Fort Worth,Texas – A Wild Place

 Hello – Sylvia McDaniel here.  I’ll be doing a giveaway today, but first I want to tell you about some interesting bits of history I discovered recently.

While doing research for my series The Burnett Brides, I read a book called HELLS HALF ACRE by Richard F. Selcer. This book gives details about a half acre section in downtown Fort Worth in the late 19th century where cowboys, gunslingers and gamblers frequented.  This area of town had everything a traveling cowboy could ever want when they came to town with the cattle drives; saloons, dance houses, bordellos, cribs and gambling.

But the one item in the book that surprised me, and I used in my own novel, was the number of lawmen who once walked on the other side of the law. In my novel, THE MARSHAL TAKES A BRIDE, Tucker Burnett was once a well-known gunslinger. Until he takes a bullet that nearly kills him, and is nursed back to health by the beautiful Dr. Sarah James. But he runs scared from the feelings she evokes and goes back to Fort Worth where he gets his life in order and becomes a Marshal. Years later, she returns home to Fort Worth, married with her son in tow, and that’s where the story begins.

Many lawmen from this era were reformed gunslingers and men who had decided against a life of crime. Given the time they lived in, I’m sure they lived longer by being quick with a gun in a wild, lawless town. But they also were often friends and acquaintances with gamblers and gunslingers.

The other piece of information I came across in this book that made me dig deeper for a later book I wrote, was the availability of opium.  You could buy it in a drug store, or if you couldn’t get it there, just go down the street to the Chinese laundry where it was available.  There were opium dens in the city that people often frequented, even though they were against the law. I was stunned at the number of individuals who were addicted to drugs and used that information in another novel.

This book also revealed for me the true life of a soiled dove. Soiled dove is a pretty name for the profession, but few ladies actually chose this life, but were women down on their luck. If you were in the profession, you were lucky to be working in a sporting house. Most soiled doves worked in shanty’s called cribs and earned pocket change. The Miss Kitty I remember on Gunsmoke, would have lived in a crib or perhaps a sporting house. According to arrest records there were less than twenty women who worked in the sporting houses and the saloons were usually a male only establishment. Many of these women died young and lived hellish lives. Some even committed suicide. According to the book, the idea that many of these women married could not be verified.

I have other research books on the west and especially Fort Worth, but this one is on my keeper shelf. When I need to know the realities of life in a rugged, wild western town, I reach for this one first.

If you get the chance to visit Fort Worth, I encourage you to get a copy of HELL’S HALF ACRE. There’s an interesting map in the front of the book that shows the location of the saloons, the hotels and even Jim Earp’s residence. Most of these locations were located in the area where the Convention Center is now. It’s fun to walk down the street and try to figure out where the past occurred.  I believe that they even have one of the saloons still open.

I’ve often thought it would have been fun to have lived back in this era, to have struggled with everyday living without electricity and water. But for a woman, it was a difficult era. The movies have glamorized the decade, but the reality is that women of the west were as strong if not stronger than the men they loved. And that’s what I hope my stories reveal, strong women who the men they choose to love, deserve their strength and love. Dr. Sarah James in THE MARSHAL TAKES A BRIDE  is a strong woman in love with a man with a questionable past.

Now for the giveaway.  Tell me your favorite western TV show and I’ll enter you in a drawing for a copy of  THE MARSHAL TAKES A BRIDE. The winner will have a choice of either print or e-book.
Thanks to Petticoats and Pistols for having me today. If you’d like my list of western research books send me an email at

+ posts

58 thoughts on “Fort Worth,Texas – A Wild Place”

  1. I absolutely love Fort Worth, Texas. My brother lives about 30 miles east of Dallas, so every time we go to visit him, he knows one thing on the agenda is a trip to Fort Worth and the Stockyards. I love that area. Next time I go I’ll have to look for a copy of HELL”S HALF ACRE. Thank you so much for the blog today. I love history and learning new things. 😀

    I would love to be entered to win a copy of THE MARSHAL TAKES A BRIDE. Thank you for the opportunity. 🙂

    ;D Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.


  2. Hi Sylvia! Thank you for blogging at P&P today! “The Marshal Takes a Bride” like my kind of western. One of the things I enjoy about the Old West is what you described–the ambiguities of outlaws turning into lawmen. Interesting stuff!

    My favorite TV western is Paradise (or Guns of Paradise) with Lee Horsley and Sigrid Thornton. Lancer and High Chapparal are tied for second.

  3. What an interesting post. I’ve never been to Fort Worth. Well, not even Texas. Love to hear histories of different areas.
    I grew up watching westerns. We would spend every Saturday watching a marathon of different old western shows. My favorite was The Rifleman.

    Campbellamyd at gmail dot com

  4. My favorite would be Bonanza,,loved watching that as a kid,,ive been to Fort Worth an the stockyards was my favorite there

  5. Hi Cindy,
    I love to visit Fort Worth as well. My husband lived there before we married and we spent a lot of time in the downtown area as well as the stockyards. I use to go to Billy Bob’s quite a bit when I was younger.

    Thanks for stopping by. What’s your favorite western show?

  6. Hi Victoria,
    If I’m not careful, I will spend more time on research than writing. So I have to limit my time. Outlaws turning into lawmen I found extremely interesting and just had to use it.

    Guns of Paradise. Why don’t I remember that one? I’m going to have to look it up.


  7. Amy,
    As a kid I loved the Rifleman. There is an episode of him sleeping in a sleeping bag where a rattlesnake had crawled inside that I will never forget. Scared me to no end.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Vickie,
    When we were in Hollywood a couple of weeks ago, we took a tour of the stars homes. The bus took us right by where the Bonanza Home has been moved. It’s now the home of I think the “Western” association or museum. I always loved that house in the TV show and was in love with Little Joe.


  9. Thanks for the insights into the seamy side of life in the Old West, Sylvia. That research book is definitely on my list now. And I love the premise of your novel.
    Miss Kitty… I loved her on Gunsmoke, even though the portrayal of her was cleaned up for the time. Can’t help wondering how they would remake that great series today.

  10. Lovely post today. Fascinating and your book is interesting.I used to watch Westerns in the 50’s when I grew up. Roy Rogers, Gunsmoke and Rawhide always were faves of mine.

  11. I have never been to Ft.Worth, but I love the song by George Strait, Does Fr. Worth Every Cross Your Mind…
    Two of my fav TV Westerns was Bonanza and The Big Valley.

  12. Good Morning, Sylvia. My TV watching was limited way back when all the Western series were going on. Limited because of a lack of a TV. But as the reruns began, I enjoyed Bonanza, because we lived in that area of Nevada. My all-time favorite western anything, is Lonesome Dove! Authentic down to the saddles and all the actors could ride a horse. But, I’m being picky.
    I have heard of the book, “Hell’s Half Acre.” Now I’m going to have to find it and read it. Thanks for an interesting blog. Your book sounds like something I’d like to read.

  13. Thanks for this introduction and background on your wonderful novel. Westerns always held an allure for me. A totally different world from the one in which I was growing up in. I watched the shows avidly. Have gun, Will travel.

  14. Sylvia, how wonderful to have you blog with us. I love your books, especially the historicals. You’ve opened up a can of worms I fear when you asked for a favorite TV show. I have a very long list. But somewhere near the top is Gunsmoke, Lancer, Laramie, Paradise, and Big Valley. I think Barbara Stanwyck totally captured the immense strength of the frontier woman. She was great in her role as Victoria Barkley.

    Wishing you lots of success, dear friend!

  15. Elizabeth,
    Oh my God, you are so right. If Gunsmoke were remade today I wonder how they would portray Miss Kitty. I wonder why no one has done that. James Arness was such a good looking sheriff.

  16. Diane,
    I’d completely forgotten about Rawhide. A very young Clint Eastwood and he was soo good looking. Sigh…I really never cared for his westerns except the one with Shirley McClain in it Two Mules for Sister Sara. That was such a good movie.

  17. great history snippet! When I think of favorite western it’s actually a movie, not a TV show – Westward the Women. Great movie about a wagon train of women heading to california to marry- Just love the strenght in that movie and all the happily ever afters.

    I was too much of a romanticist even as a kid – I hated that in bonanza and Big valley- the tv shows of the day- the brothers (why always three) never got to keep the girl. I always knew at the beginning of the ep she’d have to be killed off or turn out to b bad. I really really hated that so rarely watched westerns on TV. I mean really how long did Matt Dillon and Miss Kitty ‘not’ date? lol.

  18. Hi Kathleen,
    You need to come visit Fort Worth, but don’t do it in the Summer. Wait until it’s cooler. Loved the Big Valley.

  19. Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman was great. I think that actress (can’t remember her name, but remember her from Dancin With the Stars) is so incredibly beautiful.

  20. Elle,
    I remember Have Gun Will Travel. I never really cared for the main character of that one. He just never resonated with me. But I wonder if they did a remake and put some young good-looking actor in if I would feel differently. Thanks for stopping by.

  21. Hi Linda,
    It’s been so good to see you again. I LOVED Big Valley and you are so right. Barbara Stanwyck played an excellent tough frontier woman. Thanks for having me today.

  22. Hi Chris,
    I loved that movie as well, but you remember the TV show about the woman going to Oregon? Bobby Sherman, I think, was in that television show and I watched that one faithfully. Loved Bobby Sherman and loved the show.

    I quit watching Gunsmoke after many years and I don’t remember how the series ended. I think it should have ended with them going off together. They were obviously in love. Thanks for coming by today.

  23. I’m afraid I’ve never been to Texas but I’ve known many people who have or still live there. My dad watched all the cowboy shows (back when there were only 3 channels lol) so Gun Smoke, Rawhide, Bonanza were all good ones and later The Wild, Wild West.

  24. Imagine a place where lawmen had a good chance of walking on the wrong side of the law…that would be a bit scary but also exciting. In a way being reformed gunslingers I think they would have a good chance of beating the bad guys just because they know what it’s like to be in their shoes!

    One of my favorite western shows is Dr. Quinn. The show gave me such a good look at what I imagine the Western life to be like.

  25. Hi Catslady,
    Right now it’s hot here in Texas just like most of the midwest. We’ve been around 106-112 this week. So we’re staying indoors in the AC, but when it cools off, come for a visit sometime. There is definately lots to see around here. My dad to this day still watches old westerns. In fact it’s a joke at his house. I enjoyed The Wild Wild West because they were unique. It was a different kind of western and I think was the “Steampunk” of it’s generation.

  26. Hi Na,
    What if that Lawman was still walking on the wrongside of the law? I bet there was a lot of that going on back then. You could be in control of the town, but be a dirty lawman. Just an idea…which may or may not appear in a book sometime.

    A lot of people here enjoyed Dr. Quinn. Maybe our blog will encourage Hollywood to make a new western. Thanks for stopping by today.

  27. I loved Bonanza, Big Valley, Wanted Died or Alive, High Chapparal, Rifleman and Later Dr. Quinn.

    I never was a big fan of Gunsmoke but would watch it.

    As far has western movies my all time favorite is “High Plains Drifter”.

  28. the tv show with brides going to Seattle was Here Come the Brides and I LOVED that show- but never really considered it a western even if it was set in the days of saloons and long skirts!!

    I do remember loving the tv show High Chaparel mostly because there was a happily married couple and it wasn’t on the air long enough to keep killing off girlfriends for the sons! LOL.

    Funny – I wonder why there was never a nice married couple in westerns? Bonanza, a widower, BigValley a widow, Gunsmoke a bachellor- hmmm.

    maybe we need a good romantic western show for TV. : )

  29. Bonanza… I mean really, good looking men, … Adam Cartwright… yum! Did you notice that all the women who feel in love the those guys… died… talk about unlucky in love!! no HEA there!
    I also enjoyed Centennial movie made from the book by James A. Michener…
    But really, non-soiled dove life choices for women without a husband…. laundress [until the Chinese come], cooking of some sort, or teaching.
    Thanks for the great research pointer!

  30. Hi Sherry,
    Another vote for Dr. Quinn. I remember the movie, High Plains Drifer, but not much about the story. I think Clint Eastwood was in it.

  31. Chris,
    You’re right! I agree with you, why didn’t Hollywood give us a western show where the men weren’t widows or the girlfriends didn’t die. Probably because then the goodlooking sons would be taken and many women would not return the next week to watch or at least they thought that. I would still watch Little Hoss and Little Joe. Nobody has mentioned Little House on the Prairie. I loved that show.

  32. CateS,
    Your comment made me remember Little House on the Prairie. I read those books in elementary school and then followed Laura Ingalls Wilder until she died. I have a book about her life. Loved that show.

  33. Loved Dr, Quinn! Have seen reruns of the older westerns too. Enjoyed Lonesome Dove after having read the book for school. Thank you for sharing with us today. 😀

  34. I’m with you on LONESOME DOVE, Sylvia — I just rewatched it (for maybe the 20th time) last week. I was a western-series fiend in my youth, and still have extra fond memories for MAVERICK and WILD WILD WEST. And yes, I did also love BONANZA. I used to make up stories in which Little Joe had to go on the run and changed his name to Charles Ingalls, at which point he met Caroline and had 3 daughters who never knew they had a rich grandfather in Nevada. Even then, I was a writer at heart.

    I own HELL’S HALF ACRE, too. Excellent resource! Great post about it.

  35. Hi Sylvia,

    As a Fort Worth girl, oved the blog. My hubby collects books, tokens, bottles and everything Fort Worth. Don’t get him started talking or you’ll be there the rest of the day. Ha.

  36. I have never been to Fort Worth but would love to visit one day. I was always big into Bonanza when I was growing up. Haven’t watched it in years though.

  37. Hi Colleen,
    Thanks for having me today! Dr. Quinn was a great show and there are a lot of votes here for that show today.

  38. Hi Yvonne,
    Didn’t we all want to marry Little Joe. I can remember playing as a kid, that I was going to marry Little Joe. I thought I was just playing, but I was making up stories. Sounds like you did the same. It was fun! And then when I got older, I signed notes to my friends in school, Mrs. Davy Jones…until I had one taken up by my teacher. So not good! Thanks for stopping by today!

  39. Quilt Lady,
    My grandmother use to sew all her quilts by hand. She had the most beautiful perfect tiny stitches. Miss her so much! Bonanza was such a great show and the scenary was so beautiful. Thanks for stopping by.

  40. Hi Pam,
    Thanks so much for stopping by! I bet your husband has some interesting stuff on Fort Worth! It’s good to see a Fort Worth girl here!

    Ya’ll, Pam writes wonderful contemporary romances.

  41. Hi Sylvia,
    I grew up in FW but don’t remember hearing about Hell’s Half Acre. I do remember the stockyards. Did you know FW used to be called Panther Town b/c of all the black panthers around? The cats, not the gang. 🙂 My favorite shows as a kid were Little House on the Prairie and Dr. Quinn. But I loved the movie Two Mules for Sister Sara. 🙂 Congrats on your release!!

  42. Hi Karilyn,
    Thanks for coming by. My friend told me about the Panthers just this week. The reason there is a statue of a panther downtown in front of one of the county buildings is because a panther use to roam the streets and would lie down in front of the building. Very odd.

    Loved Two Mules for Sister Sara!! And another vote for Dr. Quinn.

  43. Very interesting post. I have visited Texas several times and found it a big welcoming place.
    Your book sounds really good and i have added it to my TBE list.
    I loved watching Bonanza and my favorite show now is Longmire. Excellent contemporary western.

  44. Hi Joye,
    Thanks Joye! And thanks for adding me to your TBE list. 🙂 I’ve never watched Longmire. I might have to check it out. Everyone loves Bonanza and Dr. Quinn.


  45. Hi Sylvia,
    I loved reading your post. I have been to Texas and love it. Wow, what a big state! Enjoyed the Ft. Worth area.
    Your books sound wonderful and I look forward to reading them. At our house we always had to watch “The Virginian” and I couldn’t decide who I liked best, James Drury or Doug McClure. Also loved “Big Valley”. I thought Audra(Linda Evans) who so beautiful and I wanted to look just like her.

  46. Hi Sharon,
    That’s two new television shows I don’t think anyone mentioned. I remember The Virginian and had forgotten that Doug McClure was in it. And yes, Linda Evans is beautiful and I wanted to look like her as well. We watched Big Valley some, but not a lot.

  47. Boy, I came back & realized I didn’t tell you my favorite western. I always loved The Rifleman, The Big Valley, The Virginian and Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman. If I had to pick just one, it would probably be Dr. Quinn. 🙂

    😀 Smiles & Blessings,
    Cindy W.

  48. I loved Texas when we traveled to McAllen staying in Fort Worth on the way. Wish I had known about The book before then and will have to check it out if I get the opportunity to return.
    I was very fond of Bonanza and met LilJoe up close and personal whe he stepped on my foot and about knocked me down at a county fair where he and his brothers performed.

  49. I wish I had known about HELL’S Half ACRE 3 years ago when we went to Dallas-Ft. Worth. I would have enjoyed knowing more of the history and looking around for sites it referenced.

    Like many, I liked BONANZA. Yes early on I had a crush on Little Joe. I didn’t know too many girls who didn’t. As the years went by, I like all of the Cartwright men. Adam because I could relate to the what the oldest child goes through. I appreciated the seriousness. Hoss was just a big teddy bear with a heart of gold. He deserved a good woman to love him for who he was. Today I can appreciate Ben. He had his hands full, but was lucky to have 3 great sons. My biggest love on the show, the Ponderosa. I wanted the ranch more than any man on it..
    It is too bad there haven’t been many westerns lately, but our family enjoy what there was from Little House to Young Riders to Dr. Quinn. I would love to see a good western series produced again.
    I will be asking for your list of research books.

  50. Connie,
    What a neat story to tell about LilJoe. The next time you’re in Fort Worth you need to check out section of town called the Acre. It’s not obvious today because the convention center is there, but the railroad is close by and there are a few landmarks still visible. The Panther we were talking about earlier, has a statue representing his legend.

  51. Well ladies, thank you so much for coming by today. I’ve had a lot of fun. The family wants to watch a movie, so I promised them I would log off and come down and spend quality time with them. This is the most fun I’ve had on a blog and I think the two most popular westerns were Dr. Quinn and Bonanza.

    The winner of the free book will be notified tomorrow after lunch. Again, I appreciate everyone’s comments and for visiting.
    Sylvia McDaniel

Comments are closed.