What with all the focus sometimes on the more notorious characters associated with Granbury history- John St. Helen, Jesse James, the Mitchell-Truett Feud, saloons on the square, etc.- it is easy sometimes to forget that the city of Granbury, and indeed the whole of Hood County were settled from the earliest days by Families. Those families – men, women and children alike- came here in those hard years following the bloodiest conflict on American soil to make a new life, to grow a new community, and to put down roots in this place.
They dreamed of building something good and lasting here on the wild Texas banks of the Brazos. They built homes, and churches, and schools, following a pattern being repeated all across this vast continent. They were rich, poor, educated, not so educated, ranchers, farmers, townspeople, and country folk- all living what came to be called the American Dream. And – for the most part- for many of them – that dream came true.
But what is also evident, if you take the time to look beyond the legends, and the tales, and the romanticized imaginings, is that none of them did it ALONE. They did it TOGETHER. They formed a community. It wasn't perfect- it was human and flawed just like all its members. What strikes me over and over, as I look through the archives of newspaper stories and family tales from the past 100 plus years is how much of it is about people taking care of each other, doing for each other, and for the community as a whole. And for some of them- the community extended far beyond borders of Granbury or even Hood County.
As we approach the Holiday season, a time of year when giving and community and looking beyond ourselves is hopefully in our thoughts, we here at Granbury Showcase want to share and recall some new old tales- tales about how some of our Granbury founders gave back the blessings they had been given and looked beyond themselves to help others. May we be inspired by their stories to say, "What can I do? How can I help? How can I make a difference?"
One of the most prominent of the pioneer families of Hood County was the Cogdells. The patriarch of that family was Daniel Calhoun Cogdell. D. C. Cogdell was born in Texas in 1849, son of Thomas Cogdell, a blacksmith and his wife, Permilia. Though born in those relatively modest circumstances, D, C, Cogdell became an enormously successful businessman. By the time he and his wife Lucy were raising their family in Hood County, he was one of the wealthiest men in the community. He owned the Hood County Milling Company, the Granbury Quarry Company, the Granbury Cotton Oil Company, the Granbury Peanut Company, and the Haskell Cotton Oil Company in Haskell, Texas. He had ranches all over the state and his cattle and horses numbered in the thousands. He was also one of the founding members of the board of the First National Bank of Granbury, and served for many years as its first president. He was a big man, both physically at over six feet and 200 pounds, and in power and influence. He also was known for his big heart.
Although the Cogdells lived for many years a lavish lifestyle compared to most of their neighbors, somehow Mr. Cogdell never lost his memory of his modest origins. He raised his children to have an awareness of and compassion for those less fortunate, and lived an example to show them the way. During his years as a prominent businessman and president of the First National Bank, he was in a position to see much heartache and hardship as it befell members of the community. He quietly and faithfully through the years lived the adage that was quoted at his funeral service, "Bear ye one another's burdens." As president of Granbury's largest and most prosperous bank he daily made decisions affecting the livelihood of his fellow citizens. Amazingly, it is said that he never turned down a loan to a man who wished to give his children an education. He approved high-risk loans for community farmers in times of drought or pestilence. He quietly saw that funds were available to families in need because of a long illness. He personally took weekly supplies of food and clothing to families he knew to be in need. And throughout his ninety-five year long life he actively supported and organized various civic projects to improve the quality of life for all the citizens of Hood County.
It is said that the Cogdells lost much of their wealth during the hard years of the depression, and as a widower late in life D. C. Cogdell lived much more modestly than he had in his middle years. But his quiet support of those fallen on hard times continued and his civic-minded never wavered. He also passed those traits on to the next generation. His son, Earl and wife Gertrude were a shining example. Not only were they active in civic and charitable organizations locally and in Haskell, where they lived for a time, but also further afield. Earl is a character for another story. His wife Gertrude, though only a daughter by marriage, must have been mighty pleasing to her father-in-law, D. C.!
Gertrude Irene Cogdell, or Mrs. Earl Cogdell as she was known- according to the custom of the time – was apparently a force to be reckoned with! She was one of the founding members of the Granbury Woman's Club, an organization dedicated to good civic and charitable works by the women of Hood County. She served twice as its president, and was instrumental in strengthening its ties with and participation in the works of the statewide Texas Woman's Club organization.
In 1922, Gertrude was appointed head of the Texas Woman's Club Committee on Indian Affairs. In this office she focused on improving the lives of the Native Americans living on Texas' only Indian Reservation in Polk County. She was instrumental in lobbying the Polk county and Texas state government and the United States Congress for funds to buy additional farmland and implements for use by the Reservation, funds to build a real and functional school on the Reservation and much more. She also advocated for job and skills training for both the men and women on the reservation. She did all this at a time that was only one generation removed from the times of Indian attacks and troubles, and there was still much prejudice again the Native peoples. Yet for several years, Gertrude and the ladies on her committee served as the conscience of the National Congress and the State Legislature, lobbying those bodies each session for help for the reservation. Gertrude was not just a lobbyist and committee member. She went to the reservation herself, and met with the women there. She listened and became their voice to the government about what they needed to make their lives and the lives of their children better. The results- not only the farmland and the school, but a hospital with medical staff, and a cannery that provided employment were also built on the reservation. This was remarkable progress for these people in a time when their needs and cause were still the subject of controversy and resentment.
Gertrude Cogdell also served on the Texas Womans' Club committee supporting the establishment of State and National Parks in Texas and testified before both the state legislature and U. S. Congress advocating for additional funding and areas for State and National Parks in Texas. She continued to be active in local affairs in the Granbury well into her later life supporting the charitable and philanthropic efforts of the Womans' Club and other civic groups throughout the lean years of World War II. It is a testament to what a different era she strove in that not a single picture of her could be found in any archive online, despite her work on both the state and national level.
Many other far-flung members of D. C. Cogdell's family also took up his adage of "bearing one another's burdens". He and others like him lead our county by example in those early years. That pioneer spirit inspires us, as we approach the holidays, to find ways to follow their examples of doing for others and participating in a positive way in the life of our common community here in Granbury and Hood County!
Daniel Calhoun Cogdell on one of his beloved horses!
The Iron Horse Inn B&B occupies the last of three houses Daniel Cogdell and his wife Lucy built on this same site.