Tarrant County, TXGenWeb

1856 County Seat Election

Contributed by Bruce Woody, great-great-grandson of Samuel Woody Jr.

From the Benbrook Shopper
Vol. 1 No. 17, September 27-28, 1988
Benbrook, Texas

Here’s a Toast to Sam Woody; He and His Friends
Made Fort Worth the County Seat
By Mack Williams

Sam Woody was a quick-witted farmer and freighter from Tennessee who liked his toddy. If not for that Haltom City would be your county seat today.

It was Sam’s skill with a whisky barrel that made Fort Worth the capital of Tarrant County, a thriving metropolis, and reduced Haltom City to the rank of East Side suburb.

Led by Sam, the Woody family came here in 1849, a year before the Legislature carved Tarrant Count out of Navarro County and chose Birdville as the county seat.

Birdville is today’s Haltom City. The school district is still named Birdville.

Although Fort Worth’s population in 1850 consisted of about 150 U.S. mounted infantry dragoons and about 30 civilians. Sam found the place too crowded to please him. He moved on to what is now Wise County, becoming the first white settler. In a log cabin he built, near today’s Decatur, he lived peaceably among the Indians, shared his dwelling with frontier families traveling west from Fort Worth and earned some cash greasing the wheels of their ox-drawn covered wagons.

Although the Indians scalped and looted elsewhere in Wise County they never bothered Sam, a friendly man who lifted whisky cups with the tribes on more than one occasion.

By 1856, a dozen or more white families had settled in Wise and little Fort Worth had grown ambitious to become the county seat of Tarrant, which meant a fight with Birdville.

To settle the contest, the Legislature called an election for November 1856. Both sides had free whisky for the voters, but the night before, several Fort Worth men found the Birdville barrel hidden in a grove and siphoned out the refreshments.

On election day, Fort Worth leaders kept track of the vote in Dr. Carroll Peak’s home on Houston St. When the tide seemed to favor Birdville, Sam Woody came to the rescue. Years later he recalled how he did it:

“I had a short time prior been a citizen of Tarrant County but when the election came off I was living in Wise County. Around me were 14 other settlers and on the day of the election I got them together and started down to Fort Worth to help my former fellow citizens get what they wanted.

“There were three polling places in the county (Birdville, Fort Worth and Jackson Station) and each faction had guards stationed to prevent fraud. Barrels of whisky with heads knocked out stood in front of every building. Buckets of sugar were open for those who did not take their liquor straight. All conditions were favorable for free and frequent drinking.

“We, from wise County, did not belong to the anti crowd, and under these inviting circumstances we wanted to drink worse than at any time of our lives. But I corralled my lads and said to them, ‘Boys, we’ve got to stay sober till this election is over. I must vote every one of you so we must hold on till we get home.’

“We were the soberest lot in Fort Worth that day. The Birdville people never once suspected that I did not belong to Tarrant County and supposed that my 14 companions were neighbors from over the western part of the county. We never opened our heads about our intentions until late in the afternoon, when I thought it was about time to act.

“I led the way to the polls, followed by my supporters, and pretending to be in a hurry, I pushed forward to the judges saying, ‘Come on, boys, let’s vote, for we’ve got a long way to go and we must get home before dark.’ They never challenged one of us and there were 15 votes for Fort Worth that day from Wise County.

“As Fort Worth won the election by only seven votes is was due to my help that the court house now stands in that city, and Fort Worth certainly owes me a free pass. Some of my crowd loved whisky awful, and it was the hardest work of my life to keep them away from those tempting barrels that offered refreshment to whomsoever would come and drink.”

That’s why Fort Worth, not Haltom City, is your county seat today. Sam Woody lived into the 1920’s, spending his last years in Fort Worth with his son, John J. Woody, a longtime executive at the old Stripling Department Store on Main St. Sam Woody’s granddaughter, Mrs. Marion Acola, still lives in Wise County and his great-grandson, Sam W. Acola, lives in Fort Worth.

This page was last modified 6 Apr 2003.

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