Fort Worth on Friday dedicated a new 22-foot-tall monument at the banks of the Trinity River. It’s a bronze statue of U.S. Army Brevet Major Ripley Allen Arnold, the man who founded the city 165 years ago.
In native dress, Comanche Indian veterans joined U.S. Army captains and Fort Worth officials in honoring the man who established the first military outpost on the bluffs.
“Now, 165 years after the fact we are still trying to sort out the legend of Brevet Major Ripley Allen Arnold," historian Quentin McGown said. "What we know is that he grew up near Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, and was admitted to West Point when he was 17 years old.”
McGown says Arnold was one of 1,000 U.S. soldiers and officers and among 28 companies scattered across the frontier of Texas in 1849.
“It was a time of great sacrifice,” McGown said. “Unbearable hardship. Extraordinary heroism. And defiant bravery.”
It's a period of Fort Worth history that former City Council member Jim Lane doesn’t want to be lost.
“I think if you went to downtown Fort Worth today and asked people where was the fort, or what’s the fort, the majority of people would tell you, 'I don’t know what you’re talking about.'”
Lane says the founder of Fort Worth was a friend to native tribes.
“Major Arnold was not known to be an aggressive Indian fighter,” Lane said. “He thought that his job was just as much to protect the Indians from the white settlers, as it was to protect the white settlers from the Indian. He wanted to be a peacekeeper, and he did a pretty good job here.”
That’s why 62-year-old June Sovo of the Comanche Tribe of Oklahoma drove down with his family to witness the dedication to Arnold, a man he says was a brother to Indians.
“In our traditional ways, when you befriend somebody, you say, from now on we're going to be brothers," Sovo said.
About the darker parts of history, when Indians were pushed out of Texas or worse, he says: “What’s done is done. Today’s today; we look forward.”
That idea is shared by Archie St. Clair, the Australian artist who designed the statue of Arnold in his original Dragoon military uniform.
“This is all about life,” St. Clair said. “Where we’ve been. Where we are. And where we’re going.”
Arnold is going to get visitors thinking about their own history, he says.
“Where you at, how’d you get here,” St. Clair said. “We all come from different walks of life. I just want them to get it. When you start looking at history, it just gets you. And then you're hooked.”
Arnold’s body is buried in downtown Fort Worth, at Pioneers Rest Cemetery, one of the oldest burial grounds in the city.