History of Parker County Texas
Parker County was a part of the westward population movement well before the area was designated as a county by the State of Texas in early November of 1855. Roving bands of Native Americans had traversed the area for many years following the ample herds of deer, bison and bears. Early Spanish explorations passed through or near the area but did not settle. However, by the 1850s, there were sufficient people in the area to petition the county’s creation.
Some 224 residents of western Tarrant Territory (a part of Navarro County) submitted the document. Decatur rancher Dan Waggoner, who had come into the area with the Reverend Pleasant Tackett group, was the first signer. Representative Isaac Parker of Birdville presented the request in the House, and Senator Jefferson Weatherford of Wilmer made the Senate presentation. After much discussion about names, the county was named for Parker and the county seat became Weatherford. Three choices were considered and the county seat was placed near the center of the county.
The first court session was held under an oak tree north of the county seat. Streets were designated and named, and a frame courthouse built. This was the first of four, as two later structures were destroyed by fire. The present Second Empire structure was built in 1885 at a cost of $55,555.55. It was recently remodeled to its original beauty, one of the top 10 in the state.As other early counties experienced, Parker had its share of confrontations. One such incident, the Warren Wagontrain massacre, featured the first trial of Indian chiefs in a criminal court and the resulting push to put all Indians onto reservations.One of the state’s more popular stories involved Cynthia Ann Parker, niece of Isaac Parker, who spent some time here after she was rescued from the Comanches. Many stories have been retold about this period. Oliver Loving and Charles Goodnight, local ranchers, gained fame for their cattle trailing.
Parker County became noted for its livestock production. The National Cutting Horse Association had its beginnings here and the county is the current cutting horse capital. Agriculture was also an important industry and neon signs on the courthouse lawn proclaimed the county as Texas Fruit and Dairy Center for many years. The State legislature has identified the county as the Peach Capital of Texas. Watermelons were an early product that gained national recognition with gold medals at the St. Louis World’s Fair.
The county has produced its share of war personnel over the years, including two generals in World War II – Gen. Hood Simpson and Gen. Lecil Lee. The county has also provided the nation with political leadership, including Jim Wright, who rose to Speaker of the House in the post WWII years.
Education has also played an important part of the county’s growth. Former teacher and district attorney S. W. T. Lanham also served as governor of Texas. Weatherford College, which began in 1869, is the oldest junior college west of the Mississippi. Several county educators held state leadership posts.
While the county did not achieve its hopes for leadership in railroading, it became a part of the nation’s second transcontinental highway – the Bankhead Highway.
Population remained good, if not spectacular, through the first century, but in the late 20th century it began to grow. In addition, the city has again taken a leadership in economic importance. In the early days, Weatherford was the last stop on the way to west Texas and it served as the shopping center for counties as far west as Shackelford. Current economic growth is again establishing itself for the area. Highway growth established the city and county as a current transportation center.
A lot of history has been crammed into the 150-plus years of the county, but the future is looking even brighter.