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
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
two years in the Owensboro High School and one year in West Tennessee
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
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
|Dec 29, 1854||Nathaniel H. Lee Decker born in
Daviess County, Kentucky|
|1887||Nat 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.|
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.
|1888||Marriage to Corilla
|1891||Nat 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]|
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.|
|1895||Publication 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.|
|1896||Nathaniel 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]|
M. Decker, music teacher, lives at 1404 West Chestnut Street|
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
|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]|
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."|
Lawyer with general practice. Lives with wife Corrilla at 618 West Chestnut
Street. [Source: U. S. Census]|
1934|| Last will made by N. H. L.
Decker, witnessed by Leo Murphy and A. F. Foley. Probate No. 6696.|
|Apr 16, 1934||Death of N. H. L. Decker in Grayson
1934||Last will made by N. H. L.
Decker, witnessed by Leo Murphy and A. F. Foley. Probate No. 6696, Grayson
|Apr 16, 1934 || Death of N. H. L. Decker in Grayson
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.”
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
Henry Graham of Brainerd, Minnesota
John J. Graham
Jessie Wilson Courtney, Florida
Mrs. J. D. Castten
Walter S. Wilson
Mrs. Maud May
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
Nina Ditto, wife of Grover Ditto, the complete set of World
Histories and the book cases containing the same, as requested by my beloved
Nat D. Graham, Ridpeth’s History and Great Races,
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
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
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
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.
"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