EVERYBODY HAS A STORY –
MILT KENNON HAS A LIBRARY FULL
By Linda Murray, Assistant Editor
Hood County News, Granbury, Texas
Sunday, February 17, 1980, 8ATranscribed by Tim Sears on December 28, 1998
Everybody does have a story–Milt Kennon just has more stories than a lot of folks. He can share enough stories of his family and their places in Hood County history to just about fill a library.
Famous firsts run through the family history. Kennon’s grandfather, A. J. Wright, was the first elected sheriff of Hood County, taking office in 1866, the year the county was formed. Wright served two non-consecutive terms as Sheriff, and during the second, he presided as the county’s first (and only) hanging.
Cooney Mitchell, convicted for murder in a controversial case, was housed in the old Hood County Jail just off the square on a bluff overlooking the Brazos River bottom. Countless 2×12’s, stacked and nailed, formed the old jail’s walls. Here Mitchell awaited his hanging set for Oct. 9, 1875.
Sheriff Wright was reputed to be the object of bitter revenge for Mitchell. The prisoner’s family is said to have hatched a plot to pass a gun and some poison to Mitchell. He intended to murder the sheriff and then “blast his way out of jail.” If his escape was unsuccessful, he planned to take the poison and deny the gallows their job.
Mitchell’s youngest son, Jeff, drew the task of crossing the Brazos, crawling up the bluff and passing the gun and poison to his father. Old Cooney Mitchell had gotten word and was waiting for the delivery with a string hanging out his cell window.
Several guards were on duty as trouble was expected. One of them was George Wright, Kennon’s uncle. The guards heard something approaching up the bluff and some or all of the guards fired. The next day, Thursday, young Mitchell’s body was found at the foot of the limestone.
The hanging was accomplished on schedule on Friday. Sheriff Wright took his prisoner to a tree in the north part of town in the area presently known as the reunion grounds. (ed. note: there was a gallows erected north of town). A huge crowd had gathered, young and old had come to see the deed.
Kennon was affected by another family first when his brother, George, was born by means of what is thought to have been the first cesarean in the state of Texas. Dr. Dabney and another medical man, whose name has been obscured by time, were on hand for the birth and when all hope was lost for the mother, the baby was saved by the then new medical advancement.
Kennon was 18-months old then and was taken to his grandmother’s, the site on which he has lived since that time, 1909. The only time he has lived away from the home place was for a period beginning in 1939, when the old two-story house was torn down and the new rock home built. He and his wife Nell still live in the home which now overlooks the lake.
There’s a cemetery partly under Brazos Street in front of the Kennon home. His great-grandmother and great-grandfather are buried there along with others. Kennon remembers tending one of the graves as a child. He never knew the girl buried there, he just knew she had been dragged to death by her horse while out riding.
As Granbury grew and more developments sprang up around the square and streets were put in, some families who had loved ones buried in the small cemetery moved them to the hill north of town to the Granbury Cemetery. Others didn’t.
Kennon doesn’t remember the year but does remember that when the city sewer lines went in, the digging crews confirmed the existence of the graves when wood and bones were dug up.
Kennon had the first combination meat market and grocery store in Granbury. He operated it for 30 years after buying out a partner of six years.
Countless memories of his family and town make up the memories of Milt Kennon.
He has the spurs, guns, and bridle of his father who cowboyed in the Northwest in the 1880’s and 1890’s. The bridle, a beautiful example of the art of rawhide braiding, brings many small but great stories — the man who borrowed the specially designed bit to break his balky horse, the place where it was cut while tied to the chains on the courthouse square when someone stole his Indian quirt which was hanging from them.
Fishing is a true job for Kennon and the love of the sport goes back to days when George Gordon, owner of the dry goods store, would take all available neighborhood boys down to the river to fish. They ran a trot line running from the “wagon bridge,” located across the river at a point opposite the present day marina, and the railroad bridge, standing today where it did then. “The first night I spent away from home was on the river,” says Kennon, recalling those treasured days.
Another childhood memory involves Jessie Nutt, one of the blind brothers who owned a grocery store and later the hotel, would set out in front of the Nutt House. Young barefoot boys, including Kennon, would pad by softly and were amazed when Nutt always heard them and called them to his side. He knew them all by the shape of their heads and could correctly identify all the youngsters by placing his hand gently on their heads.
It is obvious Kennon loves his town in all his tales of its history and its people. You could spend about two weeks solid listening as the area’s past is brought to life by his memories.
It is the supreme understatement when Kennon says, “I have enjoyed my life here an awful lot.”