Before the town of Granbury came into existence, it was necessary to form a county. Men returning from the Civil War in 1865 set about to do this as soon as they were settled in their homes again. Hood County’s land area was taken chiefly from Johnson and Erath Counties. This had been a “no man’s land” where it was easy to become lost from the law and misdeeds went unheeded. A number of Indian tribes were still found in the region as well. The county was formally proclaimed by the state, and the statute of November 2, 1866 stated that the county be called “Hood in honor of General John Bell Hood of the late Confederate Army. “Further provisions state that “The county site (seat) of said county shall be located within six miles of its geographical center and be called Granbury.”
The name was in honor of General Hiram B. Granbury, also from the Confederate Army. It must also be remembered that Hood County included the areas now known as Somervell County. Choosing the site became very complicated. Acton, also known as Comanche Peak Post Office was the largest settlement at the time. Thorp Spring was favored; a site east of Comanche Peak was offered by Andy Walters; Stockton and Lambert’s Branch were the five sites being considered. Each had its own special offers. County Judge Abe Landers lived in Stockton and held Commissioners Court in his kitchen. Thomas Lambert and the Nutt Brothers offered forty acres of land with timber and good water supply at Lambert’s Branch. A great deal of controversy was endured during the five years required for the decision of the site. Lambert’s Branch was chosen because of what was offered plus a few political reasons that might have had influence. The chief concern was that this location was far from the geographical center of the county. The selection was official in 1871 and problems began to arise immediately.
The first courthouse on the Granbury town square was built of logs as was the first jail. The jail was at the end of South Crockett Street on the bluff of the Brazos River. Since lawyers used the little courthouse, the mail was delivered there and it was a stage stop, it soon became too small for the county’s business. A building on the southeast corner of the square was used as the first annex or second courthouse. Soon afterward a proper courthouse was built. It was of native limestone, two stories tall and fifty feet square. It was expected to serve the county for many years. In this courthouse was held a rather bitter trial. Cooney Mitchell was accused of contributing to the murder of a young man from the Truitt family. He was found guilty, convicted and sentenced to be hanged in Hood County. As all of this was occurring the persons living in the far southern part of Hood County were so unsettled because of the county seat being much too far for them to travel to transact business, they decided to form their own county and legally secede from Hood County. Their county was to be called Somervell.
During all the unrest from these several sources, the new courthouse burned in 1875. All records inside were lost. Another building was hurriedly constructed trying to salvage a portion of the damaged building. This was not at all successful; so in 1890 construction was begun on the fifth courthouse for Hood County — the one that stands on the town square in 1994.Once Granbury was established as the permanent county seat, building began to appear around the town square. Most were first constructed of wood. The HISTORY OF HOOD COUNTY as well as the PICTORIAL HISTORY OF HOOD COUNTY are two references that have many pictures of these early structures. It is thought that two of the earliest stone buildings are those housing the Cuckoo’s Nest and Central Texas Title on the square south side. The First National Bank building was built in 1883. Others on the north side of the square have dates of 1885, 1888 and 1882. The Nutt House was built in 1893 as a mercantile store and later changed to become a hotel in 1919. The Opera House has a date of 1886 and the old jail was built in 1885. The first Nutt House was the family dwelling on East Bridge Street. Mrs. Nutt used the name as she opened a hotel in their home. What we see on the town square under the name of First National Bank has developed through the years. The First National as such was not formed until 1887 in the narrow building on the corner. In the 1950’s the mercantile store east of the bank was purchased and remodeled to become a part of the bank’s building.
In the early 1970’s the next building to the east was also purchased. The front and back walls were removed and it was remodeled to provide “drive-through” banking with two stations. The old tin ceiling was still overhead and we drove on some of the old flooring. Later it was closed and the area was included in the main bank after the current drive-through banking facility was opened in the 1980’s.Mr. Y. J. Rylee built and operated a ferry across the Brazos River near the location of the present bridge on East Pearl Street. In 1878 the prominent townspeople finally succeeded in getting a bridge built across the river. It was to the south and west of the ferry where Cleburne Street is today. This was the first bridge built across the Brazos above Waco’s swinging bridge. The early years of Granbury were a part of the Reconstruction Period in all of the southern states. There were at least seven saloons on the town square. It was a rough and wild time.
The Aston-Landers Saloon on the north side was the grandest. It is told that the family of Mr. Aston’s bride-to-be was disturbed by the way he earned his income. To satisfy them, he promised to build the prettiest house in Granbury as Dollie’s wedding gift if they would stop complaining about how he made his money. The home is still beautiful today. It is the first house off the square on East Bridge Street. It is the home of Dr. and Mrs. Wilson and family.
Carrie Nation came to Granbury around 1905. She did not use her axe but she organized the ladies of the town into the Christian Women’s Temperance League. Through their efforts, soon all the saloons were closed. Mr. Aston started a harness and buggy business while his partner Mr. Landers, opened a pharmacy. One old timer told me that the public suspected that the same liquid was being sold in those prescription bottles that had previously been served across the bar.
Captain W. L. Bond came to Granbury in 1872 and began publishing the VIDETTE, Granbury’s first newspaper. Soon Ed Garland joined him as a partner. A young man, Ashley Crockett, joined them as a “printer’s devil” or an apprentice. Ashley was the grandson of David Crockett and because of circumstances including the sudden death of Mr. Bond, he soon found himself as the publisher. He assumed the position and changed the name of the paper to THE GRAPHIC. When I came into Granbury as a small girl, he was publishing the HOOD COUNTY TABLET in the little frame building occupied by Moore’s Plumbing. The Gaston family was publishing the GRANBURY NEWS at that time. It was in 1937 when Mr. and Mrs. A. B. Crawford bought the TABLET and in 1945 consolidated it with the NEWS and published one paper as the HOOD COUNTY NEWS-TABLET.
During the latter years of the 1800’s more permanent buildings appeared around the town square and continued on into the early 1900’s. Jeff Rylee built the building on the east side that houses the Masonic Lodge. It is dated 1907. The first lodge was organized in Acton in 1866. It remained active until World War II. It was finally consolidated with the Granbury Lodge. The Fort Worth and Rio Grande railroad came into Granbury in 1887. That made a big difference in Granbury and in its lifestyle. It was now possible to travel into Fort Worth on that “fore day” train. It arrived in Granbury before daylight and returned after dark. In 1873, the Methodist Church established a high school in Granbury. At its beginning it was in a building on the town square, but it soon moved to a new building erected on the hill north of the town. Today that area is the site of the Granbury Cemetery.
By 1887 the school became a chartered college. It offered higher education to the young people of Granbury. Granbury soon built a high school for its students, but numerous students still studied at the college. Granbury College closed in 1910 or 1911. During the same time period there was a second college in Thorp Spring — Add-Ran College; so there was ample opportunity for higher education. When Granbury college closed, the stone from the administration building was used to construct the First Methodist Church building at the southeast corner of the square. The college dormitory was moved to the 400 block of West Bridge Street to be used as the Methodist parsonage. The house is still at that location today. The interesting fact is that the house had two stories when moved in 1911, but had been reduced to one story by the time I first saw it. The roof line remains the same.
The first burials in Granbury were on the far southeast corner of the property now owned by the Methodist Church. It is not clear to me how large it was allowed to become before burials were begun on College Hill. At any rate some graves were moved from this area to the cemetery on the hill. It is reported that one grave was disturbed in the mid 1930’s when Granbury was laying the first city sewer lines on South Brazos Street. When I first learned to read my numbers, the population sign for Granbury read 965 (?). Today you will find that it is 5,001. Before that time when a fire survey was made around 1911 and maps were drawn, the population was 2,000 plus as it had also been in 1895.
The Great Depression did not treat Hood County and Granbury very kindly. During the early 1900’s there were three banks on the town square. In addition to the First National, there was the Hood County State Bank on the southwest corner and the City National Bank on the north end of the west side. City National occupied the building owned by Tom Ward today. The red brick BANK building was built to house the Hood County State. Today Granbury again has three banks serving the community. Only the First National has survived on the square and still occupies the same spot. One prominent merchant I’ve not mentioned was E. A. Hannaford. He was an Englishman who fought in the Union Army. He came to Granbury with his “saddlebags full of gold.” He was a pharmacist and opened the first drugstore under a tent. He then constructed the building that adjoins the City National Bank building. He was a strong supporter of the Granbury College, the bridge across the Brazos and many other affairs of the town. He built a grand home on South Lambert Street owned today by Beth Calhoun and her family. Fortunately the restoration of old buildings became the “thing to do” in time to save the Granbury town square. We had been too poor to tear them down or cover them with modern siding. Today the square is a historical site and registered in both the state and national registries. This makes it possible for us to keep the old appearance. Today we are also very pleased to find owners willing to preserve and restore the old homes. Sadly many were lost before my time as well as a number I once knew. There again we look for the old pictures to give us a hint of what we’ve lost. Only a few individual names have been used. There are far too many to list them all.
Most of the remaining old homes were built by merchants and professional persons. The large homes on Doyle Street were built by the twin Doyle brothers. One was a doctor. On Bluff Street we find the W. B. Daniel home – still owned and occupied by a family member. Also on Bluff we find the Lees-Bryan house and the Brown home. At the corner of Lambert and West Pearl is the home of Tom Hiner. Mrs. Hiner was the granddaughter of David Crockett. West on Pearl Street is the Estes-Green home. At West Pearl and South Jones is the home Dan Cogdell built for his daughter, Zuma’s, wedding gift. Dr. T. H. Dabney bought the home and lived there until he died at 100 years. Dan Cogdell’s home is found on Thorp Spring Road across the railroad tracks with Dr. E. L. Menefee’s home across the street to the north.
Across town on Spring Street is the distinctive home built in 1873 by Captain A. J. Wright, Hood County’s first sheriff. It was originally one story with two rooms and an open dog-run as the double log cabins were built. It was remodeled around 1911 by J. F. Henderson to look much as it does today. It was owned from 1929 until now by C. M. Duncan and later his daughter. Each of the three owners named made changes to the appearance of the house and each served as a Hood County Sheriff.