Fort Worth

New School to Be Named After Fort Worth Settler Major Cheney

During Black History Month, NBC 5 is taking a closer look at the men and women who broke barriers and shaped the future for North Texas

Major and Malinda Cheney, c. 1920.
Cheney-Sanders Family Collection

Major Cheney was an African American land grant owner who helped to settle the neighborhood known as the Garden of Eden in 1887.

The neighborhood just a few minutes outside of Fort Worth was for freed slaves and their descendants to settle and start a life for themselves.

Cheney, born in 1856, acquired more than 200 acres for his family where they grew crops and built houses, essentially settling their own community.

Birdville ISD, the closest school district, didn’t have a school for black people to attend, so the Cheney family decided they would build their own.

Thanks to their petition to the district and their land donation, they were able to build the schoolhouse. It opened in the late 1880’s for African American children in the area.

While the school was only open for a few decades, it left a lasting impression.

Major Cheney heirs and friends celebrating groundbreaking of a new school. (Brenda Sanders-Wise)

Cheney continues to be remembered for his work for the African American community.

In 2009, the Birdville ISD renamed its elementary school after Cheney, who died in 1925.

Earlier this month, a groundbreaking took place for a new school in the district and Cheney's name will be on that one as well.

Groundbreaking for the new Cheney Hills Elementary School. (Brenda Sanders-Wise)

Because Richland Hills Elementary and Major Cheney Elementary at South Birdville will be consolidated, the name of the new school will be named Cheney Hills.

The school is scheduled to open in fall 2021, according to the district.

The story of the community and Cheney's legacy is also recorded in The Garden of Eden, The Story of a Freedman’s Community in Texas. The book, which was written by one of Cheney's great-great grandchildren Drew Sanders, was published by TCU Press in 2015.

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