Sunday, July 14, 2024

Mambrino: What’s in a name?




Maurice Walton is a retired attorney, a longtime Granbury resident, and president of the Bridge Street History Center.


This column is especially for you folks in the Mambrino area of Hood County.

Most people around here know how Hood County and Granbury got their names, but personally, I’m sorry to say, to my discredit, I’m not as familiar with how communities like Acton, Tolar, Hill City, Thorp Spring, Paluxy, Lipan, Waples and Cresson, etc. got their names. I have read what is written about these communities in various sources, including the 1970 and 1978 editions of “Hood County History in Picture and Story,” published by The Junior Woman’s Club of Granbury. These two books are good additions to anyone’s library, and the information on Hood County’s communities is very helpful.

However, today I’m going to tell you how Mambrino got its name based upon the story told to me by my friend, Vircy Macatee. I have written about Vircy in other columns. Before I tell you how Mambrino got its name, I need to make a few comments about Vircy.

My first observation would be that no one who knew Vircy had a neutral opinion of her. Vircy was, shall we say, very opinionated, and it was her aggressive way of expressing her opinion that prevented a lot people from taking the time to see that there was another side to Vircy. There was the very thoughtful and kind Vircy lurking behind that rough veneer.

I would be the first to say that you didn’t want to be on the other side of her on an issue about Granbury or Hood County history unless you had your facts together. I learned this the hard way. Vircy was always prepared when she addressed an issue about Hood County history, and I always knew I was about to get a history lesson when she would ask me, “What do you know about (blank)?” That’s how I learned how Mambrino got its name, according to Vircy Macatee.

The story begins with the understanding that there were two famous racehorses named Mambrino.

According to the Thoroughbred Heritage Website, the first Mambrino was a large European Arabian racehorse born in 1678. There is a pretty impressive picture of a painting of this horse on Thoroughbred Heritage Website together with information on some of his accomplishments.

The other Mambrino was a very successful racehorse in the Austin, Texas area following the Civil War. This horse, according to information in Vircy’s file, likely descended from the first Mambrino through one of his foals, Hambletonian 10.

You may be thinking, “OK, I can see where the name would have possibly come from, how did the community wind up with the name?” According to “my source,” when the community was originally established it had a drug store, doctor’s office, blacksmith shop and two churches, a Baptist and a Methodist.

The problem was the people in the little community had to go to Neri to get their mail. It seems that the stagecoach didn’t run through their village. It ran from Glen Rose to Granbury, going through Neri. As you can imagine, the people in the community wanted their own post office.

As the story goes, as told to Vircy by her parents, Oran and Fern May Baker, in the early 1900s, there were three men named John living in the community – John Holland, John Malone and John Jones. The citizens, under the leadership of the three Johns, petitioned the postal service for their own post office, requesting the name John’s Chapel.

The name was rejected by the postal service because there was already a John’s Chapel in Texas. What to do? According to Vircy’s parents, someone suggested that the community be named after the famous racehorse, Mambrino. Why exactly did they choose Mambrino? Vircy didn’t know, but it would seem that Mambrino, whether original or successor, was a name so well known that the citizens of the little village thought it fitting for the name of their little town. Evidently, no one in the future Mambrino complained, or if they did, their complaints went unheeded.

By the way, it is pronounced Mambrino, with a long “i” and sounds like “brine,” not “breeno.”