By Kathryn Stewart
My maternal family line has been in Texas for five generations: on the coast, in logging camps in east Texas, rice fields in the south, but not one of those ancestors ever made it to the Metroplex.
I myself grew up in a small, blink-and-you’ll-miss-it type of town near the Red River and only experienced the “big city” of Fort Worth when our church went to a Rangers game, or I got to go to the stock show with 4H. Fort Worth was mysterious, glamorous and intimidating compared to my rural sanctuary. So, when we moved from our little country hideaway to the greater metroplex in 1999, my culture, needless to say, was shocked.
I had a difficult time adjusting to life here. Moving from a place where the only traffic light was a blinking yellow on Main Street to a densely populated city with heavy traffic and no sign of the countryside I loved so much threw me into a teenage tailspin and longing for home. It took a long time to level out.
I jumped around a bit in the years that followed our relocation to DFW and spent time in places from Azle to Mid Cities, north Fort Worth to the Eastside, but it wasn’t until arriving in our corner of the southwest that I really felt like I had found what I didn’t know I was looking for.
At first glance, Benbrook, located at the southwest corner of Loop 820 roughly between Highway 377 and the Chisholm Trail Parkway, looks like your typical suburb — Starbucks, Walmart, fast food joints, gas stations, a few very good locally owned restaurants, but scratch the surface slightly and what you’ll find is an absolute gem of a town with a rich, interesting history and a lot to offer.
Before becoming one of the oldest settled communities in Tarrant County, the area that is now Benbrook was inhabited for at least the last 11,000 years (possibly much longer). The meeting of the Trinity River and Mary’s Creek provided a watering stop for native tribes on hunting expeditions. Comanche, Lipan Apache, Wichita and Caddo people all had herds of bison roaming the area.
Settled by Europeans in the 1840s, Benbrook continued to grow throughout the 19th century. Part of the Chisholm Trail, the Fort Worth-El Paso Mail Route, and the Texas and Pacific railroad all passed through here. Even today, some of these same transportation routes are still in use.
With the turn of the century and onset of WWI, Benbrook’s aviation history began to take flight. In 1917 Gen. John Pershing invited the Royal Canadian Flying Corps to train in Texas and an airfield and training facility were established in the part of town that is now the Lakeside subdivision.
During this time, Vernon Castle — RFC pilot, combat veteran, Croix de Guerre recipient, and one half of the then wildly famous dance team of Vernon and Irene Castle — came to Benbrook to train pilots on their way to war. In 1918, after training countless servicemen for the RCFC, Castle was killed when the plane carrying himself, a trainee, and Castle’s pet monkey Jeffrey, crashed while trying to avoid another plane. A memorial was erected near the crash site and the street on which it sits still bears his name.
In the years following the Great War, Benbrook’s population waxed and waned. Sometimes hosting notable, and notorious, residents like Elliott Roosevelt (son of President Teddy Roosevelt), Ellison Harding (Fort Worth National Bank president), and even a young Lee Harvey Oswald.
Over the decades a lake was built, businesses came and went, lives were lived and Benbrook grew into the lovely community it is now. One that boasts community gardens, lakeside equestrian trails, a spectacular library, community center, wonderful schools, stellar playgrounds, and in my opinion the crowning jewel of Fort Worth, the Trinity Trail System.
These days, despite the creeping urban sprawl of Fort Worth, Benbrook manages to maintain an air of a slightly slower life. It’s hard to imagine such an idea when driving down the heavily trafficked thoroughfare of Highway 377, but a closer look slightly off the main road shows you pockets of bucolic serenity and patches of native Texas prairie unsullied by modern development.
Take a walk down the trail by our home and you’re transported from the busyness of daily life to an environment that encourages quiet reflection. Century-old burr oaks, some of the tallest in the state, tower overhead along the pathways. Ancient fossils, remnants of the inland sea that once covered this part of Texas, tumble through creek waters and wash ashore to find their way into pants pockets of exploring children. Bobcats stealthily hunt migrating birds nested in tall autumn grasses and coyote calls echo through neighborhoods on the same winds that carry a train’s whistle. The inherent beauty existent in the dashes of wildness hidden in this place speaks to the wildness that never left this country girl’s heart.
It’s because of these reasons, the history, the geography, the people, and much more, that I love this town and will always call it my home.
Kathryn Stewart is an avid ultra trail runner who works in patient simulation for the medical schools in DFW. She volunteers with running groups and does trail maintenance/clean up around the area.
Total population (of this census tract): 2,023
Female: 53% | Male: 47%
80 and older: 3%
No degree: 1%
High school: 21%
Some college: 41%
Bachelor’s degree: 24%
White: 65% | Asian: 0% | Hispanic: 31% | Black: 2% | Two or more: 2%
Click on the link to view the schools’ Texas Education Agency ratings:
Editor’s note: This story has been updated to correct the spelling of Elliott Roosevelt’s name. The town of Benbrook has a population of 24,605. The census tract where Stewart lives a population of 2,023. The story was updated Nov. 8 to clarify this point.