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Fort Worth Flashback: John Peter Smith was early Fort Worth promoter

Posted May 14, 2012

JPS

John Peter Smith (1831-1901) arrived in Fort Worth in 1853 and decided to make it his home.

In January 1854, Smith obtained an old army hospital abandoned by the Second U.S. Dragoons. In this building he began the first school in the city. The school house was eventually transformed into the Male and Female Academy.

Following service in the Civil War, he returned home to begin his career as a lawyer and to deal in real estate. Smith owned 1,000 acres of land in Tarrant County in 1865 and quickly rose to prominence in Fort Worth society. Within five years he had doubled his holdings, and by the early 1880s he had amassed city lots valued at more than $50,000 and thousands of acres of land. He was reported to be the largest landowner in Fort Worth.

Several times Smith was urged to accept a nomination for governor of Texas, but he continually refused, saying that he preferred to pursue his personal interests. Smith donated many acres to the city for improvements, including land for the Oakwood, Calvary and Trinity cemeteries and for several parks, churches and hospitals, one of which still carries his name — John Peter Smith Hospital.

Smith died April 11, 1901, in St. Louis while on a promotional trip for Fort Worth. Reportedly, the cause of death was blood poisoning contracted following a robbery and assault outside his hotel. He was buried at Oakwood Cemetery on Fort Worth’s north side. The citizens of the city honored him by erecting the John Peter Smith Monument, a marble bust near St. Patrick’s Cathedral on land donated by Smith.

The Fort Worth Library has approximately 10,000 items pertaining to the history of Fort Worth and Tarrant County. These items include city and county government documents, newspapers, directories, cemetery association records, maps as well as popular and scholarly books written by local authors or about local subjects. To learn more, call 817-392-7740 or email the Genealogy, History and Archives Section.

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