Coppell Historical Society ◊ P.O. Box 1871, Coppell, TX 75019 ◊

Bird’s Fort (1841-1842)

Established by Maj. Jonathon Bird and volunteers from the 4th Brigade, Texas Militia, in Sep - Oct 1841.  It was abandoned when the volunteer's enlistments expired in Mar 1842.  Also known as Bird's Fort

Fort Bird History

The fort was stockaded and contained a blockhouse and several cabins.

From the marker: "Established in 1840 by Jonathan Bird on the Military Rd. from Red River to Austin. In its vicinity an important Indian treaty, marking the line between the Indians and the white settlements, was signed September 29, 1843, by Edward H. Tarrant and George W. Terrell, representing the Republic of Texas. The ragged remnant of the ill-fated Snively expedition sought refuge here, August 6, 1843. (1936)"

Bird's Fort was situated about twelve miles southeast of Birdville and six miles north of Arlington on the north bank of the Trinity where Calloway's Lake is located.

Current Status

Only a marker remains. Marker may be located on South Main Street at the Silver Lake Gun Club.  This marker was relocated to River Legacy Park in 2003. The Bird's Fort site is about 1 1/4 miles north-northeast of this location.

On May 24, 1841, Brigadier General Edward Hamilton Tarrant, whose men called him "Old Hurricane," led fewer than 100 men to Village Creek, where they engaged a larger Indian force, retreating after Captain John Denton and reportedly only 12 Indians were killed. As a result of the Battle of Village Creek, many tribes began moving west. General Tarrant returned to the battle site in July with 400 men but found the Indian villages had been abandoned. To further protect settlers in the region, General Tarrant ordered Major Jonathan Bird's Ranger Company to construct a fort in the area. Bird chose a spot to the northeast of Village Creek near the Trinity River. In the summer of 1841, Bird and his volunteers constructed their fort on the north side of a crescent shaped lake just east of present-day Highway 157. Sam Houston visited Bird’s Fort and the surrounding area, hopeful of making peace with the numerous Indian tribes in order to protect the continuing influx of settlers. Houston held Grand Councils with chiefs from various tribes in the area. A treaty was soon reached, which was beneficial to both the Republic of Texas and the tribes. The chiefs were presented numerous gifts from the Republic.  

A Treaty of Peace and Friendship between the Indians and the Republic of Texas was partially signed at Bird’s Fort, and finalized on September 29, 1843. Some of the chiefs held the fear that an ambush was awaiting them at Bird’s Fort and did not attend. Many references indicate that the treaty was initiated at Bird’s Fort, and that final signatures of the chiefs were obtained at Grapevine Springs and Marrow Bone Spring with representatives of Sam Houston and the remaining tribal chiefs.

During the period of around 1842, another visitor to the Bird’s Fort was a man named John Neely Bryan. Bryan had come to the area originally in hopes of opening his own trading house. However, as a result of this new treaty, his plan did not work since his location was east of the proposed new boundary. John Neely Bryan now had thoughts of building a town at his site, which was located roughly 25 miles east of Bird’s Fort. Over the next couple of years he would continue to make trips between his property, Bird’s Fort, and other fledgling communities, recruiting settlers to join him in building his new town, which was later named Dallas. After discovering that the fort was built on land belonging to the Peters Colony land grant, the Rangers soon abandoned Bird’s Fort in 1843. Additionally, the Major was not reimbursed for his expenses incurred while building and maintaining the fort. Settlers remained in the area around the fort until the next summer. Things were not very pleasant for those who chose to remain due to the lack of food and unbearable winters. The Indians continued to be a menace; they had burned off the grasses, running off all of the wild game. They left when Sam Houston would not honor the settlers’ land claims, for they, too, were located in the Peters Colony Land Grant. Terms of the Bird’s Fort Treaty called for the establishment of a line populated by forts and trading houses separating Indian lands from territory open for colonization. President Sam Houston proposed commissioning three trading houses. In 1845, Isaac Spence and a partner obtained the rights to open a trading house on the Trinity. This would be known as Trading House number One.

Marker Text

In an effort to attract settlers to the region and to provide protection from Indian raids, Gen. Edward H. Tarrant of the Republic of Texas Militia authorized Jonathan Bird to establish a settlement and military post in the area. Bird's Fort, built near a crescent-shaped lake one mile east in 1841, was the first attempt at Anglo-American colonization in present Tarrant County. The settlers, from the Red River area, suffered from hunger and Indian problems and soon returned home or joined other settlements.

In August 1843, troops of the Jacob Snively expedition disbanded at the abandoned fort, which consisted of a few log structures. Organized to capture Mexican gold wagons on the Santa Fe Trail in retaliation for raids of San Antonio, the outfit had been disarmed by United States forces.

About the same time, negotiations began at the fort between Republic of Texas officials Gen. Tarrant and Gen. George W. Terrell and the leaders of nine Indian tribes. The meetings ended on September 29, 1843, with the signing of the Bird's Fort Treaty. Terms of the agreement called for an end to existing conflicts and the establishment of a line separating Indian lands from territory open for colonization.