Got Mail! (Historic Tannahill Post Office)

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While sheltering in place from Covid-19, I reflected on how lucky we are to have the technology in place now that helps keep relationships close and communications going even though we’re physically separated.

If our daughter in Atlanta wants to share some fun news about her or her family with us here in Fort Worth, she has lots of options. She can call, text, email, SnapChat, FB messenger, etc. and instantly we receive information and photos about what has been going on in her life. We can also hop onto a Zoom video meeting and see each other and catch up on what has been happening. Technology has progressed so much where we can stay connected instantly, even though we are 865 miles away.

Recent Family Zoom Session

But, what if it was actually the year 1884 vs. 2020? How would our daughter have sent family news to us back then? Turns out there weren’t many options. Some new technologies were available. The first telephone connection in Fort Worth was made in 1876 between a Doctor and the pharmacy, but was not in widespread use in 1884 and would have not been available to us. The telegraph was in broader use, as it followed the railroads, but it was fairly expensive (Example: a 10 word message would have cost around $1) [1] and was only used for news that needed to arrive “quickly”. The only real option was for her to write us a letter/post card and mail it through the United States Postal Service.

But how would the letter get to us? While home deliver of the mail started in the city of Fort Worth in 1884, it would be years until home delivery would occur in our rural area of Tarrant County. So we would have to periodically go to the nearest post office to see if we have received any mail. And, where was the nearest post office to our current location back in 1884? After doing some research, it turns out that it would have been only one mile from our house, at the Tannahill Homestead on the corner of Silver Creek Road and Verna Trail. As I mentioned in a previous blog, the Tannahill Homestead was built in 1874 and is still standing today! By the way, if the Tannahill Post Office did not exist back then, we would have had to travel, more than likely by horseback or wagon, 10 miles to/from Fort Worth to retrieve our mail.

The Tannahill Post Office was officially established on May 17, 1878. The first Post Master was Robert Tannahill. A copy of the official document establishing this post office can be found at the White Settlement Museum. Note that it states that it would be serving approxiately 100 families.

Establishment of the Tannahill Post Office
White Settlement Museum Collections

An 1887 Postal Route map of Texas shows that the Tannahill Post Office was serviced twice/week and was the first stop out of Fort Worth on the route to Shell Rock (which is now called Azle and for a limited time was also called O’Bar). [2]

1887 Texas Postal Route Map

The Post Office was in existence until January 21,1889, when all documents were transferred to the Azle post office. [3]

Tannahill Post Masters

The actual post office was on the north side of the Tannahill Homestead which used to be the front of the home. Evidence of the post office no longer exists. A remodeling of the house in 1905 removed the post office window.

North Side of Tannahill Homestead
Photo: Tracy J Houpt

Other interesting items I found in my research include how much Robert Tannahill earned in 1883 serving as a post master. He received $31.19 which would be equivalent to $929 now. [4]

Post Master Compensation -1883

Finally, I was able to determine that it would have cost my daughter 2 cents to send us a letter (as long as it weighed under ½ ounce) or a penny to mail us a postcard. [5] For the letter to travel to us, our daughter would carry it to her local post office. There, the post master would determine how to best route the letter to us via railroads, with the letter finally delivered to the rail station with the closest post office to us. This would be the Fort Worth post office. There, the letter would have been sorted and placed on the stagecoach, that also made a stop at the Tannahill Homestead which I will write about in my next blog. Then, when it was time for us to check our mail, we’d walk to the Tannahill Homestead where we would find her letter! I’ve estimated that it would have been a 2-3 weeks to receive her letter, at best. [6]

Postal Guide
1889

In all of my online research for this blog, I did fail to find the one gem that I really wanted to find; a Tannahill Post Mark. Robert would have had a stamp to mark on each delivered item, just like our mail is still automatically stamp today. I even reached out to the National Post Mark Museum (http://www.postmarks.org/museum/) near Bellevue, Ohio for help. So far, they have been unable to locate an old piece of mail with a Tannahill post mark. If I ever locate one, I will try to secure a copy of it for the White Settlement Museum. But, with current day technology, I can still imagine what it might have looked like!

References:

[1] https://eh.net/encyclopedia/history-of-the-u-s-telegraph-industry/

[2] https://search.lib.virginia.edu/catalog/uva-lib:1081764?fbclid=IwAR0gB4pay0-02Hv2bGVypFl94DvB2P3pI5jN3rlCPJsePyw_q4y5goBdXuo#?c=0&m=0&s=0&cv=1&xywh=6923%2C3358%2C1912%2C1094

[3] http://sites.rootsweb.com/~txpost/tarrant.html


[4] https://books.google.com/books?id=bKhLAQAAMAAJ&pg=PA611&lpg=PA611&dq=%22tannahill%22+official+register&source=bl&ots=l5J85l9qc-&sig=ACfU3U3SY4UPLuUp1dyy8KVAlpPXUNnETw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiAm8D9tc_pAhWFXM0KHQISDDsQ6AEwBXoECAMQAQ#v=onepage&q=%22tannahill%22%20official%20register&f=false


[5-] https://books.google.com/books?id=kfPqAAAAMAAJ&pg=PA407&lpg=PA407&dq=postage+rate+1884&source=bl&ots=uJbRfwfS-q&sig=ACfU3U2XE3A9AGtdhDTzo5Rbj3Id8t7QBw&hl=en&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwiV3pOK283pAhVTXM0KHapPA8gQ6AEwGXoECAgQAQ#v=onepage&q=postage%20rate%201884&f=false


[6] https://books.google.com/books?id=W2IyAQAAMAAJ&pg=PT30&lpg=PT30&dq=texas+post+offices+by+county+tannahill&source=bl&ots=rreG0k8RYa&sig=ACfU3U0g-

Weathering the 1918 Spanish Flu Pandemic

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I was planning to continue to share more stories about the local history of the Tannahill Homestead for this next blog post, but got derailed by the impacts of our present pandemic that we are all experiencing, Covid-19. We are now sheltering at our homes (it’s been four weeks for us), only going out for essential items and some of you going out to provide essential services for the rest of us – for which we are very grateful!

It got me wondering how our area coped with the (so far) worse pandemic known to modern man, the 1918 Spanish Influenza (Flu). The CDC reported that an estimated 500 million people were infected (which was 1/3 of the worlds population at that time) resulting in at least 50 million global deaths with around 675,000 deaths in America.

I began to wonder how the 1918 Spanish Influenza impacted our local area, so I started to do some research. I wanted to know how lives were impacted over 100 years ago as this outbreak spread. Did people end up sheltering in place at their homes like we are now? Did business and schools and non-essential business close? If so, how long did it last?

A hospital in Kansas during the Spanish flu epidemic in 1918. Date: circa 1918
Photo ID: NCP 1603
Source Collection: OHA 250: New Contributed Photographs Collection, Otis Historical Archives, National Museum of Health and Medicine.

But before I start, I do want to point out that I’m not in the medical field so I’m not going to talk about the disease (how it started, how it spread, what the medical community knew then vs. now, and who were the most vulnerable groups) and will not compare it much to our present Covid-19. Both are pandemics and both are impacting the world resulting in way too many deaths and economic burdens. I’m more interested in the comparison of how past residents of Tarrant Couty reacted to and dealt with the disease vs. what we are experiencing now.

After poring through many Fort Worth Star-Telegram (FWS-T) news articles, let me attempt to paint of picture of what happened. [1]

On September 23, 1918, the FWS-T reported that there were no reported cases at Camp Bowie.

Camp Bowie was established in July 1917 to train soldiers in the 31st Infantry Division fighting in World War I. Yes, the country was dealing BOTH with the Spanish Flu and the horrific war against the Central Powers led by Germany/Austria-Hungary. At least we don’t have a world war going at the same time now. The camp consumed over 2,100 acres just to the west of downtown Fort Worth, right where Camp Bowie Blvd. heads toward University Blvd. More than 100,000 soldiers trained at Camp Bowie while it was an active base.

Geological Survey (U.S.). Fort Worth Sheet, map, 1918; Reston, Virginia. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth454425/m1/1/?q=fort%20worth: accessed April 4, 2020), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.

Technology advancements in global travel (like ocean liners) and WW1, with many soldiers being in close quarters leaving and returning to their countries, helped to quickly spread the Spanish Flu. This was why the residents in this area were paying close attention to any news about an outbreak at Camp Bowie.

By September 27, 81 cases had been confirmed at Camp Bowie Base Hospital. A rigid quarantine was not issued, but orders were given for the soldiers to not enter any, “picture shows, dance halls, pool rooms, theaters or other places of like character in the camp or in the city.” Social distancing was established on the base including the cancellation of entertainment events and large gatherings. A policy was also instituted that allowed only five soldiers per tent and they, “all must sleep with their heads five feet apart.”

700 cases were reported at the Base Hospital on October 2 with no reported deaths. By October 4 over 1900 patients were recorded on the Base Hospital roll. Also, the first death was reported, a Private Louis Warren from Pensacola, FL.

It’s interesting to note that news back then was mainly provided by newspaper, or by word of mouth. They didn’t have radio, TV, FaceBook, etc… Almost all news accounts had a positive spin vs. most of the news reports now. This particular article reported that although a record number of hospital patients had been recorded at the base, “every patient is well cared for and everything is running smoothly.” In addition, “the ‘crest’ of the Spanish Infuenza epidemic at Camp Bowie has been reached” which as you will see was not the case. On October 4, 2 more deaths were reported with the article concluding, “There has been only three deaths out of total of more than 2,000 cases in eight days which is considered an excellent showing.”

Let me now bullet-ize some of the events that happened next to help move this along.

– Women were called to meet at the Red Cross Office to make gauze masks for hospital workers at Camp Bowie. (Oct 6th)

– Acting Governor Johnston suggested that, “all public meetings be discontinued at that schools and places of amusement be closed.” Forty-one counties were reporting flu cases. In Texas, it started along the coast and San Antonio and spread northward. (Oct 8th)

– “Influenza Not Yet Epidemic in Fort Worth” was the one of the headlines. (Oct 8th)

– Somewhat amusing advice on kissing was provided. (Oct 10th)

– The Columbus Day Marathon was canceled. 600 Camp Bowie soldiers were going to participate. This one was interesting to me having been a past marathon runner. (Oct 11th)

– Health Department started distributing 10,000 pamphlets to help educate the public. (Oct 12th

– Dallas closes public schools and churches. Picture shows, dance halls and pool rooms were closed earlier. (Oct 12th)

-Cases of Spanish Flu in Fort Worth reported at 466. (Oct 13th)

– The Texas Christian University and Trinity University at Cleburne football game was postponed. (Oct 13th)

– A grim reminder of the deaths from WWI was included in the obituary section along with flu victims. (Oct 13th)

– More than 1,400 workers at the Swift and Armour packing houses reported having the flu causing a labor shortage. (Oct 14th)

– Hospitals reported being crowded with patients with Spanish Flu and pneumonia. (Oct 15th)

– Fort Worth schools closed on Tuesday afternoon. (Oct 15th)

– The official Big Closure of the city was announced. (Oct 16th )

– 762 cases reported in the city. (Oct 23rd)

– On Wednesday, October 23, it also was noted that schools would reopen on Monday, while other businesses would probably remain closed.

– Then on Friday, October 25th, a proclamation was made to reopen the city.

And indeed, the city relaxed its restrictions that Saturday night. Churches reopened on Sunday and children went back to schools on Monday. The “shelter at home” edict that city officials gave only lasted 10 days! This came at a shock to me. As I read through these stories, I imagined that the closures back then would have lasted into months, not days, but there are lots of difference between then and now.

On November 3, soldiers were allowed once again to attend movies and go to other public gatherings. But, the Spanish Influenza did not completely go away. Reports of the flu continued into 1919. In fact on December 4, 40 new cases were reported in the city, but it was never considered epidemic again and life just went back to being “normal.”

I was not able to find a reliable source of the amount of cases and deaths in Tarrant County due to the Spanish Flu. I was able to find a reference that indicated that during the one month of October 1918, over 1,200 Dallas and Fort Worth residents died. [2] As of this writing, there have been 39 deaths in Tarrant and Dallas county due and Covid-19. This is way too many already, but how it will all play at over the next months, we’ll have to see.

Two more things to explore.

First. How did this disease come to be known as the Spanish flu? During WWI, Spain was neutral, so as the outbreak occurred there, reporters were able to freely report it as it spread across the country and the name stuck. It was actually worse in France at that time, but the news was censored. If not, it would have probably been called, the French Flu.

Second, The Tannahill Homestead was also used to treat patients during an outbreak of another disease, typhoid, a bacterial infection. I have not been able to find the date of this occurrence, but a neighbor, Dr. Woods tended to 27 patients who were kept at the Tannahill Homestead.

I’ll provide more interesting historical items about the Tannahill Homestead in my next blog. 🙂

Until then, everyone please stay safe! Just like our fellow Tarrant county residents made it through the storm they had to ride out over 100 years ago, we will too.

References:
[1] All newspaper references from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram archives found in the Fort Worth Library Online Services.


[2] “In 1918, Dallas and Fort Worth weren’t worried about the flu. In a month, 1,200 died.” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, October 14, 2014.

The Test of Time

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I’ve had so much fun uncovering additional local history since composing my last blog entry that I’m now having a hard time figuring out which tidbit I should write about next! From stagecoaches, to postal routes, to long lost cemeteries, to Native Amercian camps, to you name it, there’s so much rich history to share that happened right here in our “neighborhood”. For now, I’ll focus on the background of the house that Verna Stubbs (more on her life in a later blog) lived in and sometimes parked her plane at the front door. It turns out that this house is a very historic home here in Tarrant County!

(From White Settlement Museum Archives.)

Built in 1874, the Tannahill Homestead is the oldest standing house in our area of Tarrant County. Robert Tannahill and his wife, Mary bought the 320 acre property in 1856. One of the reasons that it has stood the test of time is because the house’s walls were constructed with stones and are 18-20 inches thick. Another reason is the loving care and hard maintenance that the four owners of the house have provided over the last 146 years. The Tannahills owned the house from 1874-1894. It was then sold to William Tinsley who owned it until 1945 when it was bought by Verna and Johnnie Stubbs. The current owner, Emily Leonard, purchased the historic house in 1993.

Recently, Emily very graciously invited my wife Suzy and me over for a visit of the homestead. After spending some time listening to interesting stories about the house and previous owners (more to share on this in future blogs), I was able to take a closer look at the stone walls.

Outside wall to the right of the front door.

Robert Tannahill designed and built the house to have 4 rooms on the west and 4 rooms on the east (2 upstairs and 2 downstairs both sides) with a dog trot running through the middle. He hired Native Americans to quarry the stones from the Live Oak Creek area. He then cut each stone by hand and laid it into place for us to see it many years later. As you can see from the photo above the doorway, it appears that he horizontally place 3 cut stones side by side to obtain the 20 inch thickness. You can also see on the photo of the wall to the right of the door times when the mortar has been repaired.

20 inch stone wall above front door.

Robert chose stones primarily for the protection the walls would provide from raiding Native American parties and the fact that they were locally available. But were exactly was the location from where the stones were quarried?

Low and behold, I found a map in the large resources of the White Settlement Historical Museum that pinpoints it right along the side of Verna Trail! He was able to mine Goodland Limestone that formed over 100 million years ago when this area was covered by a shallow sea (but more about this in a later blog including the cool fossils that we can find in our neighborhood).

Location of quarry and Tannahill Homestead. (From White Settlement Museum Archives.)

In 1979, a historical marker was placed on the south side of the house to commemorate it’s historical significance. More about this in my next blog entry.

Current photo of historical marker and homestead.
(From White Settlement Museum Archives.)

Now, as I drive home from work, I can glance out the window to see the quarry and think about the back breaking effort it took 146 years ago to build a structure that still stands today.

Coming West on Verna Trail before our neighborhood.
The Old Quarry

Note: If you are interested in learning more about our local history, please stop by the White Settlement Museum on Hanon Drive. Carol Davis would love to answer your questions!

Coming in for a Landing

I spend a lot of my spare time digging into history. This ranges from literally digging (up in Baylor County) and researching fossils of large animals that lived even before the dinosaurs to digging online into local history and visiting local landmarks. Each fossil, local landmark, or bit of past information to me is like uncovering a treasure and the field work and online research is like a treasure hunt! It never gets old!

While doing online research the other day for a project I’m currently working, I came across a 1972 topographical map of Tarrant County. As I zoomed into the area of our Tejas Trail neighborhood, the map shows our northern section (Verna Trail, Little Horse Trail, and Paint Pony Trail) and even shows where some houses are located.

Perhaps some of you reading this live in one of these original Tejas Trail houses! It also shows White Settlement Road to the south (with very little development in that area). The one thing that was clearly missing was I-820. I then started to look at the topo lines that clearly depicts the hills of our neighborhood and the layering of the ancient reefs that developed millions of years ago when this area was under a shallow sea. But, more on this in a later blog.

As I kept scanning this map and pondering our past, my eyes noticed an apparent airplane landing strip near the intersection of Silver Creek Road and Verna Trail! History had once again baiting the hook, I took a bite and it was drawing me in. A landing strip just down the hill from where I live? Who built it? Who used it? Was it still in use? Another treasure hunt had started!

Having driven through this intersection numerous times since moving here in 2017, I had never noticed anything in that field that resembled a landing strip. Of course, it’s a little hard to do as one navigates and avoids the numerous pot holes and semi trucks on Silver Creek Road. I needed to know more. This led me to pull up a satellite image of the same area on Google Maps to see if it showed anything to suggest that a runway was there. Sure enough, you can clearly see where the landing strip once existed.

After a few more online searches, I found out that the runway was called Stubbs Strip and is still listed as a private landing strip. Years ago, this grass landing strip stretched across the ranch field for 2,280ft. from north to south and was 60 ft. wide. The owner, builder, and operator of the landing strip was Verna Stubbs who also owned the ranch at that intersection and, from where two of our neighborhood streets are named after! Verna was a pilot owning four airplanes over time including her Piper Tripacer. A future blog will be devoted to Verna as she was quite an active and prominent woman of our area.

The first bit of local history treasure had been uncovered and it had only gotten me more excited about digging into our past. There are many more stores to tell about the history of our area from fossils of ancient animals to Native Americans to early settlers to stagecoaches and on and of which I’ll hope to paint in future blogs.

For now, even though Stubbs Strip is no longer in use, I can still daydream seeing Verna’s Tripacer coming in for a landing from the north as I make the sharp right on Silver Creek Road, while at the same time avoiding the potholes, semi trucks and of course now, the road construction.