Reverend Andrew S. Hayter: The Father of Arlington, Texas

Andrew S. Hayter, a Presbyterian minister from Tennessee, helped route the railroad through North Texas and plot a tiny new town, known as Arlington, along the tracks. The town grew from a half-mile square settlement in 1876 to a suburb of 400,000 people. Today, Andrew Hayter is considered the Father of Arlington.

The Father of Arlington

Andrew S. Hayter, pronounced “high-ter,” was born on September 6, 1818, in Tennessee. He would become a Presbyterian minister and land surveyor. There isn’t much known about his early life, but he spent time in Alabama before coming to Texas in the 1850s. By 1857, church records show that Hayter had become a minister with Texas Presbytery in Linn Flat — a small rural community near Nacogdoches. He also established a mercantile business there. Hayter had knife-making skills and even made a Bowie knife for Sam Houston as a gift.

Andrew Hayter and his family remained in East Texas until 1870 when they moved to Tarrant County. Hayter was married to his second wife and had four children by this time, although the firstborn Hayter died shortly after birth. A fifth child was born in 1871.

A tiny settlement forms as “Hayterville”

Mr. Hayter was an early settler in the area. He purchased land near the home of P. A. Watson in present-day Arlington, who was another early and prominent settler. Hayter began talking with community leaders about building a church and a school. In 1870, he organized the Good Hope Cumberland Sabbath School to serve the area’s early settlers; it was built on land donated by Watson. The original building was used from 1870 to 1905 and was a combination church and schoolhouse. Hayter served as a minister and a teacher.

A tiny settlement began to form at the edge of Hayter’s property. He petitioned for a post office in the 1870s, with the area becoming known as “Hayterville.” The site today is near State Highway 360 and Interstate 30.

Hayter had already founded two churches, a school, and Masonic Lodge in the area. But, his most significant contribution would be his land surveying skills.

Railroad construction begins…and comes to a halt

In 1871, Congress granted a charter for a railroad across the southern United States. Railroad construction began in 1872, servicing Dallas by July 1873. The railroad was scheduled to connect the booming North Texas cities of Dallas and Fort Worth by January 1874, with the future site of Arlington located in the middle.

A financial crisis that gripped the economy caused construction delays. Progress slowly continued but eventually stopped. The railroad was less than 30 miles short of connecting Dallas to Fort Worth, yet it would take another three years to complete.

A new town is plotted

By early 1876, construction resumed. The railroad wanted a loading stop mid-way between Dallas and Fort Worth; they also planned a small community in the area. Many towns got their start because of the railroad. Some towns thrived while others barely survived — the tiny town of Arlington would thrive.

The railroad hired Andrew Hayter as a consultant. With his land surveying skills, he could locate the most suitable route. A route near Johnson Station, the first prominent settlement in the area, seemed to be the most obvious choice. Yet, Hayter boldly chose a route a few miles north of Johnson Station and south of Hayterville and the Watson Community. It was an empty area, flat, and less prone to flooding.

In addition, Hayter supplied trees from his land for construction materials and even provided railroad workers a place to camp. He was also the one who helped the railroad plot the new half-mile-square settlement. The new settlement still needed a name.

Arlington, Texas: Founded 1876

It’s believed that the railroad offered to name the new settlement after Hayter for his services. Hayter declined. It’s said that Hayter — and possibly Postmaster James Ditto, Sr. — suggested the name “Arlington” instead. The name was in honor of Robert E. Lee’s hometown in Virginia. Lee had served in North Texas and met both Hayter and Ditto. The settlement would be known locally as Arlington in 1876 and recognized by the U.S. Post Office in 1877.

Many people in the area began moving closer to the railroad station. Once the post office moved to the new town of Arlington, the smaller communities of Hayterville, Watson, and Johnson Station eventually dissolved. The railroad’s arrival on July 19, 1876, signaled the founding of Arlington.

Hayter’s later years and death

After Hayter’s role in founding Arlington, he continued as a minister of the Red Oak Presbytery. Hayter established or served sixteen Cumberland Presbyterian churches during his life. He would continue ministering until his death.

Andrew Hayter died on February 26, 1900, at 81. He’s buried at P.A. Watson Cemetery in Arlington, not far from the former tiny settlement of Hayterville.

Reverend J. D. Boone provided the following account:

“Rev. A. S. Hayter was stricken with apoplexy to-day while eating dinner and died at 6:15 p.m. He preached yesterday at 11 o’clock with great earnestness and solemnity. In the closing of his sermon he urged upon the people obedience to the truth and said, “I may never have the privilege of preaching to you again.” A great and good man has gone from us after having spent a long and faithful life in the service of his Master.”

Source: Cumberland Presbyterian Church

Arista Joyner, in her 1976 book, Arlington, Texas: Birthplace of the Metroplex, provided the following notes:

“Everyone mourned the death of the Reverend Mr. Andrew S. Hayter. He was one of the most revered men in the community and did much to bring culture to this area. Contributions were made to provide a suitable large monument to mark the gravesite of him and members of his beloved family. He was buried in the Watson Cemetery.”

Source: Arlington, Texas: Birthplace of the Metroplex, page 111
Compiled by Arista Joyner

Honoring Hayter

Arlington honors Andrew Hayter with a bronze bust and Texas Historical Marker at Founders Plaza. The site is appropriately near the railroad tracks. Mr. Hayter is also mentioned on two other Texas Historical Markers — one for the City of Arlington and the other for the nearby West Fork United Presbyterian Church in Grand Prairie.

Andrew Hayter – bronze bust and Texas Historical Marker
City of Arlington – Texas Historical Marker
West Fork United Presbyterian Church –
Texas Historical Marker

And there’s a new watering hole in downtown Arlington named Hayters Bar and Lounge. Of course, many people won’t get the local history reference or mispronounce it as “haters,” but it’s a tribute nonetheless.


Blog post & photos by Jason S. Sullivan, 02-26-22

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