Early Telegraphs and Telephones in Denison
Before the advent of telephones, Denison communicated with the outside world by telegraph. The 1876 City Directory stated, "The United States Military Telegraph, starting from Denison, extends to all of the military posts in Texas and the Indian Territory, with its other termini at Brownsville and San Antonio. The government maintains at this point an observatory from which weather reports are daily sent to all parts of the country."
In 1876, the U.S. Military Telegraph's office (the Texas Division) in Denison was managed by George S. Grimes. The chief clerk there was Herman M. Ludwig. Working as telegraph operators were Eugene Peters and Charles H. Ways. Ignatius V. Wallace was a clerk. A separate telegraph system, Western Union, was managed by Joseph M. Morrison. August Zintgraff worked as a messenger. Both these systems had offices at 227 West Main Street.
In addition, the directory listed two other telegraphers working for the Houston & Texas Central Railway: Robert W. Cosnaham and Fred A. O'Maley. In addition, Alfred J. Brewer and George S. Rowley were listed as telegraph operators but gave no specific place of employment.
Several of the telegraphers (Morrison, Peters, and Wallace) boarded with Reverend Myron A. Daugherty, pastor of the First Methodist Episcopal Church; he lived on the north side of Woodard Street between Fannin and Mirick avenues. Others (Brewer and Ways) boarded with William J. George, who operated a boarding house at the northeast corner of Gandy Street and Austin Avenue.
The 1887 Denison City Directory listed two telegraph systems. The Western Union office was located at 212-1/2 West Main Street. Orville D. Parker was manager. He lived at 511 West Gandy Street.
The other telegraph, the Baltimore and Ohio, had an office at 114 West Main Street and was managed by Miss Edith Menefee. She lived at the home of Mrs. E. Virginia Menefee (widow of H. P. Menefee) at 115 West Gandy. Also living there were Miss May L. Menefee, music teacher; and Oscar S. Menefee, check clerk at Waples, Platter & Company. Edith Menefee was an early leader of Denison's XXI Club, which owned the first women's clubhouse in Texas. Her photo is in Jennie Cunningham Croly, "The History of the Woman's Club Movement in America" (New York: H. G. Allen, 1898), vol. I, p. 1102. See the whole book at http://pds.lib.harvard.edu/pds/view/3031533?n=1121
In 1891, the City Directory continued to list Western Union telegraph. Location of office and manager had not changed.
This was the first year when telephones appeared: the Southwestern Telegraph and Telephone Company. The office was upstairs at 220 West Main, and the manager was Fletcher Granger. He boarded at the Thompson House, located near the office at 400 West Main Street (it later was called Central Hotel, Palace Hotel, New Palace Hotel, and Simpson Palace Hotel).
In the 1896 City Directory, the same two companies were listed, at the same addresses. Southwestern Telephone and Telegraph was managed by Charles C. Davis, who was manager for Denison, Sherman, and Gainesville branches. He lived in Sherman.
Western Union's manager was William C. Sheetz. He roomed upstairs at 206 West Main, a few doors west of the office.
A newcomer on the communications scene was Postal Telegraph-Cable Company, with office at 208 West Main. Manager was J. G. Ambrose.
Western Union remained at 212-1/2 West Main, but manager was C. W. Gribble.
Southwestern Telegraph and Telephone Company had moved upstairs at 211 West Main. The manager now was Fred B. Williford.
Tom B. Anderson wrote in his 1975 memoir of life in Denison, Texas: "I remember when a very few phones were in the town and the phone company used a few girls as operators, who were called 'Central.' I can remember an old song, 'Hello, Central, Give Me Heaven.'”
In the early years, most operators were women, and they worked together at a "telephone exchange." The operator spoke directly to the person making the call, who gave the number of the telephone being called. Then the operator placed a plug into a specific hole to complete the connection.
An addition on the scene in 1903 was the Grayson County Telephone Company, headquartered at 111-1/2 South Rusk Avenue.
Postal Telegraph-Cable Company had moved to 214 West Main.
Southwestern Telephone and Telegraph, as well as Western Union, remained in the same places.
A 1909 publication reported, "Both gas and electric light plants are operated. The telephone exchange has five hundred subscribers."
By 1909, the American District Telegraph Company had joined Western Union at the 212 West Main address.
Grayson County Telephone Company and Postal Telegraph & Cable Company remained in place.
Southwestern Telegraph & Telephone, however, had moved to 422-1/2 West Main; its cashier was Ed Stout.
31 July 1920
line-up at Denison office
[1917 City Directory states the office was at 212 W Main & E. S. Anderson is manager]
Courtesy of Herald Democrat
Grayson County Index