Tarrant County, TXGenWeb
Plat Book &
The following appeared in the November 1975 issue of Footprints, the quarterly publication of the Fort Worth Genealogical Society. It is reprinted here with permission.
Comptrollers Plat Book of Texas 1850-1874
An old plat book of Texas towns, found in the Archives Division of the Texas State Library, has been reproduced and placed in the Fort Worth Public Library as a Memorial to Betty Coburn Winchester, late Editor of Footprints.
The office of Comptroller of Public Accounts, as a state office, was first created by the Constitution of 1845 and superceded a similar office established during the Republic of Texas in 1837. Among the duties of the office are to keep the general accounts of the state, collect the taxes, supervise the county tax assessor-collectors and audit their accounts, audit the state treasury, and serve as ex officio member of several state boards. [Handbook of Texas, Vol. 1, p. 389]
Under the constitution of the Republic of Texas, an assessor of taxes was simply hired by the county board and the sheriff served as collector, but the Constitution of 1845 set up a separate, elective office of assessor and collector which was retained by the Constitutions of 1861 and 1866. Under the Constitution of 1869, the functions were separated, with the justices of the peace serving as assessors and the sheriffs, as collectors. in 1875, however, a separate office of assessor and collector was again established. [Handbook of Texas, Vol. 2, p. 713]
The Constitution of 1845 provided that taxation should be equal and uniform throughout the state and that the legislature had the power to levy an income tax and to tax occupations other than mechanical and agricultural. The main levy was the general property tax, called then, as now, the ad valorem tax. The most productive of the occupational taxes were those on liquor, various mercantile businesses, and the professions. [Handbook of Texas, Vol. 2, p. 710]
For tax purposes, plats of the towns were needed by the Comptroller's office. It was the responsibility of the tax assessor and collector of the various counties to see that such plats were forwarded to Austin.
Towns were located in various ways, because of some attraction to a certain area by settlers, because of a railroad, a crossroads, or some other commercial endeavor such as a mill or a trading post Sometimes an individual would start a town if he thought that there was Sufficient interest in an area. In the case of newly created counties, the land for the county seat town was often donated by one or more individuals, as an inducement to bring business. in any case, towns had to be surveyed and platted. The town's area was divided into streets and numbered blocks, and the blocks were divided Into numbered lots. Then a sale of town lots was held, usually at public auction. Deeds pertaining to ownership of property in a town will mention the block number and lot number and perhaps the name of the street on which the property was located. With this information, and with a plat of the town, one may locate where a man lived or had a business in the town.
We are indebted to newspaper man Sam Kinch for first calling our attention to the old plat book in Austin. The Fort Worth Star Telegram's evening edition, October 21, 1965 (See. 1, P. 6), contained an article entitled "Early Map Found - County Paid $2 To State in 1851," by Sam Kinch. The early map, referred to, was a plat of Birdsville, first county seat of Tarrant County. Some of the historical facts and conclusions in the article were not quite correct, but mention was made that the town's plat had been found in a yellowing book that had similar information about towns of other Texas counties. At that time (1965), the old book was in the office of the Comptroller, in Austin, but that office was planning to give it to the Texas State Library.
In October, 1973, Mrs. I. Neal Samuels and Mrs. Leonard Ingalls showed the newspaper article to Mrs. Marilyn von Kohl at the Archives Division. If the book had been presented to the archives, it was not catalogued. It was finally located and catalogued "Comptroller's Plat Book, 1850-1874," since these are the years of the earliest and latest plats.
The book is quite large and in very bad condition. Some of the pages may have been lost. In the front, an incomplete index indicates that the book contains plats of towns from about forty-five counties. Actually, there are sixty-eight plats, representing some fifty counties, most of which are undated, but the majority of them are probably of the 1850's vintage. Some of the plats are worn and torn. Some are so darkened with age that reproduction is very poor. Mrs. Ingalls photographed each page of the book. Later, through the courtesy of Mr. John M. Kinney, Director of the Archives Division, Texas State Library, the Fort Worth Genealogical Society was able to have the entire book photocopied. The society purchased the positive copies and the archives kept the negative copies. The positive copies, together with other information, have been bound in a large blue book and placed in the Fort Worth Public Library. The blue book contains an index with comments on the condition of the originals of the various plats.
A volunteer group of FWGS members has traced all of the plats on white vellum. With this issue of Footprints, we begin the publication of a selected series of the plats, photographically reduced from the tracings.
Before its creation Tarrant County was a part of Voting Precinct 9 of Navarro County. Elections were held at Johnson's Station which was the only settlement that bad a name at that time (1848-1849).
Fort Worth was established in May, 1849. A few months later the Texas Legislature passed an act (signed into law on 20 December 1849) creating Tarrant County. The act stipulated that an election for county officers was to be held on the first Monday in August, 1850, that the county seat would be located within five miles of the center of the county, that the location would be chosen by the electorate, and that the said location would bear the name of Birdsville. Presumably, the name was in honor of Major Jonathan Bird who hacestablished Bird's Fort in 1841 on what was later called Calloway's Lake, some nine or ten miles to the east of the later site of Birdsville.
The election for county officials was held on 5 August 1850. Those e ected were: Seaborn Gilmore (Chief Justice), Archibald F. Leonard (County Clerk), Henry Suggs (County Treasurer), Sanders Elliot (District Clerk), Francis Jourdan (Sheriff), Vincent J. Hutton (Assessor & Collector), and Isaac Thomas
(Coroner). Hutton resigned in December, 1850, and the county court appointed John A. Hust to take his place.
There were three voting precincts. Their elected officials were: Justices of the Peace George Akers and John W. Ellison (Pct. 1), B. P. Ayers and [James W.] Lane (Pct. 2), and Walling Rogers and Robert Smith (Pct. 3). Constables were John B. York (Pct. 1), John Goodwin (Pct. 2), and Berry Hall (Pct. 3).
The organization of the county seems to have been less of a problem than the locating of the county seat. The 1849 act creating the county had stipulated that Vincent J. Hutton, Walling R. Rogers, [Edmund or William] Little, M. T. Johnson, and Sanders Elliot, or a majority of them, were appointed commissioners to lay off the site chosen into blocks and lots, and to proceed to sell the lots at auction, the income from the sales to be used for the erection of public buildings.
A month after the election of county officials, the Texas Legislature passed an act (approved 4 September 1850) "defining the time for holding an election for the county seat of Tarrant County . . ." The election was to be held on the first Monday in August 1851. Until that time the county courts were to be held at the house of E. M. Daggett in the vicinity of Fort Worth. The date set, almost a year away, was not to the liking of the settlers already established in the northeastern part of the county. In November, 1850, they petitioned the legislature, stating that the date was "too remote a day" and asking that a law be passed "bringing on said election as early a day as possible." No action was taken in response to the petition; the election was held in August, 1851.
The location of Bird's Fort was not near the center of the county, nor was the settlement around Johnson's Station, thus they could not be considered. William Norris and George Akers offered to donate forty acres, each, from their respective adjoining surveys, for the county seat, their land being within five miles of the center. It is entirely conceivable and probable that Fort Worth, from the very beginning, had its eye on the county seat. It was also near the center and, from the beginning, influential people favored the area. But, at that early date (1850), Fort Worth had borne its name hardly over a year, was still a military post, and the creation act had stipulated that the new county seat would be named Birdsville.
Exactly what locations (if any), other than the Norris-Akers site and possibly Fort Worth, were put into nomination or voted upon is unknown, or unproven. At any rate, the Norris-Akers donation received the majority of votes and was, according to law, named Birdsville. Thus, the only thing that the new county seat had in common with Bird's Fort was a name.
On 1 December 1851, John A. Hust, the assessor and collector, sent to the comptroller's office, in Austin, a plat of the newly-laid-out town of Birdsville. Beside the plat, he wrote:
The plat of Birdsville shows twelve blocks, each divided into eight lots. Thus, there were 96 lots in the original town. The north-south streets were named Johnson, Rogers, Main, Hutton, and Elliot. Main Street, now called Carson, lay on the dividing line between the Norris and Akers surveys. Elliot Street is now called Bewley. A small portion of Rogers Street still bears that name. The extant portion of Hutton Street is now incorrectly called "Hutto" on the Haltom-Richland area maps. Johnson Street has been taken in by the school system of the area.
The east-west streets were Edwards, Broadway, Akers, and Walker which was inadvertently unnamed on the plat. A short portion of Edwards still exists, also a portion of Walker, but Akers Street (which was nearest to present Highway 183) is no more, having been taken in by church and school lands. Broadway was the main thoroughfare which passed through the town from the east, going west to intersect the road coming south from Alton, in Denton County, and into Fort Worth via Cold Springs. With the exception of Broadway and Main, the streets of Birdsville were named for early county officials.
The Birdville Baptist Church stands on Block 11 and has a historical marker in front, facing Carson (then Main) Street. The north half of Block 7, the Public Square on the plat, is now occupied by the Church of Christ. The Birdville Coliseum occupies Block 8; in front, facing Broadway Streetg is a historical marker indicating the site of Tarrant County's first court house. The correct site was more likely on Block 7, the Public Square, not on the block where the marker is located. One statement in the Texas Writers Project at the Fort Worth Public Library tends to support this, stating that "the foundation for the court house was dug in the block bordered by Walker, Carson [then Main], and Broadway Streets," thus positively indicating Block 7 on the plat.
Legal wheels turn slowly. Not until 1854 were town lots offered for sale. The Texas Legislature passed another act (approved 10 February 1854) "to change Section 5 of the [18491 act creating Tarrant County." The 1854 act stipulated that the county court was to have control of the sale of town lots and that all documents pertaining thereto would be delivered-up "within sixty days after the passage of this act." In reality, it seems, Birdsville had only a couple of years of active service as the county seat, for on 26 August 1856 another legislative act ordered that an election be held on the first Tuesday in November to locate the county seat. In this hotlycontested election, Fort Worth was (probably fraudulently) elected as the county seat, and several years of litigation ensued.
By 1860, the tax list of the county showed twenty-one persons owning one or more lots in the town of Birdsville, and forty-two owners of one or more lots in the town of Fort Worth.
Click on image for Plat Map of Birdville - 1851
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