Texas Lakes Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program


The Fort Worth Herd

It took more than just cattle to create the Fort Worth Stockyards. Throughout the second half of the 19th century Fort Worth served as final respite for the long cattle drives before drovers headed across the Red River and into Indian Territory. Known as “Cowtown,” the loosely-organized district – dusty when dry and sloppy with mud and manure whenever it rained – maintained a rowdy reputation on par with the cowboys who arrived with their livestock in tow. The arrival of the railroad in Fort Worth would trigger the stockyards’ transformation into big business and the construction of the Union Stockyards allowed a more methodical business transaction to play out among the thousands of cattle arriving for shipment. Investors were necessary to keep the enterprise afloat, a factor routine for the expansion of businesses even today, resulting in the purchase of the yards by a Boston meatpacker. The Fort Worth Stockyards Company (the stockyards’ new name) now not only gathered cattle in one place, it processed the beef as well rather than sending it along to competing markets. By the turn of the 19th century two major meatpacking companies, Armour and Swift, contributed to the prosperity, building plants nearby and inspiring a healthy exchange for livestock, now expanded to include hogs and sheep.

Business, in fact, was so good that an indoor facility was added, designed to house offices for the livestock commission companies, the telegraph, and the railroads. The 1902 Livestock Exchange Building survives among the restored icons of the Fort Worth stockyards today, now serving as home to the Stockyards Museum and the North Fort Worth Historical Society. The construction of an indoor show facility followed in 1907, capitalizing on the enormous success of the booming livestock business, an enterprise with enough cash and commodities changing hands to label it “the Wall Street of the West.” The Cowtown Coliseum gave cattlemen and associated industries a place to gather for both business and entertainment, serving as home to the first indoor rodeo and the first indoor horse show. Entertainment included the world-renowned warbler Enrico Caruso. The Coliseum, now in its second century, continues to line up the entertainment and sponsors the weekly Stockyards Championship Rodeo. The entire stockyards complex, in fact, is registered as a nationally designated historic district. This major Fort Worth heritage tourism draw features dining, lodging, events, shopping, entertainment, and attractions.

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