Arlington is halfway between Dallas and Fort Worth in eastern Tarrant County. It was founded in 1876 on the Texas and Pacific Railway as a market town for the surrounding farms. From the 1840s the area had attracted farmers because of the fertile blackland in the eastern part of the region and the sandy loam, good for growing fruits and vegetables, in the western part. The place was also well watered by the Trinity River and its tributaries. Early settlements included Bird's Fort, Watson, and Johnson Station, founded by Middleton Tate Johnson.
The area was not without liabilities for settlers, however. The Village Creek area near the site of present Lake Arlington was one of the largest gathering places of Indians in the region. In a battle of May 24, 1841, Gen. Edward H. Tarrant attacked and defeated the Indians of the Village Creek encampment, thus opening the Arlington area for white settlement. According to the terms of the Indian Peace Council in 1843, a trading post was set up at Marrow Bone Spring (in present Arlington), near Johnson Station. A few stores had been set up in Johnson Station before 1876. When the Texas and Pacific planned to lay tracks through the county, a more direct route between Fort Worth and Dallas was chosen, north of Johnson Station. A Presbyterian minister, Andrew S. Hayter, was asked by the railway company to survey the area that became Arlington and the land on either side of the tracks. He is credited with laying out the first town plat. The stores and many of the settlers made the move north to the new location from Johnson Station at that time. Johnson Station had a post office from 1851 to 1905. When citizens of the new settlement applied for a post office under the name Johnson they were turned down because of the proximity to Johnson Station. The post office was established under the name Hayter in 1875 and in 1877 was renamed Arlington, after Robert E. Lee's hometown in Virginia.
Arlington had as many as five gins at one time to process cotton, the major source of agricultural revenue. Area farmers also raised hay, oats, corn, peanuts, potatoes, sorghum, and other crops, as well as dairy cattle and other livestock. Arlington became the site of large produce sales and a distribution center for shipment to other towns. Another early source of revenue was the mineral well in the center of town. Though it was dug as a public water well, it yielded mineral water, from which medicinal crystals were produced and sold. The water was also bottled for sale, and a sanitarium was built for using it to treat illnesses.
By 1884 the community had an estimated population of 800 and Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian churches. In 1890 Arlington reported eighteen businesses, including several stores. By 1910 the citizens had an electric plant, a water system, natural gas lines, telephones, and a public school system. In 1925 the number of residents was estimated at 3,031. Arlington Downs, a racetrack built in 1933, drew thousands of visitors, including many dignitaries, until pari-mutuel betting was declared illegal in Texas in 1937.
Before World War II the population of Arlington had grown to 4,240. A General Motors assembly plant was built there in 1951, and the Great Southwest Industrial District was formed in 1956. In 1961 the population was estimated at 44,775, and 122,200 residents were reported in 1978. Arlington has a council-manager government. Tom Vandergriff served as mayor through the period of rapid growth, from 1951 until 1977.
In 1990 the city had two institutions of higher learning, the University of Texas at Arlington and Arlington Baptist College. Recreational, social, and cultural facilities included many public parks, several public swimming pools, public and private golf courses, tennis courts, auditoriums, libraries, theaters, youth centers, seniors' facilities, and a community center. For recreation and water needs Lake Arlington was developed in the southwest section of the city in 1957. The large amusement park Six Flags Over Texas opened in 1961. It continued to draw thousands to the North Texas area, and Arlington in particular, every year. Restaurants, hotels, motels, and many retail businesses benefited from this tourist attraction. In 1972 Arlington became the home of the Texas Rangers baseball team, which plays at the Arlington Stadium. In 1988 Arlington had an estimated 213,832 residents and 4,105 businesses. The population in 1990 was 261,721. In 2000 the population grew to 332,969.