CAPTAIN EPHRAIM M. DAGGETT will be known in history as the “Father of Fort Worth.” Some of his associates did more for the city along particular lines, but his services, which began with the inception of the village apart from the military post and were associated with every conspicuous phase in its growth, well entitle him to a distinction more than ordinary among his fellow citizens. We have already spoken of his efforts in behalf of his city, and it now remains briefly to sketch the salient features of his life in a somewhat formal biography.
Born in Upper Canada, eight miles west of Niagara Falls, June 3, 1810, he was the son of a man whose sympathies were with the American cause w hen the war of 1812 came on and who then moved to the American side of the boundary and took part in the war, leaving his property to be confiscated by the British. After the close of the war the government of the United States recognized the services of such Canadian volunteers by giving them lands in Indiana, then a strictly frontier country, to which place many of them moved in 1820, the Daggetts among the rest. At this time E. M. Daggett was ten years old, the oldest of his father’s children. The portion of Indiana where the Canadians settled, near Terre Haute, was at that time largely occupied by Indians, and here young Daggett became thoroughly acquainted with Indian habits, customs and peculiarities.
>On arriving at his majority he left his father’s house and commenced life for himself, going to Chicago and for three years carrying on trade with the Indians. Owing to an attack of rheumatism, he was advised to seek a warmer and more southern climate, and this led to his settling in Texas. His father had long desire to see Texas, and knowing his father’s wishes in this respect, an arrangement was made by which the whole Daggett family embarked for Texas, landing at Shreveport in the fall of 1839, and in the following April locating in Shelby county, Texas. The actual cultivation of the soil, and the producing of those things necessary to wear and to sustain life, was but a small item compared with the watchful care necessary to bestow in order to protect live and property from the from the ravages of bad men who still infested this portion of the state. Personal and neighborhood quarrels were constantly arising, and a stranger had to be exceedingly careful of every move and word, in order to steer clear of these feuds. The Daggetts, however, did so manage their personal affairs as to command the confidence and respect of all classes, until the celebrated war broke out between the Moderators and the Regulators, when it became an actual necessity to take sides with one or the other of these parties. The Daggetts enrolled themselves on the side of the Regulators. His two brothers, Charles and Henry, added to the ranks of the Regulators’ force, and did their full share in the endeavors to rid the country of that class of men and desperadoes whose aim and object were unmistakably fraud, peculation and plunder, and all this under the guise of law and order. Counterfeiting, theft, robbery and murder were openly defended and screened by those in high places, and the courts of the country were so permeated therewith as to afford no protection whatever. Under this state of things the Regulators were organized, and an open war of extermination commenced and continued with fearful results for the space of nearly four years. It is true there was an occasion cessation of hostilities, long enough to do a little planting. The campaign was each year renewed with vigor on both sides, so soon as “roasting ears” were ready for use. During the four years of turmoil Mr. Daggett passed through many trying scenes, and on several occasions barely escaped with his life. His instinctive sense of honor, his certain resentment of insult, his wonderful physical ability, and his passionate fondness in eastern Texas and a leader of his party. The “Shelby” war was finally settled by President Houston sending a body of two thousand troops into that part of the state, and thereby bringing about an agreement among the leaders and principal men on both sides, by which peace was to a very considerable extent restored.
Shelby county sent two companies to the Mexican war, and in one of these was E. M. Daggett, who became a second-lieutenant. WHen this enlistment expired, he re-enlisted, this time as first lieutenant, and was early promoted to a captaincy and attached to Col. Hays’ noted regiment of Texas Rangers. In this command Captain Daggett was no less a favored than before. His indomitable courage and energy rendered him a most valuable officer, especially in the character of service he was engaged in. His men has the utmost confidence in his judgment and skill, and would willingly follow him wherever he was disposed to lead. Capt. Daggett and his men were frequently engaged, and made many very narrow escapes. On one of this scouts he captured Gen. Valentia, second in command to Gen. Santa Anna; and at another time captured Santa Anna’s coat, cap and epaulettes, and came near capturing the general himself. He was offered $1,000 for the captured articles, but refused and turned them over to Col. Jack Hays, who afterward, on request of superior officers, returned them to Santa Anna.
In the year 1849 Captain Daggett came to Western Texas (as it was then) and located some lands for himself and friends, and almost every year afterward made trips into this country, and finally moved his family to Fort Worth in 1854, where he at once entered upon the prominent connection with affairs already mentioned in the preceding chapter. On other pages, also, has been told the part he took in building the first railroad to Fort Worth. He donated ninety-six acres of the three hundred and twenty on which the track and depot are now located, this on itself being a most generous gift. Moreover, whenever the railroad company was assailed, from whatever quarter, it always found a friend in Captain Daggett. He wielded his influence and spent his money freely to advance the interests of the company, in a legitimate way, and at all times and in all ways. He was one of the few men of Fort Worth who fully and unmistakably comprehended the exact condition and necessities of the company, and the true interests of the town and county in connection therewith. Until his death the name of Captain Daggett was always among the first mentioned when the benefactors of Fort Worth were named, and in the promotion of great enterprises his influence was a requisite and, when obtained, practically a guarantee of success.
Captain Daggett was married in Indiana in 1834 to Pheniba Strauss, who became the mother of Ephraim B. His second wife was Mrs. Caroline Adams (nee Norris).
Source: B. B. Paddock, History and Biographical Record of North and West Texas (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Co., 1906), Vol. II, pp. 216-217.