May 16, 2022 | History, Uncategorized | 0 comments

Historic Granbury Square: Facts & Legends

Story by  peggy purser freeman

Granbury’s historic square grew out of the need for places for cowboys to get good grub, a place to relax and forget the trail. Hood County lured cowboys straight from the trail, gussied up their hotels, created eating establishments, rustled up entertainment, and added libation. The good news is—history repeats itself.

Today, as they did then, Texans stampede toward Granbury to stroll the historic buildings, walk on the beach, eat, drink, and relax. Why Granbury? Many towns offer legends and quaint historic buildings, however, few provide historic establishments renovated with the opulence found in Hood County

The Nutt Hotel stands majestically on the northeast corner of Granbury Square. In 1874, brothers Jesse and Jacob Nutt, both blind from late childhood, began operating their general store in a tent. Then a 16-by-12 log cabin accommodated the mercantile store, and finally the Historic Nutt Hotel was built out of hand-hewn Texas limestone for brothers Jacob, Jesse and David Lee Nutt. From the time he was twelve, David Lee, the much younger brother of Jacob and Jesse, served as their “eyes” in the mercantile store.Three generations of the Nutt Family saw it become a legend in historic restaurants.

In 1886, gas lights flickered on in the new Opera House. A saloon and saddle shop were located on the lower floor with an upstairs theater called Kerr’s Hall. The theater consisted of a large space with a raised stage at one end. The building has worn many different labels since then, like South Side Saloon, a grocery store, a feed store, and more. In 1974, after extensive renovation, it became a working theater once more, but in 1913 it had already reached the grandeur which sets it at the top of everyone’s must-see list. The city extended the back wall, redesigned the entry, and created a luxurious interior design, and the Opera House became a historic treasure.

The ghost of a bit actor, John St. Helen. surely finds the OperaHouse an opulent haunt. The mystery of John St. Helen has been featured on two popular television series: “20/20” and “Unsolved Mysteries.” A secretive man, St. Helen worked as a bartender at A.P. Gordon’s saloon, but his true identity has been hotly debated. When he fell seriously ill and believed himself to be at death’s door he confessed that he was none other than John Wilkes Booth and revealed where the pistol used to assassinate Lincoln could be found. After recovering from the supposedly fatal illness he disappeared from Granbury forever. His story seems to have finally ended in 1903 in Enid, Oklahoma, where a man named David George died, after saying that he had previously gone by the name John St. Helen.

Another local legend suggests the notorious outlaw Jesse James is buried in Granbury Cemetery. Most historians believe that Jesse James was mortally wounded when shot by a member of his gang in 1882. But Texas legend tells the story of another member of that notorious gang who was shot to deceive the law. Local lore says James fell in love with a young woman here, and then returned to the area with his grandson for the last days of his life. James’ family descendants dedicated a headstone and continue to visit his grave.findagrave.com/memorial/683605556

In 1905, temperance leader Carrie Nation came to town. A large group of Granbury’s population turned up at the depot to meet her. Having endured her first husband’s alcoholism, Mrs. Nation believed it her divinely ordained duty to fight the sale of liquor. Alone or with a group, she marched into a saloon and proceeded to sing, pray, shout, and smash the bar and stock with her famous hatchet. She had all the Granbury saloons shut down in a few days. Little was known about alcoholism in the years after reconstruction and women had few rights. It’s easy to understand the link of the movement for women’s right to vote growing strong in the aftermath of Carrie Nation’s visit. Shortly thereafter, in 1907, Jess A.Baker of Granbury introduced a joint resolution in the Texas House of Representatives for women’s enfranchisement. It failed. However, in 1917, during the Thirty-fifth Legislature, Baker co-sponsored two suffrage bills which finally gave women the right to vote in 1919.

From bars to B&Bs, the lavish restorations of Historic Granbury Square add to the charm of days gone by. Ride in, relax and be entertained.

Hood County lured cowboys straight from the trail, gussied up their hotels, created eating establishments, rustled up entertainment, and added libation. The good news is — history repeats itself.

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