Granbury, Texas

Spirited fun.

By Renée S. Gordon

Granbury, Texas, in Hood County, is notorious for the number of sites believed to be haunted as well as for the number of famous, quirky residents who have called it home.

The earliest of these notable residents were dinosaurs that lived near an ancient ocean. Dinosaur Valley State Park boasts some of the nation’s best-preserved fossilized footprints. Prints can be seen in limestone layers near the Paluxy River. The Taylor Site within the park has been the scene of controversy because of what appears to be “man tracks” beside the dinosaur tracks. This has been used as proof that dinosaurs lived alongside humans. Reputable scholars state they lived 60-million years apart. The park also offers hiking, swimming, camping and biking.

The first humans to settle the area were Native Americans. In 1836 the land was given to the families of those who fought in the Texas Revolution. In 1846 representatives met with area tribes atop Comanche Peak to inform them that Texas was now a state and they no longer controlled the land. Comanche Peak, 1,100- to 1,200-feet tall, was traditionally a sacred meeting place and a site for smoke signals.

Forty acres on the Brazos River were given in 1866 to plot the town, which was named for a Confederate general. The courthouse is listed on the National Register. Elizabeth Crockett, widow of Davy, moved to the area with her family to settle on the 1,280-acres awarded to Davy for his wartime service. Elizabeth died there in 1860 and is buried in Acton State Historic Site, the smallest state park in Texas. A monument of a female pioneer marks the grave.

Granbury Ghosts and Legends Tour is an entertaining way to see the historic district, learn about the characters who lived there and those who allegedly have refuse to leave. Ninety minute walking tours depart from the Nutt Hotel on the town square. The spirits of Granbury have been featured on Discovery Channel’s “Ghost Lab” and ghost investigations are ongoing. The city hosts an annual Paranormal Festival and Frommer’s has rated this one of the top seven ghost tours in the country.

Two blind brothers erected the Nutt House in the 1860s as a log mercantile store. In 1891 they built the limestone structure that still stands. Businessmen began to stay overnight and the store became known as the Nutt Hotel. It is now a B&B with stunning architectural features and spectral residents: It is believed to be haunted by Sudie Nutt who ran the hotel.

Ghost hunting groups often lead investigations at the Old Hood County Jail. The original log jail was built in the 1850s; it was replaced by a limestone building in 1886 that was in use until 1978.

Historic Granbury Opera House dates from 1886 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, as is the complete town square. Originally named the Kerr Opera House, the theater was on the second level and was used by touring companies. The theater has been restored and has such features as dual curving staircases and an imported chandelier.

The rumored ghost of the opera house is a man named John St. Helen who mysteriously appeared in the town after the Civil War. In spite of a pronounced limp he acted and taught theater. It was said that he drank only one day a year, April 14, the date of Lincoln’s assassination. At one point he became very ill. On what he thought was his deathbed he confessed that he was, in truth, John Wilkes Booth. He recovered and left town. People claim to have seen and heard him walking in the balcony.

In 1951 the 103-year-old J. Frank Dalton died in Granbury. It was believed by many that he was Jesse James, as he claimed. Identifying marks included 33 bullet wound scars, a noose scar and burns on his feet. He was buried in Granbury Cemetery as Jesse W. James. In 2002 papers were filed to exhume the remains for DNA testing. They disinterred the wrong body.

Bonnie and Clyde liked the town so much they ate lunch at a restaurant on the square. There are now many more places to choose from and locals voted for the Rib Shack. You can eat-in or take-out the “Best BBQ in Hood County.”

Granbury is a destination with a “spirited” twist.

More Information…

Visit Granbury

Granbury Tours

Dinosaur Valley State Park

Nutt House Hotel Granbury

Travel Texas

– Photo Credits: flag, wine glass courtesy Visit Granbury; courthouse, jail, rib shack and bones by Renée S. Gordon

Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.

Renee GordonRenée S. Gordon has written a weekly travel column for the Philadelphia Sun for the past 14 years and has published travel articles in numerous publications. Her columns focus on cultural, historic and heritage tourism and she specializes in sites and attractions related to African American and African Diaspora history. Renée serves as a consultant for educational trips and history-related tourist destinations. She considers herself a “missionary journalist” and as such she continues to promote heritage and sustainable tourism. She has been honored with several awards including the 2013 Recipient of African Diaspora World Tourism and Flame Keeper in Media Award for Travel Writing.


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