Hell’s Half Acre
Fort Worth, Texas, Late 19th Century
There are stacks of research and anecdotal information confirming that sin flourished in the Old West. An incredibly decadent place existed during the nineteenth century in Fort Worth, Texas. Gamblers, prostitutes, drug peddlers, gunfighters and murderers all walked the streets for the most part unchecked.
As unpalatable as sin was viewed by many Fort Worth citizens, it couldn’t be denied that immorality sold better than virtue, netting much greater profits. To accommodate business interests, the respectable populous gave the rougher elements their own area in Fort Worth. The place grew immensely popular and soon became known as Hells Half Acre, although the allotted space quickly expanded as business boomed.
Fort Worth’s Hell’s Half Acre started during the city’s heyday as a drover’s stop on the cattle trails to Kansas in the early 1870s. The name first appeared in the local newspaper in 1874, but by that time the district was already well established on the lower end of town, where it was the first thing the trail drivers saw as they approached the town from the south.
On the infamous Rusk Street, there was an aggregation of one and two story saloons, dance halls, and bawdy houses, interspersed with empty lots and a sprinkling of legitimate businesses. Those venturing into the Acre and looking for trouble or excitement, found plenty of brawling, gambling, cockfighting, and horse racing inside the buildings as well as outside in the streets and back alleys.
Long before the Acre reached its maximum boundaries, local citizens had become alarmed at the level of crime and violence in their city. In 1876 (Timothy Isaiah) Longhair Jim Courtright was elected city marshal with a mandate to tame the Acre’s wilder activities.
Courtright cracked down on violence and general rowdiness—sometimes putting as many as thirty people in jail on a Saturday night—but he allowed the gamblers to operate unmolested. After receiving information that train and stagecoach robbers, such as the Sam Bass gang, were using the Acre as a hideout, local authorities intensified law-enforcement efforts.
Yet certain businessmen placed a newspaper advertisement arguing that such legal restrictions in Hell’s Half Acre would curtail the legitimate business activities there. Despite this tolerance from business, due to Marshal Courtright’s law enforcement practices, the cowboys began to stay away, and the businesses began to suffer.
City officials warred with each other about the viability of maintaining the vice crackdown and those favoring “free enterprise” won. Courtright lost his bid for reelection and throughout the 1880s and 1890s the Acre continued to attract gunmen, highway robbers, card sharks, con men, and shady ladies, who preyed on out-of-town and local sportsmen. (Source)
The history of Hell’s Half Acre is steeped in violence and hopping with plot bunnies. I’ve visited the place in three different books so far. J In Trouble In Disguise, my latest Eclipse Heat novel, Deacon McCallister follows a counterfeiter to the Pleasure Dome, a fancy brothel at the south end of Rusk Street.
Leave a comment to win an an ecopy set of the Eclipse Heat Bounty Hunters–Five Card Stud, Wolf’s Tender, and Trouble In Disguise (last title sent to winner on June 5–release day).
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Since both his partners have married and retired from the hunt, Deacon McCallister is alone when he visits the Pleasure Dome, an infamous brothel in Fort Worth’s Hell’s Half Acre. He’s tracking a counterfeiter but what he finds is TROUBLE—dressed in a man’s ruffled shirt and nothing more.
Bounty hunter Miracle Beauregard pretends to be male, calls herself Beau and for years has fooled the general public concerning her gender. But underneath Miri’s disguise, beats a feminine heart in lust for Deacon McCallister. Though she spends a lot of time dreaming about her rival, she never expects to act upon her longings.
When Miri follows an outlaw to the fanciest whorehouse in Texas and crosses paths with her heart’s desire, she trades her buckskins for bare skin to play the part of Deacon’s paid companion.
Inside Scoop: Miri figures wrong when she thinks one taste of Deacon will be enough and quickly discovers her undercover lover has forever on his mind.
About the Author
Gem Sivad is a bestselling, award winning author, writing about historical times that simmer with passion. Within her Eclipse Heat series, she has three bounty hunters named McCallister. All three find love when they’re on the hunt. In Five Card Stud—Sam McCallister gambles with the wrong woman and loses his heart in a poker game. Charlie Wolf McCallister trades lust for love when he meets Miss Naomi Parker in Wolf’s Tender.
On June 5th, Trouble In Disguise arrives with Deacon McCallister’s story about finding love in all the wrong places.
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