Racial harmony prevalent in Hood County history
By KATHY SMITH
Black teenagers from Granbury had to ride a bus 35 miles to Fort Worth to attend high school. The Palace theatre on the square (where the Cuckoo’s Nest is presently) had two separate balconies—one white, one "colored."
As cruel and unjust as we now know that practice to be, segregation of the races was as a part of Hood County’s life as it was for the rest of the country.
But the feelings of unrest and the civil turmoil, which was experienced throughout the country, did not take place in Hood County.
Black History in Hood County
Simon Hightower can be called the black founding father of Hood County. Together with other free blacks and freed slaves, Hightower settled in an area of the county known as The Colony around 1859.
Most of the close-to 100 blacks who lived in Hood County were farmers. But, as farming became such a precarious profession at the turn-of-the-century, many black families moved into Granbury for work.
Local historian Mary Kate Durham attended last year’s Juneteenth celebration at The Colony Cemetery in western Hood County and overheard several of the community’s black descendants speaking of their ancestors’ contribution to the county.
"You know, they wouldn’t even have that square if it weren’t for the blacks who built the buildings," stated one of the Colony’s descendants.
Most of the blacks who moved into town served as farm hands and day laborers—many as masons, who helped lay the historic foundation that ultimately became the first town square to be listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
"I was taught by my father to respect the blacks," says Durham, a fifth-generation Hood Countian. "The black men were highly respected by the townspeople."
The blacks of Hood County are also credited with creating the first "budded pecans" in the area.
Several of the men purchased a pecan grove in the Stockton Bend area north of Granbury and grafted pecans.
"Every morning," recalls Durham, "we would see the wagons of workers going down the road on their way to work their land. They were very hard-working people."
The women were industrious too. Many of the ladies who moved into Granbury became—what the 1870 census called "kitchen help."
One such woman was Hettie Hightower, Simon Hightower’s wife.
Hettie worked for W.B. Daniels in his large house south of the square. Also, her daughter Phoebe worked for the Daniels family.
Phoebe Hightower Walters is remembered by many in Granbury as a very unique individual.
She lived most of her life in a small clapboard house on Travis Street, just north of the Granbury Woman’s Club clubhouse.
Phoebe spent her latter years sitting on her front porch, waving and calling to the children as they passed her way. Many times, she treated the neighborhood kids to bowls of homemade chili.
Other times, for a fee, Phoebe would tell your fortune. Palm reading, mostly. And, they say she was quite good even though she missed the mark with Hood County News editor Roger Enlow.
"She told me I would become a doctor or lawyer," Enlow remembers.
Non-turbulent 60s in Granbury
Johnny Perkins was just 2 years old when his family moved to Granbury in 1957. Perkin’s mother, Emma, fondly remembered by Granbury baby-boomers as "Mamma Perk," worked as a cook at the General Hospital.
"There were lots of blacks in Granbury in the 1960s," recalls Perkins. "Solomon and Pete Terrell, the Andersons, the Edwards."
Perkins said he never felt out of place or that he was a minority. Even in the face of segregation.
There were about three black schools in the county. All had classes up to grade eight. If a black child was to further their education, the only alternative was to be bussed into Fort Worth.
Johnny Perkins’ brother Joe remembers his sisters baby-sitting him while they attended classes at the black elementary school.
"I would sit in there in the morning and say my ABCs," says Joe, "then I would go outside and play for the rest of the day."
Joe also recalled when the Granbury schools were integrated in the early 60s.
"I was in the second grade," says Joe. "I didn’t know too many of the kids, but I guess it was alright." Joe made friends quickly. Life long friends.
Hood County News
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