|Travels with Grandma...|
|Preserving the stories, legends & history of Texas for generations to come...|
|From Dinosaurs to Indian Country and beyond...|
Come & sit a spell, grab a glass of lemonade & some cookies. I want to tell you a story before we take off today. So, sit back and get comfortable…
This story begins over 100 million years ago. It’s a story about dinosaurs wandering wild and free, clomping down the river in a land untouched by man. All that remains are the tracks the three types – acroncanthosarus, pleurocoelus and an unidentified one, left behind. They must have been huge! The tracks range from 12-36” long and 9-24” wide. There are seven sites at Dinosaur Valley State Park where you can see them, and a museum in downtown Glen Rose that tells their history. We’ll stop by the park & take a look, maybe even take our shoes off and go wading in the river and walk in the tracks.
In the time before the white settlers started moving in around the mid 1800’s these lands belonged to the Indians. Like the dinosaurs, they roamed free, hunted buffalo, fished in the Brazos and Paluxy rivers, raised their families and celebrated life and death as free men. The Caddo and the Tonkawa, and sometimes the Apaches and Comanche called this area home.
Then, in 1849, that’s more than 150 years ago, a man named Charles Barnard and his brother George showed up. Charles built the first Indian trading post, a Torrey house, near Comanche Peak. George settled the area nearby. You may have seen the signs on the way to Cleburne - George’s Creek. The Torrey houses and trading activities were an important part of settling this area and an important part of Sam Houston’s peace policy. They did a fair trade business and it is said they also recovered stolen horses and captives from the Indians.
The post was located at Fort Spunky, built near a spring and tribe of peaceful Indians. It was near well traveled Indian highways and a one day ride from Comanche Peak. The Indians used Comanche Peak for a rallying place, campground and lookout. By the 1850’s the Indians had been moved to Fort Belknap and an agricultural center with a cotton gin, gristmill, general store, blacksmith shop and feed store remained. Fort Spunky, was given its name because of the fistfights that broke out, is gone now, but we’ll drive out and see where it was. Quite possibly the roads we’ll be following were the old Indian highways leading the Indians and settlers who traded there to Comanche Peak and Glen Rose.
Charles Barnard moved his trading post to Fort Belknap and returned to the Fort Spunky area in 1859 and built the first store in Glen Rose. A year later he started building a flour and grist mill and called the town Barnard’s Mill. The mill was a busy place. It served as a meeting hall, a dance hall, hospital and gathering spot for the settlers. It is in the process of restoration now and the hospital now hosts an art collection and some beautiful antiques. Barnard sold his mill in 1871 and the wife of TC Jordan wanted to name the town Rose Glen, but in 1872 the residents agreed to call it Glen Rose at a town meeting.
It grew slowly, but a few interesting stories from the times before Fossil Rim, Dinosaur Valley and the nuclear power plant are:
There were abundant mineral spring that brought doctors and healers and soon Glen Rose was known as a health and recreation center. In a letter written in 1902 JH Haney wrote “Our town in county seat of Somervell County and a health resort, i.e. a great number of flowing wells, and the people are coming in swarms from all about and filling our several parks along the Paluxy…” The springs can’t be seen now, but stop at Big Rock Park and look back towards town, and it’s not hard to see why they came.
Another story that I like is about the moonshiners. The laws changed and by the end of the 1800’s the moonshiners moved in, building stills, cooking and selling moonshine. During the Depression (1929-1940) the cedar brakes became known as the “whiskey woods capital of the state” and during the 1920’s it was reputed to be the “Moonshine Capital of Central Texas”. In 1923 the sheriff and county attorney, along with 38 other men, were arrested when the Texas Rangers decided to clean out the moonshiners.
These days Glen Rose has a bustling town square and “modern” development along Hwy 67. We’ll take time to visit the square and see the shops, and historical museum. It is home to the Warm Country Heart Theatre.
Well, that’s enough rambling for now; I’ll tell you more along the way. Put your shoes on and we’ll go exploring. We’re going to head west on Hwy 377 to Tolar, then take a left onto Hwy 56 on our way to Glen Rose. So let’s pack a picnic, load up the kids, fill up the gas tank, buckle up and we’ll be off…
Just as you get to Tolar take a left and go south on FM56. Tolar was settled in the 1890’s and a trade center for local farmers by the turn of the century. We are going up the winding hills towards the back of Comanche Peak – Indian country. Look on your right and you will see all that remains of an old family homestead…a chimney, leaning a little with age.. Stop and look out across the countryside and think about the times when the settlers first came and settled all alone out here, far from friends and family in this strange land with Indians all around.
The Panther Branch Post Office that is in downtown Granbury was found in an old frame house near here in 1968. It was known as the “eight mile stage stop” because the stagecoach made regular stops with both mail and passengers. Can you imagine riding across these rough hills in a bouncy stage coach on rutted paths and no paved roads, no air conditioning?
We’re continuing down Panther Branch Road another few miles and taking a right on to Hwy 51. Look to the right and you will see a barn. On the left you will see the remains of an old family homestead. It once stood proud on its hill – house and barns and outbuildings. Now you can see the sky coming through the buildings, but it still stands as a reminder of times gone by.
At the fork in the road we’re staying to the left, back on to FM 56 towards Glen Rose. Another old homestead is on the right a few miles down…with its windmill standing tall, remains of the piping that once led to the cisterns just to the south of the house. They’re overgrown now, but stop & listen you just might hear the laughter of children skinny-dipping the summer heat away in them.
Watch out the right side as you go up the hills. At the tops of the peaks you will begin to see Seven Knobs – count them. There are seven cone shaped, cedar covered knobs about 2 miles south of Glen Rose. They distinctly rise above the tops of the distant hills.
Take a right at Hwy 67 and a right on Park Road 59 into the land of Dinosaurs and the tracks they left behind - Dinosaur Valley State Park. The girls had a great time wading in the river and discovering the 113 million year old tracks.
Too soon we headed back down the road on Hwy51, crossing Hwy67 to Bernard St. Stop off at one of the best kept secrets in Glen Rose – The Barnard Mill Museum. The old hospital section of Barnard’s Mill is home of the private art collection of Richard H. Moore, Jr. It is a great place for little ones. The girls were fascinated by the drawings, paintings, bronze sculptures and Indian artifacts.
Take time to wander the Mill grounds, wander under the huge old trees and look up top and see the rifle slits that were used to protect the settlers from Indian raids. The mill used to be a busy place and was the gathering place for local settlers. If you find the mill open you can go inside and see the furnishings of the time period.
Leaving the mill, turn right and stop at the Glen Rose square. It’s a bustling place full of unique shops and antique stores, but that isn’t what the girls enjoyed the most; it was the Somervell County Historical museum, and the farmers on the square.
The museum is full of antiques from early Somervell County history and fossils and dinosaur history. It’s a “must see” on any trip to Glen Rose. The staff is warm and friendly and loves to answer questions.
You can’t leave the square without stopping to buy from the farmer’s trucks. The best watermelons, peaches and homegrown tomatoes can be found there. Not to mention a story or two. Mr. Murray (sorry I don’t remember his last name!) comes all the way from Eulogy and has been for over twenty years, carrying on a tradition that has brought farmers and their wares for decades.
Going south on FM56, take a left on FM202 to Rock Creek Cemetery. It is the first on our “old cemetery stops” today. My grandchildren love to explore them and are quick to point out the signs and it’s a challenge to see who can find the oldest marker and figure out how old it is (Ahhhh- math in the summer time and they don’t even know it!) The oldest one we found dated back to 1839. The cemetery and church are some of the few remains of a community established prior to 1880.
Back onFM56 go south through Eulogy, left on CR 1175. When you’re on Hwy56 just outside of Eulogy be sure to keep an eye out for the deer grazing under the trees. There are new babies that are fun to pull off the road and watch a while.
CR1175 crosses the Brazos River on the “new bridge”, but make the turn around at the end and get out, stretch your legs and explore the old iron bridge. It really is a work of art and you can’t catch the views or feel the wind blowing from the car. I’ve heard that this was once a ferry crossing. Do you know what a ferry is? It is a flat boat that people loaded themselves and their belongings on, and then the owner pulled everything across the river by a rope strung between the two sides.
Heading straight off the bridge, back on CR1175, will take us winding through the countryside (it turns into CR1119) and dead-ends into FM200. We’ll drive north a while and stop at the Nemo post office and take in the view. All that remains now are a few churches and a post office, but it was a thriving community around 1858 when it was settled. When the people gathered to name it, they wanted to name it Johnson Station, after Jimmie Johnson who found the area, but someone from the post office suggested a shorter name. One man stood up and said “Nemo” the Latin word for “no one” because if Jimmie Johnson’s name wasn’t good enough no one’s was.
We’ll turn around here and go back to FM 199, take a left and, if you haven’t had enough of the countryside, cross Hwy 67 and head into Fort Spunky country. If you want to see it, you better go soon; like a lot of the countryside around here it is quickly disappearing. The fort was located approximately at the intersection of FM 199 and FM2174. To view the land as it used to be and have a beautiful view of the Brazos valley, turn right on FM 2174 and follow it all the way to the end. Keep going when it turns to a gravel road (CR 326). Once a simple one lane road, it’s wider now and the gas trucks are beating a path to the well at the end of the road. For us, it was worth the trip to stand at the end of the road and look out across the valley and take a few minutes to talk about what life would have been like if you lived when this was Indian country and the settlers were moving in, and what it would have been like to live as far away from anyone as the barn roof top in the distance.
After you’ve taken in the view (or if you didn’t make the trip), go west on HWY67 to FM200, take a right and cut through Rainbow on your way back to Hwy144 and home. By the 1890’s a community had developed here. Rumor has it the day the community gathered together to choose a name, a thunderstorm blew through and the residents were so struck by the rainbow that followed they named the town after it.
I think that’s enough for one day. There are some sleepy kids in my back seat and a nice fresh watermelon from the farmers on the square to eat when we get home.
Till next time…
Have a story to share or a place you would like me to visit? E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
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