September 30, 2017
THE MATRIARCHS OF GRANARY – HARD SHELLS AND WARM HEARTS – THOSE INDOMITABLE NUTT WOMEN
Posted by: Melinda Ray
THE MATRIARCHS OF GRANBURY –
A TRIBUTE TO THE MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS
WHO LIVED TEXAS HISTORY AS IT HAPPENED
Each year, in March, the world celebrates International Woman’s Day, a day set aside to acknowledge the remarkable and often unsung contributions women have made in our society- both in modern times and throughout the ages. With that in mind, it came to mind that Granbury, throughout its hundred plus year history, has been blessed by both the public and private lives of some very remarkable women. So often in western culture, it is the men who get the credit and recognition- much of it well-deserved. But often too there have been strong, independent, and able women making equal contributions. It is those women that this series of articles is dedicated to. Each of these groups of ladies are connected in some way- either by time period, or by family association or focus of endeavor. We invite you to learn their stories and be inspired to better appreciate both the women in your own histories, and the women in our community who continue to contribute so much to Granbury and all of us!
HARD SHELLS AND WARM HEARTS –
THOSE INDOMITABLE NUTT WOMEN
The history of the Nutt family – and their contributions to Granbury are the stuff of story and legend. One of their number, Mary Louise Faulkner Watkins, would easily qualify as one of Granbury’s most famous citizens. But what many people may not know is that the visionary, vivacious, stubborn, hard-working, civic-minded, astute business woman – Mary Lou – was very much a product of the family in which she was raised. She was the latest in a line of women who exemplified those same qualities in a multitude of ways, over many generations.
The Nutt women and the men they loved were all a part of a large, prosperous family who made themselves felt in the world they lived in- not because of inherited wealth or power, but because of the things their family stood for. Among those principles was the conviction that all children, both boys and girls, deserved a quality education and were to be encouraged to follow their dreams and be active participants in the community. Nutt women were partners in their husband’s and father’s endeavors, not observers; and those who chose the single life were encouraged to follow their own dreams and convictions in active and independent lives. Given the time period, that means the Nutt men were pretty forward-thinking as well!
The first of these women to grace the Granbury scene were the generation of wives and daughters who came here with their men. These hardy souls were among the first white persons to settle in the Brazos River valley in the shadow of the mountain revered by the Comanche. In the mid-1850’s they came. There was Sarah Landers Nutt, mother of twelve, who at the age of 51 came with her husband and four of their boys – traveling by covered wagon across hundreds of miles of Indian territory to settle in a new place for the fourth and last time of her adult life. Only a few years before, she and her new daughter-in-law, Elizabeth must have watched in agony and horror as Elizabeth’s new husband Jessie Nutt and his brother Jacob were stricken by disease that resulted in massive eye infections and lost their sight. Yet still they came, boldly into the unknown. How daunting it must have been to travel in those days, with two of their men blind, yet determined to go to this new place and build a new life. How proud Sarah must have been of her youngest son David as he took on his young ten year old shoulders the task of being his older brother’s “eyes”. It was a partnership that endured for almost sixty years.
Elizabeth Nutt was only twenty-three years old when her husband of just over a year lost his sight. For the next forty-four years she helped in every aspect of his endeavors. She followed him into the wilderness, helped at the store he and his brothers built, and helped her sister-in-law run a hotel from the family home for almost twenty years. She had four children and raised two daughters to adulthood. She was active in her church, and insisted upon the quality of her daughters’ education. She died relatively young by today’s standards- at age sixty-seven, from injuries sustained in a fall.
Sue Avarilla Garland married the youngest Nutt brother, David. For over twenty years she was the matriarch who ran the “Nutt House Hotel” in the house she and David built on Bridge Street. She was renowned as a gracious and caring hostess, and was a huge part of the success of the first “hotel”! Sudie, as she was known, was mother to five children, and under her care, yet another generation of Nutt girls received equal if not superior educations, and grew-up seeing a mother actively involved as an integral part of the family business. She encouraged her niece Mattie in her artistic talents, hanging many of her paintings in the Nutt Family home. And she stood by her daughter, also named Mattie, through what must have been a scandalous divorce in the late 1890’s. Sudie died at age sixty-six in 1920- a revered and respected lady of the Granbury community.
The stories of the two cousins, both named Mattie Nutt, are nothing short of remarkable. Born a week apart in May 1874 to brothers Abel and David Nutt and their wives, both girls lead lives marred by tragedy, but marked by accomplishment. Mattie B. – Abel’s daughter- lost her parents at a young age, and was raised through high school by her uncle, Jacob Nutt – one of the blind brothers. She benefited directly from his role in establishing excellent schools in Granbury that were open to both boys and girls of all ages. By graduation she was already known in the community as an exceptionally talented artist/painter, and writer of poems and essays. Several of her paintings are still hanging in the house on Bridge Street today. But her promise was cut short. She died at age twenty following a short flu-like illness.
Martha Eli Nutt, the younger of the two Mattie’s by one week, was the daughter of David and Sudie Nutt. Well-educated like her cousin, she was allowed to work alongside her brother, Henry Lee, learning the family business. Even in her twenties, she had already gained a reputation as a formidable businesswoman. Although her family stood by her, a disastrous marriage in 1897 that ended in a divorce caused her to re-evaluate the course of her life. Deeply religious, she accepted a call to ministry, and was consecrated as a missionary for the Methodist Episcopal Church in a service in Ft. Worth in 1908. She spent much of the remainder of her life working in the mission field in Old Mexico and other places, not only spreading the Gospel, but also working in communities where her business acumen could be of help to developing small businesses. She died in California, far from home, in 1951.
The last unsung heroine of the saga of the Nutt Family women was Henry Lee Nutt’s wife Euna. Many folks in Granbury think of Mary Lou as the longest owning proprietor of the Nutt House Hotel. But not only did Henry and Euna have a hand in the start up of the Hotel on the square in the beginning, sometime around 1910, but they were owners of the property for over fifty years. From the time of David Nutt’s retirement around 1910, until 1964, Henry and Euna ran the hotel. Through two world wars, the Great Depression, the roaring twenties and the lean years of the 1950’s, they kept the family dream alive. Euna continued that devotion alone for ten years after Henry’s death in 1954. Her granddaughter remembers that faithfulness- how even in old age and ill health Euna continued to walk to the square and tend to the hotel every day. Finally the day came in 1964 when she acknowledged she could not continue, and sold the property out of the family. What a hard day that must have been! And yet all was not lost. Three years later, that indomitable heir to all these strong women, Euna’s niece Mary Louise came back to Granbury. And the rest, as they say, is history….