Grayson County TXGenWeb 

Nathan H. Lee Decker

 

Decker, Nathan H. Lee “Nat” or N. H. L.

Nat Decker was an attorney specializing in real estate and commerce in Denison. In 1907, he was chairman of the City of Denison's Charter Committee, which oversaw a complete reorganization of city government. He also served as city attorney for a while and was a member of the city's school board. He was the Denison attorney for the Katy Railroad for 30 years and was instrumental in building Randell Lake and the Rod and Gun Club Lake.

Decker was a fine writer and an indefatigable promoter of Denison's growth. In the last decade of the nineteenth century, he was responsible for the publication of a beautifully printed large-format book of photographs of landscapes, town streets, and fine homes in cities throughout Grayson County: Art Work of Grayson County. Published in Twelve Parts, issued by the W. H. Parish Publishing Company of Chicago in 1895. Nat wrote the introductory text extolling Grayson County's commercial and cultural opportunities.

"Colonel Decker" was born at Owensboro, Kentucky, on December 28, 1854, the son of William H. (1825 - 1907) and Mary Catherine Horn Decker (1833 - 1856).  He read law in an Owensboro law office while teaching school to support himself. He taught two years in the Owensboro High School and one year in West Tennessee before coming to Texas in August 1880.G. T. Harris (who died in June 1896) was his only law partner.

Decker was married to Miss Corrilla Wilson (1856–1931) in Kentucky on September 3, 1888. In Denison, the Decker home was at 618 West Chestnut Street. Corrilla died before her husband, on December 12, 1931. Nat called her “the truest woman and the really truest Christian I ever knew.” Neither had any descendants. When Nat died on April 16, 1934, he willed specific volumes from his library to numerous individuals.

Art Work of Grayson County was the first full-scale photographic work documenting Grayson County, Texas. The quality of the photography and printing was very high. The identity of the photographer is not known, but it seems likely that the publisher sent a staff photographer to produce these images. Many of the images were reproduced in Hunt and Bryant's pictorial history, Images of America: Denison (Arcadia, 2011).

Art Work was one of a series of numerous similar books dealing with cities all over the United States, issued by the same publisher. According to scholar Zach Watson Rice, the Parish Company and the Gravure Illustration Company, both of Chicago, published some 160 such books between about 1891 and 1930. In Texas alone, in addition to Grayson County, Art Works books were published between 1894 and 1904 for Austin, Dallas, Galveston, Houston, and San Antonio.

Timeline

Dec 29, 1854Nathaniel H. Lee Decker born in Daviess County, Kentucky
1887Nat H. L. Decker (Decker & Harris), notary public, room at 206 West Main in Denison, Texas. His partner is George T. Harris. They are attorneys with office at 206 West Main Street. [Source: Denison City Directory, 1887]
Also in Denison is William W. Decker, brick maker. He has W. W. Decker's brick yard on the south side of West Crawford between South Eddy and South Brown avenues; his residence is 1330 West Chestnut at the corner of Brown Avenue. Working at the brick yard is John H. Decker; he lives at 1319 West Crawford.
Hezekiah S. Decker is a brick manufacturer and lives at 203 South Eddy Avenue at the corner of West Chestnut. Hezekiah S. Decker Jr. works at a foundry, and Henry Decker is a moulder at the Denison Foundry and Machine Shop; both live with H. S. Decker.
1888Marriage to Corilla Wilson
1891Nat H. L. Decker (Decker & Harris), notary public, room at 209 West Hull in Denison, Texas. His partner is George T. Harris. They are attorneys with office over 206 West Main Street. [Source: Denison City Directory, 1891]
Living in Denison are Nat's father and half-brother, William H. Decker Sr. and Jr.  W. H. Decker & Son own Woodlawn Nurseries, on the south side of Amsden between College Boulevard and the Houston & Texas Central Railway. Still in Denison are the brickmakers Hezekiah S. Decker, J. Henry Decker, Lafayette Decker, and Wallace W. Decker.
1895Publication of a pictorial book, Art Work of Grayson County: Published in Twelve Parts (N.p.: W. H. Parish Publishing Co., 1895). Nat Decker edited the volume and wrote the introductory chapter. It consists largely of photographs.
1896Nathaniel H. L. Decker (Decker & Harris) lives at 217 West Hull in Denison, Texas. His partner is George T. Harris. They are attorneys with office over 206 West Main Street. [Source: Denison City Directory, 1896]
Miss Lillie M. Decker, music teacher, lives at 1404 West Chestnut Street
Still in Denison is the brick yard of H. S. Decker & Co. (H. S. and William W.) or H. S. Decker & Son (H. S. and Wallace W.), at 1301-1309 West Crawford Street. H. S. lives at 203 South Eddy Avenue. Wallace W. lives at 1330 West Chestnut.
1900  Occupation: Attorney at law. Living with wife Corrilla at 618 West Chestnut Street, Denison. [U.S. Census]
1903 Nathaniel H. L. Decker is an attorney at 206-1/2 West Main. He and wife Celise live at 618 West Chestnut Street. The only other Decker in the City Directory is Wallace W. Decker, brickmaker. He and wife Mary live at 1318 West Chestnut. [Source: 1903 Denison City Directory] No Deckers in Sherman.
1907“N. H. L. Decker, Attorney, Land and Commerce,” The (DHS) Raven, January 1907.
Nat Decker chairs the Charter Committee charged with reorganizing city government in Denison.
1909 Nathaniel H. L. Decker is an attorney at 206-1/2 West Main. He and wife Carilla live at 618 West Chestnut Street. The only other Deckers in the City Directory are Wallace Decker, mason; wife Abbie; Carrie M. and Rembert Decker, students, all at 1018 West Sears. [Source: 1909 Denison City Directory]
Photo of the Decker home at 618 W. Chestnut Street, Denison, is published in a book. Robinson, Frank M., comp. Industrial Denison. [N.p.]: Means-Moore Co., [ca. 1909]. page 15. Caption: "Residence of N. H. L. Decker."
1930Occupation: Lawyer with general practice. Lives with wife Corrilla at 618 West Chestnut Street. [Source: U. S. Census]
Feb 5, 1934 Last will made by N. H. L. Decker, witnessed by Leo Murphy and A. F. Foley. Probate No. 6696.
Apr 16, 1934Death of N. H. L. Decker in Grayson County, Texas.

    

The Will

Feb 5, 1934Last will made by N. H. L. Decker, witnessed by Leo Murphy and A. F. Foley. Probate No. 6696, Grayson County, Texas.
Apr 16, 1934  Death of N. H. L. Decker in Grayson County, Texas

Nat's wife, who died before him, was Corrilla Wilson Decker, “the truest woman and the really truest Christian I ever knew.” “My wife, now deceased, has no descendants, and I have none. All property on hand is my separate property and estate.”

Executor the estate was to be A. P. Wood, “of Denison, Texas, my friend, in whom I have the utmost confidence, and in case he be dead or cannot act, then I name his son Ralph F. Wood, to act as such executor, and also my friend, J. F. Holt, lawyer.”

Beneficiaries of his will:

His sister, Martha F. Graham, “who was a real mother to me.”

Carrie Graham

Nat D. Graham

Juliet Fowler Orphans and Old Women’s Home of Dallas, Texas, as a memorial to his wife

Henry D. Ellis

Joseph P. Ellis

William R. Wilson

Ruth D. Wilson

Nettie B. Hite

Natalie Hite

Henry Graham of Brainerd, Minnesota

John J. Graham

Anna Crabtree

Jessie Wilson Courtney, Florida

Mrs. J. D. Castten

Walter S. Wilson

Mrs. Maud May

Wilson Taylor

Newis Harris Muller, daughter of my deceased law partner

Martha Meet, my former assistant

Nat D. Graham I give my gold watch

Mary N. Ogg I give all my law library and office fixtures

Personal library:

Nina Ditto, wife of Grover Ditto, the complete set of World Histories and the book cases containing the same, as requested by my beloved wife

Nat D. Graham, Ridpeth’s History and Great Races, eight volumes

Joseph P. Ellis, The Works of Bret Harte

His daughter Mary Ellis, The Works of Washington Irving

Dorothy Hulett, Dicken’s Works

George R. Wilson, Shakespeare

Joseph D. Graham, Minnesota, Cooper’s Works

Decker Graham, Johnson’s Encyclopedia

Nat D. Graham, all other library books for use of his six children

Obituary

N. H. L. Decker

(Denison TX Daily Herald, Tuesday, April 17, 1934)

Last Rites for N. H. L. Decker To Be Held Here Wednesday

Nathaniel H. L. Decker, 79 years old, prominent North Texas attorney and a resident of Denison more than a half century, died Monday morning at 5 o'clock at the Denison City Hospital after six days of suffering from injuries received Tuesday night of last week at the intersection of Mirick Avenue and Chestnut Street, a few doors form his home.

Taken to the hospital in a partially unconscious condition, Mr. Decker launched a determined battle against death rallying several times but never completely emerging from the coma that clouded his mind. Concussion of the brain was blamed by the attending physician for his death. Mr. Decker suffered his last relapse Saturday and lost ground steadily over the weekend, with hope for his recovery abandoned.

Funeral services will be held Wednesday afternoon at 2:30 o'clock at George Shields funeral home with Rev. Homer T. Fort, pastor of Waples Memorial Methodist Church, and Rev. Gerald L. Miller, First Christian Church pastor, as the officiants.

Burial will be in Fairview Cemetery beside the body of his wife. Judge J. F. Holt of Sherman, a long acquaintance of Mr. Decker, will speak during the rites. Pallbearers will be Roy M. Finley, C. C. Cooper, Grover Ditto, A. P. Wood, Leo Murphy, and J. H. Randall. The body will lie in state at the funeral home until time for the services.

Born in Kentucky

Mr. Decker, a lawyer of the old school who achieved his professional standing through personal sacrifice and struggle, was born at Owensboro, Ky., Dec. 28, 1854, the son of William H. and Mary Catherine Horn Decker.

After preliminary schooling, Mr. Decker, known to hundreds of North Texas citizens as Colonel Decker, began studying in an Owensboro law office, being obliged to divide his time between teaching school five months of the year and working on a farm as well.

He was assisted by two school mates, J. J. Sweeney and Robert Fry, with his studies, and at the same time drew up documents and filed papers in the line of general office work. In gaining admission to the bar, Mr. Decker and his two companions were subjected to a three-day examination in open court by a committee appointed by the Kentucky Bar Association.

Was School Teacher

Passing the examination successfully, Mr. Decker practiced some as an attorney and taught two years in the Owensboro High School and one year in West Tennessee, where G. T. Harris, the man destined to be his only law partner, went to school to him and studied law.

Coming to Texas in August of 1880, Mr. Decker launched a career that won him wide prominence over North Texas, especially as a civil attorney highly skilled in land matters. Mr. Harris came to Texas and was associated with Mr. Decker until the former's death in June of 1896, after which Mr. Decker never acquired a new partner.

Upon his Kentucky license, Mr. Decker was permitted to practice law in the district court at Grayson County under Judge Joseph Bledsoe, and during his more than a half century was active in Denison, Sherman, and other Texas points in his profession. His office is on the second floor of the State National Bank building where it has been located a number of years.

Had Active Career

Mr. Decker's aggressive enthusiasm carried him into political and civic affairs on an active basis. He served as a member of the city commission and was a member of the committee drafting the city charter when the present commission form of government was adopted.

He also served as city attorney for a while and was a member of the city school board. He was the Denison attorney for the Katy railroad for thirty years, and was instrumental in building Randell Lake and the Rod and Gun Club Lake.

Mr. Decker was married to Miss Corrilla Wilson of near Owensboro, Ky., on Sept. 3, 1888. She died in Denison Dec. 12, 1931. The Decker home is at 618 West Chestnut Street.

As a young man in his native Owensboro, Mr. Decker was received into the Methodist Church. In Denison he gained something of a reputation as a philanthropist and ruggedly adhered to the ethics of his profession.

Surviving are one brother, W. H. Decker, Fresno, Cal.; four sisters, Mrs. Martha F. Graham, Owensboro; Mrs. Emma Buchanan, Frederick, Okla.; Mrs. B. B. Hite, Sherman [TX]; and Mrs. G. N. Wilson, Denison; and several nieces and nephews.

 


618 W. Chestnut St.
Denison, Texas


Decker Residence
"Residence of N. H. L. Decker." Robinson, Frank M., comp. Industrial Denison. [N.p.]: Means-Moore Co., [ca. 1909]. Page 15.





618 W, Chestnut St.
Home of N. H. L. Decker
photo by Mavis Anne Bryant, July 2010




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Elaine Nall Bay
2013