Native American History Around Sheri Capehart Nature Preserve
If you have lived here long, you will know this area as Kennedale Mountain. The Caddo Native Americans originally migrated to the
Red River Valley from Louisiana and eventually made
their way south and settled in what is now known as
Village Creek located in Tarrant County. In the 1830’s
the valley held one of the largest concentrations of
Native Americans in the region and the area became
known as Village Creek because of their villages, which
existed along its banks. After many years of fighting
and waging war on encroachers, the Caddos and the
Republic of Texas signed a peace treaty in 1843, which
as a result, weakened the tribe’s numbers. Although
the peace agreement tried to bring an end to
hostilities, several skirmishes still occurred and several
historic figures surfaced such as Captain John B.
Denton and General Edward H. Tarrant. Soon after,
the numbers of the Caddos greatly decreased due to
famine and disease.
Local archeological excavations along the Village Creek
Valley have unearthed several Caddo artifacts
discovered in and around Kennedale. These artifacts
from the area date back almost 9,000 years and
provide a clear picture that the Caddos were experts
in food-gathering and hunting.
In 2019 a 200-year-old oak tree in Arlington was recognized as a historic tree thanks to an intrepid tree lover. Wes Culwell, a Fort Worth arborist, discovered the old post oak at Southwest Nature Preserve (also known as Kennedale Mountain) in 2015.
He was preparing to give a presentation on historic trees at a Friends of Sheri Capehart Nature Preserve meeting, when he asked to be shown around the nature area. Located just south of I-20 on Bowman Springs Road in southwest Arlington, the park has been kept as a wildscape. No soccer fields, just a few picnic tables dot the perimeter of the parking lot, surrounded by rapidly expanding urban sprawl.
The preserve almost became a housing development back in 2004. But the Arlington Parks and Recreation officials and City Council member Sheri Capehart along with residents lobbied to keep it a wildlife refuge. They envisioned a smaller version of River Legacy Park, the 1,300-acre jewel of the Arlington Parks system, located in north Arlington.
Today, the 58-acre park attracts fly fisherman who enjoy the spring fed lake and three ponds. For Culwell, it was a nice place for a hike through the woods. Then he saw it.
A post oak next to the trail was surrounded by overgrown brush. But Culwell could see by the size of the trunk and huge branches here was an old tree. He suggested contacting the Texas Historic Tree Coalition, a tree advocacy group based in Dallas.
Southwest Arlington resident Jim Frisinger and SWNP volunteers took on the challenge and after four years of research, the venerable post oak now has a name, “Old Caddo Oak.” It was dedicated as a historic Texas tree. “Now we have another important feature for the preserve,” Frisinger said.
The tree sits atop a hill among a unique mix of east Texas plants, such as the Glen Rose Yucca, not found anywhere else this far west. Rising 100 feet overlooking the plains, the spot is rumored to have been the perfect location for Caddo, Cherokee and Tonkawa tribes to send smoke signals and survey for buffalo.
And the Old Caddo Oak was even there back then.
Mary Ann Graves, president of Texas Historic Tree Coalition, is happy to make it the first tree to be chosen by the group in Tarrant County.
“The process isn’t instant,” Graves says. “The coalition pulls together anthropologists, arborists, historians and communities where the trees are, so it takes time to pull a story together.”
She said the Friends of Southwest Nature Preserve have done an “amazing job.”
“We’re grateful to the people at the Southwest Nature Preserve for bringing this tree to our attention. They’re the heroes of this story.”
If you would like to learn more about Kennedale Mountain history and the Sheri Capehart Nature Preserve. Mark your calendars for Kennedale Community Dinner on Wednesday March 1, 2023 at 6:00 pm at Dover Hall 208 Municipal Dr. Kennedale, TX 76060. Jim Frisinger will be the speaker that night and will present the History of Kennedale Mountain.
Information in this article was contributed by: The Kennedale Historical Society & J.G. Domke