Saturday, February 14, 2009

Hells Half Acre

A notorious red light district known as hell's half acre developed in Ft Worth after the arrival of the Texas Pacific railway in 1876 launched a local economic boom. Ft Worth was soon the favorite destination for hundreds of cowboys, buffalo hunters, railroad workers and freighters eager to wash off the trail dust and enjoy themselves. To meet the demand a large number of saloons, dance halls, gambling houses, and bordellos opened between the courthouse square and the railroad depot.

Illegal activities in hell's half acre were tolerated by city officials because of their importance to the town's economy. The district prospered in the 1880s and added to Fort Worth's growing reputation as a rowdy frontier town. Famous gamblers like Luke Short, Bat Masterson and Wyatt Earp and outlaws Sam Bass, Eugene Bunch, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid are known to have spent time in hell's half acre.
A 1906 newspaper headline calling the district Ft Worth's den of sin and refuge of criminals was representative of periodic efforts to clean up the district. These efforts proved unsuccessful until army officials at Camp Bowie, established in Ft Worth during World War I, helped local officials shut the district down. Texas Historical Commission

This is the first of several installments of local history. The next installment will be regarding the Cherokees on the run through Dallas during the "Trail of Tears" event. Even though there were many savage tribes in Texas, the Cherokee should have been given leniency in Texas, but the Texas Governor at that time had seen much devastation by other indians against settlers and declared war on all indians.