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Eloise Munson


Eloise Munson—Business Leader

Eloise Munson was the youngest of numerous children born to William Benjamin Munson Sr. (1846–1930) and Mary Ella Newton Munson (1852–1951). Ben and his two brothers, J. T. and Thomas Volney, had come to Denison in the town's earliest years, acquired large tracts of land, and became leaders of the new community. Their first home was at 302 West Gandy Street.

Eloise was born on September 20, 1888, and graduated from Denison's Educational Institute (first Denison High School) in the Class of 1905. The Educational Institute was the first free, graded public school in Texas. Eloise attended the University of Texas, graduating in 1909 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Fine Arts. Her sister Linley Munson Tonkin, ten years older, was a noted artist in the Southwest.

Immediately after graduating, Eloise lived in Denison and traveled to Canada and possibly Europe. Her obituary in the Denison Herald on March 30, 1969, stated that she began to work at her family’s Denison businesses during World War I. The 1920 census listed her occupation as stenographer at Munson Realty Company. The 1927 Denison City Directory listed her as secretary-treasurer of Munson Realty Company. Her father was president. Donald Joseph, author of the book Ten Million Acres, a biography of Eloise's father, described her as an important part of a business “triumvirate with her father and Ben, Jr."

Around 1912, Eloise's parents had built a large home at 1127 West Morton Street. As she never married, she continued to live with them. They deeded the home to her in 1921, maintaining the right to live there and agreeing to handle all upkeep and expenses for their natural lives.

When Ben Sr. died in 1930, Eloise's brother, William Benjamin Munson Jr., the only male among Ben and Ella's children, took over leadership of the family's businesses. Unfortunately, Ben Jr. died of a heart attack six years later, in 1936, at the age of 50. At that time, Eloise took charge.

From 1936 to 1955, she served as president and general manager of Munson Realty Company and president of the Denison Cotton Mill.  The Cotton Mill was one of the largest employers in Denison for many years. Miss Munson was a director of the Citizens National Bank from 1936 until her death in 1969.

Eloise and her mother occupied the Morton Street home together until Ella's death in 1951, at age 99. A nurse also lived in the home during the later years.

Eloise was a staunch supporter of the Denison Public Library, which opened in November 1935. She served as chairman of the Denison Public Library's Board of Trustees from the library's inception until her death. She also allowed the library to use the original Munson home on Gandy Street rent-free for two years, later donating the building to the city.

The Munson Home was used as the first building for the Denison Public Library.
Contributed by Billy Holcomb
"I Grew Up in Denison" FB

"By 1948, it became obvious that the structure being used was no longer adequate.  One room had been condemned and books were overflowing every bit of available space.  In January of that year, the city had an election for additional school facilities and $100,000 was included for the building of a new structure for the library. When a library committee failed to locate a suitable site for the new building, the present site was generously donated by the Munson Estate and construction was started on the new structure in September 1948.  The library was moved to the basement of the Kraft building, now the Barrett building, during construction and remained there until January 1950.  The new building was formerly opened on Sunday, May 21, 1950, with the Hon. Sam Rayburn, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, as princpal speaker. ~ ~ ~ Thomas Moore.

Miss Munson created the W. B. Munson Foundation in 1943, naming it after her father. In 1975, the Munson Foundation donated $200,000 toward building a new brick building specifically to house a public library.

At her death in 1969, Eloise Munson left an estate valued at some $3.5 million dollars. She left the Morton Street house and the majority of her money to the Munson Foundation. That foundation, governed by a board of directors, has since given many millions of dollars to fund scholarships, health programs, educational pursuits, and other projects that benefit the town of Denison, Grayson County, and the whole Texoma region.




Elaine Nall Bay