Our History

Who was Julian Feild?

FEILD, JULIAN (1825–1897). Julian Feild, civic leader of Fort Worth and founder of Mansfield, was born in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, on August 14, 1825, the son of Robert and Frances Feild. In 1838 he moved with his family to Harrison County, Texas, but went to Tennessee to live with relatives after he was orphaned in 1840. Feild married Henrietta Roberta Boisseau on November 29, 1843. They had seven children. He returned to Harrison County about 1844 and stayed there for eight years. He owned a large tract of farmland worth $4,400.

Feild moved west to Fort Worth about 1854, just after the fort closed. He purchased a log cabin from an officer, at what is now the corner of Belknap and Throckmorton streets. When the first Masonic lodge in Fort Worth was organized by ten Masons in April of 1854, Feild was elected worshipful master. The lodge hall, a two-story structure at East Belknap and Grove, was constructed under Feild's supervision in 1857. Masons met on the second floor, and the lower floor was used for church services, a school, and social events. Feild also served as a trustee for the public schools in 1856. The Dallas-based firm of Gold and Donaldson provided financial assistance and sent a representative in the person of W. J. Masten, a Methodist minister, to help Feild build a stone general store on the future Belknap and Taylor streets. Feild brought coffee and sugar from Shreveport, salt from Grand Saline, and other supplies from Houston. He sold merchandise to local citizens and traded with the Indians. The store also served as a post office, and Feild was commissioned as the first postmaster, a position he held from February 1856 until February 1857. In 1856, with the help of Ralph S. Man and David Mauck, Feild built the first gristmill in town at the confluence of the Clear Fork and West Fork of the Trinity River. He was one of thirty-eight men who signed a bond guarantee for the construction of the first courthouse in Fort Worth, part of an effort to make Fort Worth the county seat instead of Birdville. Unfortunately, the spot Feild selected for his original mill had inadequate running water, and two years of drought hurt the mill's business.

Feild sold his nineteen slaves in 1857 and purchased 2,500 acres of land on the Clear Fork and the West Fork of the Trinity, and Walnut and Bear creeks. In 1857, with the help of his friend R. S. Man, he relocated south of Fort Worth in the oak groves of Walnut Creek. He rebuilt the mill in 1858 as a three-story brick structure. The new location and steam-powered mill had a readily available supply of water, fuel, and grain from local farmers. The mill expanded and added production of lumber. As the Civil War began, Feild owned thirteen slaves and had property valued at $22,000. Because his mill proved invaluable to the Confederacy, he was exempted from military service. The mill shipped grain south as far as the Rio Grande and north to Jefferson City, Missouri. Feild entered into a lucrative contract with the federal government in 1867 to supply meal and flour to such army bases as Fort Belknap and Fort Griffin. In 1871 Kiowa Indians intercepted a shipment in what became known as the Warren Wagontrain Raid. The town that evolved around the successful mill ultimately became known as Mansfield, a derivative of the names of R. S. Man and Julian Feild. Feild platted the townsite and donated the land from the original Hanks survey. In 1868 he donated land for the Walnut Creek Congregational Church and Man donated land for the cemetery.

In 1875 Feild returned to Fort Worth. In 1880 he accompanied his friend Col. Olin Wellborn on a western campaign tour in his bid for Congress. On December 27, 1881, a fire destroyed Feild's home and stable. Three mules and five horses were lost to a blaze that probably originated from roman candles. In 1884 Feild was elected alderman of Fort Worth. He again served as postmaster, beginning on October 19, 1885. In 1890 he left Texas for the last time and moved to California. He died on September 9, 1897, and was buried in San Diego. Several of his sons remained in Fort Worth and continued the process of building a town begun by their father. Julian T. Feild became a prominent doctor in town after graduating from Louisville Medical School in 1868. He had the first telephone in town. W. Henry Feild studied law and became a bill collector for the firm of Feild and Durlager. Jeff D. Feild became a local druggist.

Source: TSHA