GLEN ROSE – Betty Gosdin, a Somervell County resident, could very well be considered the local authority on the county’s history. She has also had a very large hand in organizing the information available and establishing the Somervell County Heritage Center Genealogy & Archives library.
“I opened the doors to this library in 1995. We had one little shelf of books back then, from top to bottom one section. That was it,” she said. “Today the heritage library is home to over 10,000 different books and documents.”
The website, www.paluxyvalleygenealogy.com, describes the Somervell County Heritage Center as, “The genealogy collection is American in focus with emphasis on the southern states. The local history collection includes books on Somervell County, its ‘parent’ counties, surrounding counties, and general Texana. Photographs, maps, newspaper files (and clippings), varied county archival records, collections from prominent area families and local organizations may be found in the large and growing archive.”
Mrs. Gosdin has taken an interest in history and searched deep into archives and record books to trace her family’s genealogy back through significant historical events. Through her efforts she has found herself eligible to participate in a membership of several historical societies, and even held several positions in each one.
“I can trace myself to Charlemagne, which is 43 generations,” Gosdin said. “I’m in the United Daughters of the Confederacy, Daughters of Union Veterans, Daughters of the Republic of Texas, Colonial Dames of the 17th Century, Daughters of the American Revolution, and I’m in the Mayflower Society. I’m a state historian for the Mayflower Society and I hold an office in almost every other one of some kind. I was the president of the Colonial Dames, I was regent for the DAR for the last two years before this year, I’ve been registrar for DRT for the last six years - I’ve been president, I’ve been their district two representative and on the board, I was secretary of the UDC for a while. So I’ve done all of them.”
Her husband’s family has deep roots in Somervell County - originally starting out in Bosque County in 1873, which may have been an inspiration to begin her study of genealogy. She also spent some time working at the Somervell County Library.
“I’ve done genealogy since 1981,” she explained. “I started on my husband’s first because his family lived up here and mine lived down in the Huston area. So when I got interested, I worked on his family first so I could do something. At that time I was chairman of the board of the local library - the regular library. We went to Weatherford to view their library and they had just put in a new genealogy section. It got me to thinking, ‘What do I know about my family?’ So that’s how come I started.”
“I went to his grandmother first and I asked her what she knew about the family and she started telling me,” Gosdin continued. “Then she said, ‘Now that’s just about all I know, now you need to go to Airedale. You just go to the post office and you tell them you’re looking for Gosdin family and they’ll point you in the right direction.’ That’s what I did and I found them. It just sort of blossomed from there. I went to classes and I went to a lot of workshops and conventions and it just began from there.”
Her story of how she started her search and documentation of her husband’s genealogy is not unlike how others should begin their search.
“You start with a pedigree chart and fill in everything you know,” she said. “When you get to where you don’t know anything you ask questions from your family and see if you can get to know more. That’s the first step. When you get to the point when you don’t know anything you need to start gathering records. You need to be gathering records anyway, to join these lineage groups you have to prove everything.”
One note Gosdin makes about gathering old records of your personal family is to think of every wrong way to spell your name, because a lot of people Americanized their names when they came to the United States.
She also helps anyone who comes in when she is at the heritage library on Thursdays find their way through their history.
“I’ve helped a gentleman in here that’s kin to every king and queen overseas almost. We’ve taken him all the way to almost Noah. When you get into royalty that has records. We can get him way far back, and we go in circles. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve taken him to Charlemagne a different way because they married each other,” she said.
Besides genealogy, she also deals with a lot of Somervell history, and has a plethora of knowledge on the subject - as well as very old documents, letters, and photos from the early days of settlement in the area. She educated the Reporter on the mineral water wells that littered the area and how it affected the development of the county.
“I think that Somervell County has a unique history because we had the dinosaurs, the mineral water - there’s a book called Crazy Water and there were places all over Texas like Mineral Wells that had the sulfur water, and people drank it and bathed in it for their health - we had several places here and people came here to be treated. When people couldn’t afford to stay at the sanitarium they would stay at a campground, and that’s why we have so many campgrounds in the area,” she said. “There’s a book called Artesian Wells and it’s got a lot about Somervell County in it, it’s real old. They would drill them and would just let them run out on the ground for a long time, then the river authority and the water board made them plug them up because it’s wasteful.”
She also told about how Glen Rose was known as the “Moonshine Capital of Texas”, the deadly tornado of 1902, about how the courthouse burned down in 1893, John St. Helen, and much more. She has archived almost every newspaper article from/about Glen Rose and Somervell County ever written. She also told the Reporter in detail from memory about how Somervell County was first formed.
“Originally in 1850, all this whole area was Milam County, it was huge. By 1860, what is now Somervell and Hood was part of Johnson County - which is Cleburne. Then by 1870, Hood and Somervell were broke off separate. The boundary lines have changed just a hair, but mostly. Then in 1875, we became our own county. Our first census was the 1880 census. Then in 1880, Somervell was set off by itself. There was a petition with hundreds of names on it that wanted to be their own county so they didn’t have to travel real far to go to their county seed. Back then they were on horse back or buggy, so they wanted to do their business in their own courthouse,” she said.
To hear the rest of the story about Somervell County, the Somervell County Heritage Center Genealogy & Archives library is located on the square in the Historic First National Bank Building across from the courthouse and is open 9-5 Monday-Saturday. Gosdin is typically on site on Thursdays to organize, work, and help others discover their history. She encourages people to take interest in the history of their personal genealogy and where they live. She hopes to pass down her enthusiasm of the subject to younger generations, and looks forward to seeing them continue to unravel the mysteries and legacies that history holds.