Thirty-five years before the town of Denison was established in 1872, settlers arrived in the rich prairies south of the Red River.
The Red River had been a 'line' over which the French and Spanish had fought in their claims to the New World. The Red River was a highway for French traders dealing with Caddo Indians. Posts existed along the river which aggravated the quarrel between Spain and France. Trappers had paddled the river with lucrative bounties of pelts. But the are remained Indian Territory.
Daniel Dugan arrived in what is now Grayson County, Texas in April 1836 followed by other settlers. Indians had used a ford along the Red River. This site was chosen by Col. Holland Coffee of Arkansas to establish a trading post on the Texas side of the river. Another trading post was set up by Abel Warren near the area settled by Daniel Dugan. The post, also known as Fort Warren, was not profitable and abandoned after a few years.
The Republic of Texas was established in 1836 and by 1840 had established a fort of Texas Rangers commanded by William Preston in an effort to settle its wide areas of Indian domain. A road south to Elm Fork of the Trinity River was opened. The new Ranger post was named Fort Preston. This new road was originally just a cleared trail with the contract for its building stating that stumps would not exceed twelve inches in height. The road became a main artery of travel as settlers came in covered wagons across the ford at Preston Road into the blackland prairies of Texas.
A settlement grew up near Colbert's Ferry - the haunt of freighters, cowboys and buffalo hunters. This little town of tents and shacks was located four miles north of what would become Denison, Texas and was named Red River City.
Two railroads, the Missouri, Kansas and Texas from the north and the Houston and Texas Central from the south, were building toward the Red River crossing. The Grayson County seat of Sherman subscribed a bonus to the Houston and Texas Central Railroad. Having not been offered a bonus by Sherman, the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad decided to develop a new town south of the Red River and extend its lines east and west. The higher land, four miles south of Red River City was selected by O. B. Gunn, chief engineer of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas railroad, as the new townsite. Land was purchased and the site was kept secret until the deal was closed. The town was laid out and lots went up for sale on September 23, 1872. . . and Denison was born.
Residents of Red River City moved to the new townsite and began to entice the Houston and Texas Central to their new town. The two railroads raced their building operations toward the new town of Denison, Texas. The Missouri, Kansas and Texas brought the first train on Christmas Eve, 1872. The Houston and Texas Central arrived in early 1873.
The town of Denison was incorporated in March 1873.
The Denison Guide; The American Guide Series complied and written by the
Federal Writers' Project of the Works Progress Administration in the State of Texas, 1939
The History of Grayson County Texas by Grayson County Frontier Village, 1979
Elaine Nall Bay