HISTORY OF HOOD COUNTY
by Rhonda L. Callaway
Hood County embraces 425 square miles of the north central plains of Texas. Granbury, the county seat, is 41 miles southwest of Fort Worth on U.S. Highway 377. The county’s center point is at 32°27′ north latitude and 97°47′ west longitude. The county is crossed by State Highway 144, U.S. Highway 377, and the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.
The county is part of the Western Cross Timbers. Its elevations range from 600 to 1,000 feet. The eastern and west central part consists of undulating to hilly terrain surfaced by brown, red, or dark loam. The remaining soils are red or mottled loam and sand.
The Brazos and Paluxy Rivers are the main water sources in the county. The Brazos River flows in a winding pattern north to south. The Paluxy flows from the northwest to southeast across the southwest corner of the county. Lake Granbury, a man-made reservoir of 8,700 acres on the Brazos River, was completed in 1969.
The vegetation features bluestems, Indian grass, and gramas, mesquite, oaks, and junipers. About 31 to 40 percent of the land is considered prime farmland.
Hood County’s primary resources include limestone, industrial sand, and oil and gas.
The average annual precipitation is 30 inches, and the average temperature ranges from a low of 34° F. in January to a high of 96° F. in July. The growing season averages 232 days.
Before settlers from the East ventured onto the plains, the area was the home of the Comanches and, to a lesser extent, the Lipan Apaches and Kiowas. In the nineteenth century a band of Comanches known as the Penatekas or Honey-Eaters roamed the area west of the Cross Timbers, generally between the headwaters of the Colorado and Brazos rivers. Comanche Peak, the highest point in Hood County, was a Comanche meeting place. The Lipan Apaches also roamed the area, and the town of Lipan in extreme northwestern Hood County was named after a group that once lived in the Kickapoo Valley.
Settlers from the East began to arrive in the area ten or 15 years before the Civil War. One of the first, Charles E. Barnard, set up a trading post and Barnard’s Mill at a site now in Somervell County. George B. Erath, for whom an adjacent county is named, was one of the first to survey on the Brazos River (1846-50). Other settlers, mostly stock raisers and farmers, began to settle in the Brazos and Paluxy River valleys in 1854. The main concern facing these early settlers was the frequent raids by the Comanches. Indian horse-stealing raids into the Paluxy and Squaw Creek country occurred all during the Civil War and until 1872, when a party of Indians stole horses from a section of land close to Cresson, in northeast Hood County.
Hood County was formed in November 1866 by an act of the Eleventh Texas Legislature. The area had been within the Municipality of San Felipe de Austin as early as 1823 and the Municipality of Viesca in 1834. After Texas became a republic, the area now known as Hood County had, at one time or another, been part of Robertson, Navarro, McLennan, Johnson, and Erath counties. The county was named after Lt. Gen. John Bell Hood of the Confederate Army. The county seat was to be named in honor of Confederate General Hiram Bronson Granbury.
Location of the new county seat was a controversial issue. Residents in the southern section of the county favored the center of the county, as stated in the law. The other choice was a parcel of land donated by influential county leaders Thomas Lambert and J. F. and J. Nutt. The commission established to designate the county seat, citing a poor water supply at the center of the county, voted in favor of the donated land. The controversy surrounding the site of Granbury eventually caused the residents of the southern section of the county to petition for a new county. As a result, in 1875, Somervell County was established by an act of the Texas legislature. In that same year a fire destroyed the courthouse in Granbury.
From the first days of organized government Hood County has voted Democratic at the local and state level. Immediately after the Civil War the county was overwhelmingly Democratic, owing mainly to the predominantly white population. In 1870 whites made up 96 percent of the population. The highest total of blacks in Hood County was 241 in 1900, or only 3 percent of the population. The last three decades of the nineteenth century saw a steady increase in the population, and in 1910 the total was just over 10,000.
The number of farms also reached its zenith (1,786) in 1910. The primary crops were cotton, corn, and oats. Numbers of livestock also reached a peak between 1900 and 1910. In the latter year there were more than 22,500 cattle in Hood County. Residents were able to send their produce and livestock to market on the Fort Worth and Rio Grande Railway, which had been completed in 1887.
By the turn of the century Hood County had several towns: Granbury, Acton, Tolar, Lipan, and Cresson. The education system in the county and towns was well established. During the school year 1882-83, there were 46 male and four female teachers, who earned an average of $1,094 a year. After the 1920s many of the smaller schools were consolidated, especially as transportation improved.
On the level of higher education, Add-Ran College was established in 1873 and in 1890 donated to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). The college, renamed Add-Ran Christian University, was moved to Waco in 1896 and in 1910 to Fort Worth, where it became Texas Christian University. Thorp Spring Christian College was established in 1910 by members of the Church of Christ. It eventually closed in 1930 and moved to Terrell, where it became Texas Christian College.
After 1910 Hood County’s population fell to 8,759 in 1920, to 6,779 in 1930, and to its 20th century low of 5,287 in 1950.
The number of farms fell by almost a third between 1910 and 1920 to 1,234, then dropped more gradually to 830 in 1950. The number of cattle increased, however, to more than 25,000 in 1950 after dropping as low as 11,000 in 1920.
Only once between 1910 and 1950 did Hood County vote Republican: in 1928, 57 percent voted for the Republican candidate, Herbert Hoover, who faced a Catholic opponent, Al Smith.
>From 1960 to 1980 the population increased threefold, from 5,443 to 17,714. Between 1970 and 1980 Hood County ranked sixth among all United States counties in the category of highest growth rate. One of the main reasons for the sudden increase was the completion in 1969 of Lake Granbury, which turned the county into a popular recreation and resort center as well as a retirement community.
The primary area of economic growth was in the retail sector. In 1970 the county had 192 retail establishments, and in 1980, 777. Other areas of substantial growth between 1970 and 1980 included: construction, 836% ; financial and real estate, 394%; and services, 430%. Manufacturing establishments, never of major economic importance in the county, numbered eleven in 1977, when products valued at $3.5 million were produced.
The influx of people into Hood County between 1970 and 1980 had a tremendous impact on the educational level. In 1950 just under 27% of residents over 25 had a high school or college education, and in 1970, 38% had finished high school. Over the next ten years the number soared to 7,128 or 62%.
Political changes also occurred during these years. Although Hood County overwhelming supported Hubert H. Humphrey in 1968, the county voted Republican in 1972 and in every presidential election between 1980 and 1992.
The 1980s continued to show increases in every area. The population grew to 28,981 by 1990, when the primary population centers were Granbury (4,045), Lipan (354), Tolar (523), and the new community of Oak Trail Shores (1,750).
In 1982, 84% of the land was used for farming and ranching. Pecans were grown on 5,000 acres, making Hood County a leader in pecan production. Other principal crops included hay, wheat, oats, and peanuts, and the primary livestock was cattle and milk cows.
Commerce also continued its growth. In 1986 the retail industry consisted of 1,600 businesses in addition to 625 eating and drinking establishments. The restoration of downtown Granbury increased tourism and retail sales. Points of particular interest include the Granbury Opera House and the antique stores in the Hood County Courthouse Historic District.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Thomas T. Ewell, History of Hood County (Granbury, Texas: Gaston, 1895; rpt., Granbury Junior Woman’s Club, 1956). C. L. Hightower, ed., Hood County in Picture and Story (Fort Worth: Historical Publishers, 1970; rpt. 1978).
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