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Though many of the cities, towns, and villages we cover for TSDNS started as a result of the railroad, it was a different track that helped Willow Park, Texas, flourish – a race track!

Going through several different names like Clear Fork Downs and Squaw Creek Downs over the years, the owner of the race track change its name in 1991 to Trinity Meadows Race Track after Texas legalized pari-mutuel betting that year. The track averaged an annual profit of $1.5 million until nearby Lone Star Park opened. As a result, attendance at Trinity Meadows plummeted, and the track closed on August 6, 1996. Today, its home to a golf course.

Located just a few miles from the golf course is the Stuckey’s Express of Willow Park. You can find it inside the Classic Minute Mart, which itself is located in the Willow Springs Shopping center just off of I-20.

Once you’ve refueled and resupplied your stash of Stuckey’s Pecan Log Rolls, check out these things to see and do in the area:

Peter Pan Statue / Weatherford, TX

Photo of statue of Mary Martin as Peter Pan
Mary Martin as Peter Pan. Image: Billy Hathorn, CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

Mary Martin was born and raised in Weatherford where, as a young girl, she used to perform in local theater. In her early 20s she opened up her own dance studio and would later split her time performing between nearby Dallas and Los Angeles. It was in L.A. that Martin so impressed one producer, she soon found herself on the Broadway stage where she would go on to win four Tony awards.

Postcard photo of Peter Pan Peanut Butter Statue
Postcard of the Peter Pan Peanut Butter statue. Image c. 1964. Public Domain.

Her most famous role on Broadway was that of the Peter Pan. As the eternal boy who could fly, Martin flew across the stage on wires with, as one critic out it, “such balletic grace and sheer happiness” as no other who played Peter Pan before or since.

In 1964, the Peter Pan Peanut Butter company honored Martin by erecting a statue of her as Peter Pan in her hometown of Weatherford. However, rumor is that Mary didn’t like the statue, feeling it was too cartoonish. As a result, another statue, this one looking more like Mary, was made and now stands outside of the Weatherford Public Library today.

What happened to the Peter Pan Peanut Butter Peter Pan statue, however, is kind of a sticky subject.

Sometime in the 1970s, the statue went missing – twice! The first time was the result of the chicanery of some high school kids pulling a prank and the statue was soon returned. Soon after, however, the statue went missing once again and has not been seen since.

Rumors abound that it lies in the bottom of Lake Weatherford. However, according to the city, they also get more calls about its other whereabouts than people report Elvis sightings. And although a replica made of Styrofoam was found in a North Carolina antique shop, it was not the original one. For now, it seems that statue remains in Never-Never Land.

J.R. Ewing Statue / Weatherford, TX

Photo of statue of Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing
Larry Hagman as J.R. Ewing. Image courtesy of Cheryl Olive.

While living in Weatherford, Mary Martin got married to local accountant Benjamin Hagman at age 17.  In 1931 she gave birth to a son, Larry Hagman. The couple divorced in 1936 and Larry, five years old at the time, went to live with his maternal grandmother, Juanita Presley Martin, in Texas. Nevertheless, Larry would follow in his mother’s footsteps and became quite a legendary actor himself.

He first skyrocketed to fame as astronaut Anthony Nelson in the 1960s sitcom, I Dream of Jeannie opposite Barbara Eden. After rescuing a scantily clad genie named Jeannie (Eden), Nelson soon discovers that he has not only become the genie’s “Master”, but also that she has fallen in love with him. As a result, instead of just the usual three wishes, Nelson got enough of them to last five seasons and eventually married Jeannie.

Still, it would be in 1978 that Hagman would take on his most iconic role as the scheming oil tycoon J.R. Ewing on the nighttime drama series Dallas. The dirty business dealings of Hagman’s J.R. made him not only the standout character of the show, but they also became the show’s trademark. (And who among Boomers and GenXers will ever forget the summer of 1980 when the whole nation was wondering “Who shot J.R.?”)

Hagman would die from leukemia at the age of 81 on November 23, 2012; however, his hometown of Weatherford would make sure their native son’s legacy lives on. On Sept. 21, 2014, they unveiled a bronze statue of Hagman as J.R. Ewing at the Doss Heritage and Culture Center, located just around two miles from his mother’s statue.

I’m Not Dead Yet / Granbury, TX

Granbury is one of those Texas towns that are just full of folklore. Take for instance the stories about two notorious men who were supposedly dead but somehow eventually arrived in Granbury quite alive. Those two men are presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth and the legendary outlaw Jesse James.

John Wilkes Booth

Carte de visit of John Wilkes Booth.
Carte de visit of John Wilkes Booth. Image: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

You probably learned about the fate of John Wilkes Booth in History class: After assassinating President Abraham Lincoln, Booth escaped south. Twelve days and some 65 miles later, he was found by Union soldiers in a barn near Port Royal, Virginia.  One of those soldiers, Boston Corbett, approached the barn and peeked inside. Claiming that Booth spotted him and raised his pistol, Corbett shot Booth in self-defense, severing his spinal cord and paralyzing him. Booth would die three hours later. His body was sent back home to Maryland and buried in an unmarked grave at the family plot in Baltimore’s Green Mount Cemetery.

Or was he?

Some residents of Granbury say that, a few years after the Lincoln assassination, a man by the name of John St. Helen wandered into town and found work as a bartender. A few years later he was stricken with a fever, and fearing death was imminent, St. Helen confessed that he was really John Wilkes Booth. The man in the barn was not him, but an imposter, and through the help of a sympathetic South, he managed to elude capture, eventually finding his way to Granbury. The problem was, however, that St. Helen/Booth didn’t die and quickly left town upon his recovery.

Today, you can have breakfast or lunch next to a mural commemorating one of the town’s most infamous visitors at The Square Café (previously known as the Nutshell Eatery and Bakery) located on historic Granbury Square.

Jesse James

Photo of Jesse James
Jesse James. Image Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons

French Romantic writer and politician Victor Hugo once wrote: “History has its truth; and so has legend hers.”

History has told us that the notorious outlaw Jesse James was shot and killed in his St. Joseph, Missouri, house at the age of 34. He was supposedly shot in 1884 by Bob Ford, a member of James’ very own gang, who wanted to collect the $10,000 reward for James’ capture, dead or alive.

Legend, on the other hand, tells us another story. It says that Jesse James once fell in love with a young woman from Granbury, Texas, and would move here with his grandson under the pseudonym John Dalton in his later years. Dalton would spend the remainder of his life in Granger, living off of his Confederate pension. However, in 1948, at the age of 100, Dalton would confess to being the one and only outlaw Jesse James.

Much like Booth, Dalton claimed another man’s body was used in James place while he slipped away to become John Dalton. He stayed in hiding by supposedly serving as a soldier in every war since the Civil War. He even went so far as to claim that he was gassed while serving with the Canadian Army in World War I.

Dalton/James would die of natural causes on August 15, 1951, at the age of 103. With many of James’ relatives believing him to be the real Jesse James, they placed a headstone on his grave. His descendents still visit his graveside in Granbury Cemetery today.

If you’d like to pay your respects, the cemetery is located at 301 N. Hannaford Street in Granbury. Dalton/James grave is located at plot 544. For more information, you can call the Granbury City Hall at +1 817-573-1114 or visit their website here.

Stephanie Stuckey wearing the "Eat Here and Get Gas" T-shirt.From Anahuac to Wilmer, with nearly a dozen Stuckey stops throughout Texas there’s bound to be one on your way around the Lone Star State. Check out their locations here.

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