In The News

Ripley Arnold statue to stand tall at Trinity River in Fort Worth

by Bill Hanna | Jun 26, 2012

STAR-TELEGRAM/KHAMPHA BOUAPHANH

BY BILL HANNA
billhanna@star-telegram.com

FORT WORTH -- Ever since the Ripley Arnold public housing site was torn down in 2003 to make room for RadioShack's headquarters on the bank of the Trinity River, former Councilman Jim Lane has been worried that Arnold's name was slipping from the public consciousness.

Now something is being done about it.

Plans call for a statue of Brevet Maj. Ripley Arnold, who led a company of dragoons to establish a fort at the confluence of the Clear Fork and West Fork of the Trinity River, to be placed in a park near the riverbank.

"I think there are a lot of people that don't realize there was an actual fort in Fort Worth," Lane said.

Fort Worth was established June 6, 1849, with Arnold naming it after his commander, Gen. William Jenkins Worth. What Arnold didn't know was that Worth had died of cholera a few days earlier in San Antonio.

Arnold was killed in 1853 during a gunfight with his post surgeon, Dr. Josephus Steiner, at Fort Graham, west of present-day Hillsboro. His body was brought to Fort Worth in 1854 and buried in Pioneers Rest Cemetery. The actual fort in Fort Worth closed in 1853 as the frontier moved west.

The Tarrant Regional Water District board, of which Lane is a member, approved accepting a donation last week for the statue in the new John V. McMillan Park along the riverfront near Tarrant County College Trinity River Campus. Tentative plans for the park also include a small amphitheater and other amenities. The statue will be near the end of Taylor Street.

The park is named after a Fort Worth businessman who died in 2001. McMillan started the Tarrant County Coors beer distributorship in 1966; the local distributorship, now overseen by his grandchildren, agreed to make a contribution for the statue in exchange for the park being named after McMillan. Lane said the statue's cost is capped at $250,000.

Downtown Fort Worth Inc. also has up to $200,000 in grants that could go toward a statue of Arnold but is waiting to learn more about the project.

A previous plan would have placed a statue in Paddock Park, just north of the Tarrant County Courthouse, but Andy Taft, president of Downtown Fort Worth Inc., said his group is open to placing the statue elsewhere.

"We are not married to one location," Taft said.

The statue, which will be 12 feet, 6 inches tall, will show Arnold in his dragoon uniform gazing toward the confluence of the West and Clear forks of the Trinity near where a small lake is planned as part of the Trinity River Vision, the $909 million flood-control and economic development project.

"It's exactly the right time and the right idea," said J.D. Granger, Trinity River Vision's executive director.

The artist, Archie St. Clair, who was Grapevine's artist-in-residence, has several sculptures there, including the Nightwatchman, a bronze work in front of City Hall.

St. Clair, who has created a small statue of Arnold, said he is eager to get to work.

"I was up all night thinking about it," he said, adding that his main thought was to "hurry up" with a June 2013 deadline looming. The plan is to dedicate the statue on Fort Worth's 164th birthday June 6.

The likeness of Arnold is coming from a daguerreotype that is said to bear Arnold's image, but historians disagree on whether the old photograph is of him.

Lane said that isn't important.

"What matters is the uniform is historically accurate, and we've worked with historians to make sure that's the case," Lane said

Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698


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