Stockyards Museum - We Are Open!
The Stockyards Museum showcases the rich history of the Fort Worth Stockyards and the north side of Fort Worth. There is a growing collection of artifacts, photos and exhibits that document everything from our Native American connections, the Chisholm Trail, the livestock market/stockyards to the Swift and Armour Packing plants. Visitors can experience why Fort Worth is known as "Cowtown" and learn how the Stockyards helped make Fort Worth the Texasmost city.
“I have heard people say that the cattle industry made Fort Worth, but I am inclined to believe that Fort Worth had a lot to do with making the cattle industry in Texas” – J.S. Bridwell, Texas Rancher and Businessman
Many thanks to Humanities Texas for your support! Without the generous donations of
entities like Humanities Texas, we could not do what we do.
For the drovers herding longhorn cattle up the Chisholm Traill to the rail heads, Fort
Worth was the last major stop for rest and supplies. Beyond Fort Worth they would have to
deal with crossing the Red River into Indian Territory. Between 1866 and 1890 more than
four million head of cattle were trailed through Fort Worth, which was soon known as
“Cowtown.” Cowtown soon had its own disreputable entertainment district several blocks
south of the Courthouse area known all over the West as “Hells Half Acre.”
When the railroad finally arrived in 1876, Fort Worth became a major shipping point for
livestock. This prompted plans in 1887 for the construction of the Union Stockyards about
two and one half miles north of the Tarrant County Courthouse. It went into full operation
Because the Union Stockyards company lacked the funds to buy enough cattle to attract
local ranchers, President Mike C. Hurley invited a wealthy Boston capitalist Greenleif
Simpson to Fort Worth in hopes he would invest in the Union Stock Yards. When Simpson
arrived on the heels of heavy rains and a railroad strike, more cattle than usual had
accumulated in the pens. Seeing this, he decided that Fort Worth represented a good
market and made plans to invest. Simpson invited other investors to join him, one of
whom was a Boston neighbor, Louville V. Niles whose primary business was meatpacking. On
April 27, 1893, Simpson bought the Union Stockyards for $133,333.33 and changed the name
to the Fort Worth Stockyards Company.
It soon became apparent that instead of shipping to other markets to process the cattle,
it would be much more desirable to keep more of the business in Fort Worth by having
local packing plants. A search began to lure major packers to the City. By about 1900,
after much work by local businessmen, both Armour & Co. and Swift & Co. were persuaded
to build plants adjacent to the Stockyards.
Construction began in 1902, but not until after the exact site of each plant was decided
by a flip of the coin. Armour won the toss and selected the northern site and Swift began
to build on the southern tract, which was the site of the original Livestock Exchange and
Hotel. Swift & Co. received an unexpected financial bonus when a large gravel pit was
found on the southern site that was ultimately used in the construction of both plants.