It was just lying there with a pile of other photos, he explained, and for a moment, he thought he must have been imagining that he was actually looking at a 115-year-old photo.
“I almost didn’t go in that shop because I’ve been there before and they never had anything of interest,” Wayne Sherrod said. “But I did go in, look around and then just as I was leaving, I saw this.”
The photo Sherrod had discovered in a Granbury antique shop was a copy of a picture made by professional photographer, W.B. Praytor, who had a business in Stephenville in the late 1800s. The original is reported to be in a private collection belonging to a Granbury resident and is not for sale at the moment. This remarkable photo was probably made in 1892 and shows early work on the Erath County Courthouse in progress. Besides workers on the structure, including the probability of Jody Luke Sechrist, contractor, are masons and famous architect, J. Reily Gordon, standing to the left, dressed in a dark business suit.
The present courthouse is the third structure actually built for the purpose for which it is used but two other buildings, where Garry Lewellen’s law office is located, were once used for government business. The first courthouse, erected in 1876, was built of wood and it soon burned. There are no known pictures of this structure. The second courthouse was rather plain but was constructed of stone. It burned in 1891, however there is at least one known photograph which also includes many local citizens and although without uniforms, the Stephenville city band. This photograph is in the Stephenville museum.
The present courthouse was begun soon after the second one burned and apparently was constructed on the foundation of the previous one. According to Sherrod, several of the stones from that building have been located including some in the wall of the basement inside the courthouse. Sherrod has done extensive research on buildings in Erath County including a study of records and newspaper archives.
The three-story courthouse is made of native limestone from the Leon River and red sandstone from the Pecos River. Gordon submitted the winning bid of $65,000 to the commissioners, and work soon began. According to Tonya Hoffman, granddaughter of contractor, Jody Sechrist, one of the workers building the courthouse fell to his death during construction.
A copy of the photo made by Praytor has been given to the Historical House Museum and efforts are being made to secure the original print.