Fort Worth City Council will not rename White Settlement Road – at least not any time soon.
The road, which carries a name tied to Fort Worth’s history of pushing out Native Americans from the region, has transformed since it was paved in 1956. Once a prairie-lined road heading west, the street is now a bustling thoroughfare surrounded by businesses.
Over a year ago, after construction of the White Settlement bridge was completed, Mayor Mattie Parker and several council members told the Fort Worth Report it was time to have a serious conversation about changing the name.
Now, with the renaming of White Settlement Bridge tabled, renaming White Settlement Road is “not a chief focus” of Parker’s office, she said in a statement.
“I continue to be open to the conversation about a community-driven renaming process if constituents, particularly those with business or residential addresses on the road, express that this should be a council priority,” Parker said.
Marjeanna Burge, a citizen of the Comanche Nation, said she was disappointed by the decision. When she moved to the Fort Worth area, she asked her real estate agent to avoid showing her any homes that would include White Settlement in the address.
“It’s kind of a reminder that this white settlement survived,” Burge said. “It’s here. It’s right there, and then the history of my people is that they were relocated, they were driven out.”
Pat Petersen, a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and a founder of the Intertribal Community Council of Texas, said she also was disappointed but not surprised.
“That’s the way the city is. Change is hard to come by,” Petersen said.
A group of Native Americans, including Petersen, have previously expressed support for changing the name and asked to be involved in deliberations about it.
Some businesses and residents who live on White Settlement Road were mostly indifferent about efforts to change the name.
Pam Heston, who has owned a pilates and yoga studio on the road for decades, said at first the road’s name seemed odd. Now, she’s come to know the name as an important reminder of the city’s history.
“I don’t have a problem with it,” Heston said. “It’s been there a long time.”
Kadie Hatter, who grew up near White Settlement Road, said she is glad the city chose to hold off on renaming the road.
“If you rename the road without educating people, then you’re missing an opportunity,” Hatter, who is Latina, said. “All my kids are growing up in this city… this is where I grew up. No one in my family is offended by it.”
Naming Panther Island bridges also tabled
After receiving 1,700 name suggestions from residents, city staff and committee members decided not to immediately rename the three bridges associated with the Panther Island project.
Assistant City Manager Dana Burghdoff cited a recent consulting contract with HR&A Advisors Inc. that will help the city develop a new real estate plan for the island.
“The thinking is, as the city and our partners look at reimagining Panther Island, we allow that process to move forward and don’t jump into naming the bridges,” Burghdoff said. “In addition, the committee noted that most of our bridges are actually not named.”
As the city’s consultant works to produce a new strategic plan, Fort Worth officials could revisit naming the bridges later, Burghdoff said.
“I want to express my appreciation to every resident, staff member and committee member who contributed to the bridge name conversation,” Parker said in a statement. “The committee was incredibly thoughtful in the process of coming to their ultimate recommendation, and I support their conclusion.”
Residents expressed mixed views on the White Settlement name through their submissions to rename the Panther Island bridges, which includes a bridge on White Settlement Road. One resident suggested the city keep the name White Settlement Bridge.
“There’s nothing at all racist about this historic name and people need to stop projecting modern woke racial grievances upon our history,” the respondent said.
Another resident disagreed, suggesting “anything other than White Settlement Bridge.”
“I still can’t believe the name White Settlement still exists … I don’t think the city of Fort Worth with its progressive and forward-looking stance should attach itself to this,” the commentator said.
The history of White Settlement and White Settlement Road
The name White Settlement stems from 1841 when Gen. Edward H. Tarrant, for whom Tarrant County is named, organized the Texas militia to attack Native American settlements on Village Creek. Capt. John B. Denton, the namesake of Denton County, died in the attack.
The attack was a part of what the then-president of Texas Mirabeau B. Lamar called an “exterminating war” against the Native American inhabitants aimed at “their total extinction or total expulsion,” Scott Langston, a faculty member at Texas Christian University’s Religions department previously told the Report.
The attack achieved its goal, forcing Native Americans to move farther west, away from encroaching white settlers.
Before Fort Worth was officially settled, various native peoples lived in the area: Comanche, Cherokees, Muscogees/Creeks, Seminoles, Kickapoos, Shawnees, various Caddo groups and various Wichita groups.
Shortly after, the Army constructed a fort, called Fort Worth, tasked with protecting white settlers as they made their way farther west.
Looking westward, soldiers in the Fort might have been able to see settlers in the western horizon, Langston said.
The homesteaders would fire shots if they needed assistance from the Army. Presumably, the Army would go from where the courthouse is now, down the bluff toward the river, where the unofficial White Settlement Road would stretch out, leading to the western homesteads.
In 1853, the Army dubbed North Texas as safe for the white settlers who made their way there. They packed up and left, and civilians began to occupy the fort.
Today, the town of White Settlement isn’t known as a frontier town, and White Settlement Road is no longer a corridor to the west. The town was incorporated separately from Fort Worth in 1954 and was soon surrounded by the expanding Fort Worth.
The town of White Settlement boomed during World War II when apartments were built for the workers building B-24 bombers nearby. Today, Lockheed Martin continues to operate a plant just outside White Settlement.
The road was officially widened, paved and lighted in about 1956 to aid commerce and travel between Fort Worth and the town of White Settlement to the west.
Since then, the name has been controversial and has weathered several attempts to change the name. In 2019, residents voted by a wide margin to reject changing the name of the town.
Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.