Pioneers from the Upland South surged into the North Central region of Texas after it became a state in 1845, with the first Anglo settlers venturing west of the Brazos River in the 1850s. Like settlers throughout Texas, they built a schoolhouse in each small community and families hired and paid the teacher. In 1900, W. H Barker, an early resident of Hood County, shared his memories of education in the county’s first settlements, and recalled that families paid their community’s teacher from $1 to $1.50 per student. He remembered attending school in a log cabin with dirt floors and long hand-hewn wooden benches.1 Recognizing a need to support public education in the new state, leaders established a permanent school fund for public schools in 1854.
The Texas legislature created Hood County in 1866, and by 1871, residents established Granbury, the county seat, along a bend in the Brazos River. There is record of a public school in Granbury in 1871, taught by A. P Harbin. The school’s enrollment was so high that year that Harbin had to hire an assistant to teach the girls. In 1874, Hood County had a board of school directors with four members presided over by Granbury merchant A.P. Gordon, who also served as school examiner and county superintendent.
County Judge T.J. Duke created a Granbury Community School in 1883 in response to a petition from three community leaders, W.A. Duke, A.P. Gordon, and H.E. Hanna. Judge Duke appointed the petitioners as trustees and designated $650.09 from the county treasury for “maintenance of their public school.” The location of this school in Granbury is unknown.
In 1873, the Methodist District opened Granbury College and High School in a rock building on the southeast corner of the Hood County Courthouse square, and by 1875, citizens of Granbury raised the money to construct a three-story limestone building on a prominent hill north of the courthouse square. This building burned down in 1887, but was soon replaced by another three-story limestone building on the same spot.
A series of wet years during the early 1880s benefiting the local agricultural economy, along with the arrival of the Fort Worth and Rio Grande Railroad in 1887, caused an economic boom in Granbury and Hood County. In the early twentieth century, the county achieved a population high of 10,008 and Granbury had 2,250 residents.
In August 1891, the City of Granbury purchased Block 42, six blocks west of the Hood County Courthouse Square, from Catherine Crites for $1,200. The city constructed a frame, two-story schoolhouse with a central tower and wrap-around front porch on the eastern edge of the lot, facing east along Hannaford Street. This lot remained the traditional home to Granbury school buildings for more than 100 years.
In 1893, County Judge George Riddle apportioned state funding at a rate of $5 per student to 38 community schools within Hood County, including the City of Granbury public school and its “colored school.” Before the 1900 to 1901 school term, the Granbury School Board hired five female teachers and two male administrators. Superintendent J.D. Sandeler received a raise to $100 per month to entice him to remain for the eight-month school year.
City of Granbury voters approved $25,000 of bonds in 1917 to construct a masonry school building “on the block of land upon which the present old school building has been situated for several years.” The next year, the city constructed a three-story Beaux Arts-style school building of red brick. The new building featured nine classrooms and a small auditorium, and was located on the northern edge of lot 42, facing north along West Bridge Street. It replaced the existing frame school building, which was demolished.
The same year, the students of Granbury High School published their first yearbook, called “The Peak.” Students’ pride in their new school is reflected in the full-page black-and-white photo of the building on page 6 and in the framed small photo along the lower border of each page of the yearbook. They dedicated their first yearbook to “the defenders of the red, white and blue.” The yearbook features photos of four high school teachers who instructed 17 seniors, 14 juniors, 18 sophomores and 16 freshmen.
During the late nineteenth century, a series of state laws granted cities and towns more freedom to develop and administer schools, leading to the creation of local independent school districts; by 1900, Texas boasted 526. State voters passed the Better Schools Amendment. In 1920, allowing increases in local taxation for education. These changes led residents to approve creation of Granbury Independent School District in 1923. The new district assumed the city’s school bond indebtedness and taxed residents at a rate of 75 cents per $100 evaluation of property. In 1924, the Parent Teachers Association raised money to construct cement sidewalks around the school building and seven seniors graduated, reflecting a decline in local population. During the 1928 semester, the district had a total enrollment of 263, with 102 students attending Granbury High School.
In Hood County, as throughout Texas and the Southern United States, segregation was the norm, and African American children in Granbury attended a separate public school located north of the railroad tracks within their small community. In 1946, Granbury built a new school for African American students and hired one teacher, Eva May Williams, to teach there. Faced with losing thousands of dollars in federal funding, the district integrated its schools in 1964, admitting thirteen African American students to the district’s main campus.
The district school board recognized a need for additional facilities in 1935, submitting a $12,000 bond to the voters of the district in a special election. Articles in the Granbury News encouraged district voters to approve the bond, which would provide five classrooms and a small auditorium for elementary grades, and “will not affect your taxes.” Voters approved the bond 79 to 27.10 Fort Worth architect C.M. Love designed the Art Deco brick school, which is still standing, and Abilene Construction Company completed the building in September. Located on the west side of Lot 42 along Morgan Street facing east, this school marked an expansion of the district to two multi-classroom schools.
By the 1946 to 1947 school year, 510 students attended Granbury public schools, served by five buildings, all standing on Block 42: the five-room elementary for grades 1 to 5; the nine room, three-story building for all other grades with small auditorium; a small shop building used for vocational and agricultural classes; and a small lunch room.
In November 1947, voters approved annexing nine smaller school districts into Granbury Independent School District. The school districts were Thorp Spring, Waples, Fairview, Neri, Temple Hall, Rough Creek, Friendship, Rocky Point, and Shady Grove. Between 1958 and 1969, Mambrino, Acton, and Cresson schools consolidated into Granbury Independent School District, creating a district that encompassed 244 square miles.
Granbury School District hired Fort Worth architect Wyatt Hedrick, who designed Will Rogers Auditorium among hundreds of other Texas buildings, to design and oversee construction of the community’s first gymnasium and auditorium for approximately $49,000. After Superintendent W.F. Decker passed away suddenly during construction, the school board voted to name the building Decker Gym in his honor. Thomas H. Cadenhead and Sons of Fort Worth constructed the gymnasium and auditorium on ball fields on Block 41, located across West Bridge Street north of the three-story brick building, which had become Granbury High School.
During the 1950s, Granbury School District built a new mid-century modern one-story high school, designed by Stanley Brown of Dallas, just west of Decker Gym on the south side of Block 41, along West Bridge Street facing south. At the end of the decade, the district added a junior high school wing on the west end of the high school. The 1960s began with the district building a new elementary school and cafeteria behind the high school and junior high school, on the west side of Block 41, facing west. After it opened, the district in 1965 demolished the 1917 three-story brick school building on Block 42.
In 1958, the average daily attendance in Granbury’s schools was 702; by 1969 it was 899. Base pay for a beginning teacher with a bachelor’s degree was $3,204, and by 1969 it was$5337. As the community braced for growth and new development following the creation of Lake Granbury in 1969, a reporter for the Hood County News Tablet wrote:
We cannot bury our heads in the Brazos River Sands. Within a few short months sailboats and water skiers will replace the giant pecan and oak trees . . . The Granbury School District will need new classrooms, new student desks and equipment, and more teachers. The lack of a good education system can spoil the student as easily as sparing the rod.
Indeed, the 1970s brought revitalization and progress to Granbury with the creation of the lake and restoration of the courthouse and its square. Anticipated growth materialized, April 3, 2019 and, in 1971, voters approved a $2.2 million bond to construct a new high school. Located 1.4 miles west of the courthouse square, the modern building featured 80,000 square feet and accommodations for 750 students, with flexibility to expand to serve 1,500 students. The watershed developments that necessitated a new high school ushered in a period of rapid change and development for Granbury and its school system. At the beginning of the 2018 school year, Granbury Independent School District had reached a size of 254 square miles with 7,135 students enrolled for classes on eleven campuses.
1 “County Schools Had Humble Beginning,” Hood County News-Tablet, August 11, 1966, p. 16. 2 “Granbury Schools Have Colorful Past,” Hood County News, February 28, 1974, p 8.
3 Sanborn Insurance Company Map of Granbury, Hood County Texas, 1910, Library of Texas online.
4 “Granbury Schools Have Colorful Past,” Hood County News, February 28, 1974, p 8.
5 “School Fund Apportionment,” Granbury News, September 28, 1893, p. 1.
6 City of Granbury, City Council Minutes, February 20, 1918, available at the Granbury Depot Archives.
7 “Statement from School Board,” Granbury News, May 25, 1923, p. 5.
8 “Granbury Public School Report,” Granbury News, November 2, 1928, p. 1.
9 “184 Texas School Districts Facing Loss of Federal Aid,” Dallas Morning News, April 10, 1962, Section 1, p. 4 and “40 School Districts Join Integrated List,” Dallas Morning News, March 25, 1964, Section 1, p. 4.
10 “Proposed School Bonds Will Not Affect Your Taxes,” Granbury News, April 5, 1935, p. 1. 11 W.F. Decker and Joe Enoch, Letter to Surplus Property Utilization Program, June 15, 1947, Granbury School Board Minutes, Available at Granbury Independent School District’s Superintendent’s Office.
12 “Comparison of Ten Year Period Shows Changes in Granbury School District,” Hood County News Tablet, July 24, 1969, p. 1.
13 Granbury ISD Boasts Largest First Day Enrollment,” Granburyisd.org, www.granburyisd.org.
April 3, 2019