Hood County News Centennial Edition September 23, 1971
Hood County history shows that some pioneer families came to Granbury to “surround their children with better facilities for being educated and to have the finishing touches of such education as could be obtained in the College of this city.”
In 1971, Granbury’s Centennial year, there is no college in Hood County, yet its young people need not travel many miles to further their education. One hundred years ago, traveling a matter of 20 or more miles to and from school each day would have been an utter impossibility. In today’s civilization, the distances to Tarleton State College in Stephenville, Weatherford’s junior college, and the colleges in Fort Worth still put local young people in a very advantageous position for higher education.
However, who can doubt the wholesome influence of Granbury College, which was a Methodist institution, and AddRan College at Thorp Spring brought to early day Hood County. Good morals and useful citizenship seem to have been fostered by these institutions, bringing to the raw frontier an atmosphere of culture and learning.
The Male and Female Seminary of Fort Worth, Addison and Randolph Clark, proprietors, was moved to Thorp Spring in Sept. 1873. Due to the school’s being surrounded by an undesirable element in Fort Worth, the Clarks removed it to this sparsely settled, undeveloped, yet romantic and beautiful country from which hostile Indians had but lately been removed. Here they found a gleam of hope for the continuance of their school, uninterrupted, located in an ideal environment, free from the evils of the city.
A Mr. Pleasant Thorp, who owned the property and erected the Thorp Building in 1871 or 1872, invited the Clarks to move their seminary to the settlement on the Brazos and occupy his elegant stone building. Addison was off on a preaching mission, so Randolph Clark came on horseback to see what Thorp Spring had to offer.
Joseph Lynn Clark, in writing about his father, Randolph Clark’s initial impression of the areas, said, “Toward mid-day, as they topped the Trinity-Brazos divide, there rose before them in clear outline sturdy Comanche Peak. Sitting in broad-based serenity, the fabled eminence imparted to Randolph a sense of security, doubtless such a spell as had been cast in the hearts of the primitives in the years of their glory. The men rode on in silence. Suddenly Randolph reined his horse. He sat enthralled by the panarama [sic] outspread before them – in the distance, the “Peak,” the glistening water of the rippled river, upon the nether bank which nestled the village of Granbury, the sole evidence of human habitation.
“Approaching their destination and gazing beyond the waters of the Brazos, suddenly, against the brilliant glow of the setting sun, loomed a gleaming white stone structure, silhouetted against the dark green of the oaks and cedars of Thompson Mountain – Mr. Thorp’s college building! The quiet beauty of the landscape thrilled the romantic young man. In his imagination he peopled the valley with happy, contented homes, and upon the hillside where stood the stone ediface [sic] he visioned a campus, over which streamed ambitious youths from farms and ranches, come to quaff Pierian waters.”
Thirteen pupils came on that first day of Sept. 1873; when the term closed in June there were 75 students. For that one year, to fulfill an obligation to his students, Addison Clark kept the seminary open in Fort worth, but due to the financial crash, it was closed at the end of the year and he and his family joined Randolph in Thorp Spring.
Now that the Fort Worth name was no longer applicable, the name AddRan Male and Female College was chosen. The name was taken from the first born in Addison’s family, who died at the age of three in 1872. The name subsequently was changed to simply Add-Ran College.
The term “Christian” was not inserted in the name of the college because of its denominational connotation. “If the school is to be Christian,” Addison and Randolph insisted, “it would be so by Christian teachers and would be known as such by its fruits.” Nevertheless, the school was generally recognized as the school of the Christian Churches of Texas long before it became officially true.
The enrollment of students first exceeded 200 in 1876-77, when among the 201 students were 85 from 23 counties other than Hood. In 1890, enrollment reached 425, the top enrollment while the school was at Thorp Spring.
During the first 14 years of the school’s existence, the citizens received students into their homes as boarders. Following this, “a new, comfortable and commodious Home for the young ladies” was opened. At the same time, “neat and comfortable cottages” were erected on the campus for the boys and young men. One of these was a long narrow building, of 12 single rooms, each opening onto a covered porch. This structure was soon dubbed by its occupants “The Sheep Shed.”
Anticipating some difficulty in securing ready acceptance of the new living arrangement, an appeal was made through the catalogue for cooperation. After explaining that “great expense had been incurred in providing the improved conditions,” parents were urged not to ask that “their children be allowed to board elsewhere than at the College,” assuring them, “We know what is best for them and for us.” With a six-day school schedule, planned Church and Sunday School attendance, and careful supervision of study periods, the student’s time was well filled. With ample time each day for recreation, “no margin was given for idleness,” asserted the catalogue. It was impressed that “Play was subservient to work.” Only two holidays during the school year were “promised” – Thanksgiving and Christmas – and it was urged, “Parents will please not encourage or expect their children home on Christmas, nor any time before the close of the session. It is impossible for them to do good work when their minds are diverted from study by going home, or by thinking of going,” stated the catalogue.
Add-Ran College, was not, however, a youth prison camp. Ample provision was made for the social and recreational pleasure and relaxation of the students. There were baseball, townball and other manly sports for the boys; tennis and croquet for the girls. At the President’s discretion, boys took their firearms or fishing tackle and roamed the water courses, the hills and valleys. In season, students were taken in groups to gather pecans, walnuts, grapes, wild plums and flowers.
In the clear waters of the creek there were two swimming holes, each about equal distance from the college and about a mile apart. One of these – “the Kalebite” it was called – was used by men and boys and the other pool was visited by those young ladies of the school who wished to engage in aquatic sports. They were, however, always properly attired and adequately supervised.
Another event, never formally promised, seldom mentioned, but anticipated with joyous expectation, was the three-day, 20-mile outing for the entire school “down on the Paluxy.” The president led the outing, on foot, but others came in wagons, buggies or on horseback. The point of destination on the Paluxy was usually Lanham’s Mill, an old waterwheel mill where a dam on the river made an extensive lake with a plentiful supply of catfish, perch and trout. It was situated in the picturesque cedarbreak – chalk mountry country, a few miles upstream from Glen Rose. Enroute the picnickers passed through Granbury, skirted Comanche Peak and traversed Squaw Creek Valley.
After two days and two nights of hilarious rustication, all were back home on Saturday, refreshed and invigorated, ready for Sunday church services and the resumption of school duties, which would now continue unbrokenly until Commencement.
Many trials and tribulations followed during the years and the effects of changing times caused the Clarks to contemplate moving the college from Thorp Spring. Citizens of Granbury, Fort Worth and other towns offered to provide facilities if the college would move to their communities, but none were accepted.
Eventually, in 1889, the college affiliated with the Brotherhood of the Christian Churches of Texas and its name became Add-Ran Christian University. The records show that the use of musical instruments in public worship became a test of fellowship among an ardent group of Christians and so it was at Add-Ran. Eventually, Add-Ran Christian University stayed with the Progressives, who assumed the name of The Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).
The university moved Jan. 1, 1896 to Waco, by decision of the Board of Trustees, against the wishes of the founders. Addison moved his family and was president of the university until 1901. Randolph did not move his family from Thorp Spring, but he and part of his family lived in Waco that year while he taught.
Eventually, the name of the university became Texas Christian University and its permanent home became, once again, Fort Worth.
Joseph Lynn Clark’s book says of Thorp Spring, “Hope is gone from the heart of the hamlet. Once warm and vibrant with the resonant life of youth, the place now lies under the shroud of peaceful desolation. The glittering brook glides calmly to the old swimming holes, no longer disturbed by the splash of hilarious youth. The winds of summer whisper through the boughs; the leaves of autumn fall; the snows of winter rest lightly over hill and vale. Thorp Spring is a Dead Town upon whose tomb sits the Old Thorp Building, once the mecca of ambitious youth – now but a ghostly, gaping apparition.”