"Don't be afraid of the dark"
Fletcher Head and the Bragg Light.
My 1st Cousin 4th Removed was a rather tough fellow, apparently. Raised in the aftermath of the Civil War, life was hard in the south. His father, George W. Head had come to Texas from South Carolina sometime before 1871, and family tales say he was a slave owner. He married a lady from Georgia named Roxie Arline. When the family came to Texas they settled in a wilderness so thick and spooky that it still bears the name “The Big Thicket”, and were part of that pioneering generation that didn’t let a few snakes, gators or bears get in the way of making a living. Fletcher was born in 1877 and lived a life we know little of. Tales from the region are filled with legendary bear hunters and hard men and women cutting a living from the timber. Railroads were cut into the thick forests and fortunes were made.
As an adult, Fletcher must have been a respectable member of the community, for records show he was at one time the Postmaster General of Hardin County, and a tax assessor. He apparently had an entrepreneurial spirit about him, for in the days before Spindletop boomed in the area, the oil seekers were already drilling and producing Texas’ fine black gold around Saratoga and Batson, and many other small logging communities in Hardin County. He decided to build a hotel and store in the piney woods at the end of a well traveled road to serve the transients who came to work the oil patch, and in 1904 the Bragg Hotel was in business. In the book “Hardin County History” published by the Hardin County Historical Society, the Bragg Hotel is described as “a two story, nice looking building that attracted a lot of people”. It was named after General Braxton Bragg of South Carolina, who was also a Civil Engineer and a surveyor for the Santa Fe Railroad. This is a clue to the circumstances of my great grandfather’s rather fast move from South Carolina prior to the Civil War, I’ll cover that when I write some info on him.
The hotel became quite well loved, but not due to the hard work or hospitality of my great grandfather, for he died young at the age of 32 in November of 1909, and the hotel was sold to a Ms. Margaret McClean in 1910, whom maintained the hotel as a fine place for boarding. Some of the McClean legacy is preserved in the form of stories and recipes in the book “Boardin’ in the Thicket” by Wanda A. Landrey, and I am grateful to Ms. Landry for her assistance in tracking down info on my great grandfather.
There is a supposed “Ghost Light” legend along the road leading to where the old Bragg Hotel once stood, and it is to this day a popular place for thrill seekers to go, hoping for a glimpse of the light. The hotel took its last paying guest in 1968, and burned in later decades, but folks still go to see the light. It is interesting that we have two “ghost lights” somewhat loosely attached to our family history, the other one is on my wife’s maternal side up in Gurdon, Arkansas, and that one is considerably more famous.