Somervell County Courthouse, Glen Rose, Texas

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*This page is under construction.*

“Somervell County is in north central Texas and is bisected by U.S. Highway 67 and State Highway 144. It comprises 188 square miles, the second-smallest area among Texas counties.”

“Three major streams traverse the county; the Brazos River winds through the eastern third, while the Paluxy River passes through the center and empties into the Brazos near its confluence with Squaw Creek.”

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“More than 100 million years ago dinosaurs roamed the area that is now Somervell County. The Paluxy River has some of the best-preserved tracks found in the continental United States.”

“Local efforts to protect and preserve tracks imbedded along the river resulted in the foundation of Dinosaur Valley State Park, a 1,523-acre facility formally dedicated in 1970.”

“The first permanent Anglo settler was Charles E. Barnard, who established an Indian trading post in the late 1840s with his brother, George Barnard, for whom George’s Creek was named. Charles’s wife, Juana Cavasos Barnard, was the granddaughter of Don Narciso Cavasos, recipient of the largest Spanish land grant in Texas. She had been captured by Comanches in South Texas and ransomed by the Barnards. Barnard’s Mill, built in 1860, was the first building at the site that is now Glen Rose.”

“During most of the 1850s and early 1860s the Barnard’s Mill settlement was a part of Johnson County. In 1866 the area was included in a new county, Hood, marked off entirely from Johnson County. Somervell County was established in 1875, when residents in southern Hood and northern Bosque counties petitioned for a new county because of their separation from markets and seats of government.”

“The county, taken completely from Hood County, was named for Alexander Somervell, who led an expedition to Mexico under the Republic of Texas. The first and only county seat is Glen Rose, named in 1872. Other early communities included Wilcox, Rainbow, Nemo, and Glass.”

“Glen Rose was the center of activity for the county during the last two decades of the nineteenth century. A Baptist college was organized in 1879 and sold to the Paluxy Baptist Association the next year. In 1889 the northern Presbyterians opened Glen Rose Collegiate Institute. Four periodicals were published in Glen Rose during these decades; the Glen Rose Citizen, the Glen Rose Falcon, and the Glen Rose Herald were local newspapers, while the Monthly Baptist Standard had a wider circulation. A public school system was started in 1896, eventually eclipsing the private college.”

“In spite of the county seat’s prominence, Somervell remained an agricultural county, the primary product being livestock.”

“The county entered the twentieth century with a population of 3,498. A tornado destroyed thirty-six buildings in Glen Rose in 1902. The population peaked at 3,931 in 1910 and then declined to a low of 2,542 by 1950.”

“The county had twenty-one rural schools operating by 1910, and Glen Rose had become something of a health resort because of the local mineral springs. Over 600 farms were operational in 1910, but almost half of these were tenant run.”

“During the 1920s the county gained a reputation as the “Moonshine Capital of Central Texas.” In a move by the Texas Rangers in 1923 to clean out illegal liquor operations, forty local men were arrested including the county sheriff and county attorney. By 1930 the county had no black residents.”

“In the early twenty-first century the Comanche Peak nuclear plant [located on the Squaw Creek Reservoir], agribusiness, and tourism were key elements of the area’s economy; many residents commuted to jobs in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.”

“Communities included Glen Rose (2000 population, 2,122), the county seat; Rainbow (76); and Nemo (56). Tourists travel to the area to enjoy Glen Rose Big Rocks Park, the Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, and a Passion play that runs from June through October.” (The Passion play [The Promise] is performed in the Texas Amphitheater, which was helped to open by my great-grandmother in 1989. It now unfortunately is facing closure. I do not know if the play will continue if this happens or not).

Richard Elam, “SOMERVELL COUNTY,” Handbook of Texas Online

Somervell County has been the epicenter of my Texas family history since at least the 40s. Although only a few family members still live in Glen Rose, it once was home to many relatives. I have been here many times, and know it better than most of the other county seats you will find on this website.

I have been to Glen Rose more times than I can count, and have driven by the courthouse during most of those trips. Officially, I visited the Somervell County Courthouse on January 3, 2011 and came back to photograph it on July 31, 2013 and January 2, 2014. 

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The first courthouse on the Glen Rose square, this building was completed in the late 1880s

(Photo Courtesy: Brother E.B. McCown; Somervell County Historical Commission)

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The previous courthouse burned in January 1893, and a new structure designed by John Cormack was completed.

(Photo Courtesy: Brenda Buzan Ransom; Lloyd Dan Moss records)

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The devastating Glen Rose tornado in 1902 remarkably left the courthouse standing, but damaged the roof and blew out the clocks.

(Photo Courtesy: Somervell County Museum)

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There was severe damage to the square, though.

(Photo Courtesy: Somervell County Museum)

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The repaired courthouse, circa 1920

(Photo Courtesy: Don and Vivian Hill Collection)

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The courthouse in the 30s (this was how it looked from the 30s to the 80s)

(Photo Courtesy: Don and Vivian Hill Collection)

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The courthouse today; restored in the 80s

NOW ON TO GLEN ROSE: “America’s Dream Town 2004″

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Entering Glen Rose on Highway 67

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Entering Downtown Glen Rose via Vernon Street

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The north corner of the building

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This picture was taken from the corner of Elm and Barnard

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Charles and Juana Barnard, complete with her horse, PigeonIMG_9758IMG_9816IMG_9824

The bandstand was constructed out of local rocks and petrified wood and completed in 1933.

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Also added to the structure of the bandstand is an Acrocanthosaurus footprint from the Paluxy. The picture cuts off, but you can read about some of it here.

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Also to grace the courthouse lawn is a petrified wood fountain

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There have been days when I have seen the fountain dry. Fortunately, the day this photo was taken was not one of those days.

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Sometimes, the southwest side of the square serves as a local farmers’ market.

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The southwest side of the courthouse: winter timeIMG_3586

Taken in January, this photo captured some of the remaining Christmas decorations on the courthouse.

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The water tower with city hall in view; taken from the north corner

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My great-grandmother was the commissioner of Precinct 1 in the 80s. She aided the county in the courthouse restoration and the opening of the Texas Amphitheater.

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The cornerstone is on the south corner.

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Buildings on Elm Street

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The view down Barnard Street

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An example of a petrified wood building, of which Glen Rose has many

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The Paluxy

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The Paluxy flows through a local attraction, Big Rocks Park, shortly before it joins the Brazos.

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Located on Grace Street, my great-great grandmother’s home was recently named a Glen Rose Landmark. It was built in 1883.

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Sycamore Grove, as it was known, was once a service station before it was abandoned. “Back in the day,” it doubled as a speakeasy (a location to drink alcohol during Prohibition), and most likely was a center of the moonshining that Glen Rose became famous for. It is my favorite petrified wood structure in town.

Now, for Fossil Rim

“Covering 1,700 acres, Fossil Rim is home to more than 1,000 animals, representing approximately 50 different species. Visitors have the opportunity to take a drive-thru tour of Fossil Rim and have an opportunity to get an up close and personal look at animals normally only seen from a great distance.”

“While Fossil Rim Wildlife Center provides a unique experience to visitors, Fossil Rim’s primary objective is to help preserve endangered species.”

-From the Glen Rose Visitors’ Website

*Like Glen Rose proper, I have also been to Fossil Rim many times. Being one of the major attractions of Somervell County, I felt it acceptable to include a few pictures.

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Previous Courthouse: Bosque County

Next Courthouse: Parker County

One comment

  • Mark Osborn on February 9, 2016 at 4:32 PM said:

    Nice job Carson!

    I ran across this and was impressed with your work. As you might remember I am your mom’s cousin. I love your comments about grannies house on Grace street. It is a Texas treasure. If you visit the Sutton county courthouse there are some plaques mentioning her family as pioneers in the area. It is very cool.

    Keep up the great work. I am a fan!

    Take care

    Mark

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