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James Nimon, Horticulturist

James Nimon (1849–1905) was born on January 7, 1849, in Ireland. He apparently immigrated to the United States with his parents around 1851, when he was two years old. According to his obituary, the family settled in Delaware. "He grew to manhood among the peach orchards and nurseries of Middletown, New Castle County, Delaware, and there became imbued with a love of horticulture, which pursuit he followed during his entire career." Documentary evidence concerning James's early life is scanty, however.

Soon James moved west. He married Helen "Nellie" Electra Rood (1848–1930) in November 1873 in Garden Plains, Illinois, when he was 24. By March 1, 1875, James was living in Delaware, Leavenworth County, Kansas. There, he told the Kansas Census taker, he was a gardener born in Pennsylvania. In 1879, the family moved to a farm near Denison, Texas, where they were to live for ten years. The 1880 U.S. Census listed James as a fruit grower born in Ireland.

According to Samuel W. Geiser, in his Horticulture and Horticulturists in Early Texas (Dallas: SMU Press, 1945), "In 1879, [Nimon] came to a farm near Denison and lived there ten years, when he moved to Denison" (67). The 1887 Denison City Directory lists James living at "South Fannin Avenue south of the city limits." By Geiser's information, he would have moved northward in 1889. The 1891 City Directory places his residence at the "southwest corner of Mirick Avenue and Heron Street." Thereafter, his address was 616 West Heron.

James Nimon Residence
616 W. Heron St.
Source : Art Work of Grayson County (1895)

Denison realtor and raconteur Doug Hoover says, "In 1880, Mirick Avenue stopped at Acheson. Fannin was the through street, going past where Bonner Chevrolet is now and to the northeast side of Sherman."

Nimon's farm on South Fannin Avenue was just south of T. V. Munson's famed Denison Nurseries. As Tom B. Anderson recalled in his memoir, "I remember [that], from Acheson Street north to almost the Cotton Mill south, from Fannin Avenue on the east to the Frisco Railroad on the west, was the T. V. Munson nurseries."

Nimon and Munson became close friends. Led by Munson, a group of energetic Denison leaders yoked a strong interest in horticulture to a vision for Denison's future. They saw the scientific development of new agricultural products as a key to local economic development. Real estate sales, large-scale railroad shipments, and industries processing home-grown crops would stimulate local prosperity.

By March 1883, James Nimon was fully engaged in horticultural pursuits. The Transactions of the American Horticultural Society for that year carried this notice: "March 3d, our North Texas Horticultural Society held its annual election of officers. The election resulted as follows: For President, T. V. Munson; Vice President, Edward Perry; Secretary, James Nimon; Treasurer, Willard Robison. Executive Board, the President and Vice President, and three other members chosen by ballot, viz.: G. Alkire, A. R. Collins, J. Nimon.... The aim of the society is to be a working, educative organization, and our exhibitions are arranged specially with this view. We hope to make our annual exhibition about the middle of July, and are beginning to plan its arrangements, which we hope will lead to a grand instructive entertainment for all who may attend."

In 1885–1886, T. V. Munson was vice president of the American Horticultural Society (AHS), and he was producing a stream of well-received scholarly papers and journal publications, particularly focusing on grapes and other fruits. Other Denisonians were AHS members that year: Nimon, John J. Fairbanks, H. E. Lowell,
J. R. Martin, Mrs. Maria B. Munson, J. T. Munson (T. V.'s brother), and Edward Perry.

In another journal, Nimon wrote vouching for a Canadian nurseryman, Charles Edwin Stephens, who operated a nursery in Denison, on what is now West Bond Street, near Miller's Spring.

Nimon followed Munson in producing a stream of respected publications based on experiments at his farm. In 1895, James could brag in the first issue of the Horticultural Gleaner of Austin, Texas: "We are proud of the record Parker Earl [a strawberry] has made, North, South, East and West. No berry ever introduced has ever received such universal praise. For vigor of plant, productiveness, beauty and quality of fruit, this variety has no equal, endures the drought and heat of summer better than any other kind."

Apparently James had large fields where he grew the strawberries, which were much in demand. Speculation on Facebook has focused on where exactly the strawberry fields were located. Steve Armstrong wrote:

In the 1898 directory, James Nimon lived at 616 W Heron. This would have put his strawberries just to the northwest of T.V. Munson's greenhouses at 1315 South Mirick.... The 1908 Grayson County Plat Book shows James Nimon had a 222 x 277 [foot] lot that covered almost that entire block of Heron Street. He also owned 5.3 acres on Mirick Avenue that was actually south of the T. V. Munson property. The location was bounded by Mirick on the east, extended to the west beyond Barrett Avenue on the west, on the south it was just north of Florence, and on the north it extended past Ford Street. It appears the baseball field at Denison High School used to be a strawberry patch.

Concerning this latter, Roland Umphrey commented:

Re the 1908 Grayson County Plat Book: The even-numbered (south) side of the 600 block of West Heron is a very short block, so it wouldn't take much to consume the entire block.... I presume that the railroad track to the east and south was in place at this time. The 'strawberry field' seems also to have covered the Golden Rule School area. Actually, per the description, just the extreme southern left and center field areas of the high school baseball field near the fence, and part of the parking area, would have been all that was a strawberry field. It doesn't state how far north of Ford Street the property extended, but Ford Street doesn't even reach the third base area. North of Ford Street are Chase and then Wilde streets. Chase possibly would line up to the east with the driveway into the DHS parking lot that runs down to the athletic field house.

Nimon's 1889 move to Heron Street coincided with an occupational shift. With T. V. Munson as president, the Denison Canning Company opened in 1889, located on the north side of West Brock Street between Chandler and Tone avenues. Nimon was factory manager. By 1896, his position with the company was "horticulturist." It is unclear how long he continued this work (or how long the company existed). He was listed as a horticulturist in the 1900 Census. The factory was not mentioned in the 1901 City Directory. From then until James's death in 1905, the directories simply listed him as a horticulturist at 616 West Heron.

Munson Greenhouses Advertisement
1905 Denison City Directory
This indicates the operation 1315 S. Mirick in relation to T.V. Munson's larger operations

John D. Ourand

James died on December 1, 1905, in Denison, when he was only 56 years old. City Directories suggest that Nellie lived on Heron Street until her death in 1930. Both she and James were buried in Fairview Cemetery in Denison.

The Nimon Children

James and Nellie had six children—two daughters and four sons. These were Wilmer Alvin "Willie" Nimon (1848–1946); Charles William Nimon (1876–1943); James W. Nimon (1879–?); Minnie Nimon Horn (1882–1959); Julia G. Nimon Majors (1886–1961); and Earl J. Nimon (1893–1959). James W. may have died at a young age.

Julia and Minnie graduated from Denison's Educational Institute, the first free, graded public school in Texas. Minnie was in the Class of 1900, along with Neva Munson, daughter of T. V. Munson. Both Minnie and Neva were teachers in 1905, but by 1910 Minnie was married to Jesse C. Horn (1873–1938), a railroad engineer ten years her senior, and living in McAlester, Oklahoma. Julia was in the Institute's Class of 1904, as was T. V. Munson's daughter Viala. Julia too was married by 1910 but lived in Denison all her life, with her husband Clarence E. Majors (1871–1949).

In 1900, Clarence Majors had been 29, single, and working as a laborer in gardening in Morrison, Whiteside County, Illinois. The Census said he had completed eight years of schooling. By 1905, he was in Denison, Texas, employed by Will B. Munson (son of T. V. Munson) in the retail Munson Greenhouses at 1315 South Mirick Avenue. Clarence lived on site. By 1909, Clarence had married Julia Nimon and taken over the florist business at 1315 South Mirick. The couple lived nearby at 615 West Murray Street. Clarence operated his florist business at the same location for many years; he and Julia lived on the premises or at nearby addresses.

These are the Munson greenhouses at 1315 South Mirick where Clarence Majors worked when he came to Denison. Later he operated his florist business here for many years.
Source: "Munson's Green House, 1315 South Mirick Avenue." Robinson, Frank M., comp. Industrial Denison. [N.p.]: Means-Moore Co., [ca. 1909]. Page 99.

"Willie" Nimon lived in Kansas and Missouri most of his life, dying in El Paso, Texas, in 1946. Earl J. Nimon and his wife Dora Kathleen Nimon (1896–1953) lived in Denison, sharing a house with his mother as she aged. The 1940 Census reported his occupation as meter reader. Earl and Dora, like Julia and Clarence Majors, were buried at Fairview Cemetery.

The second Nimon son, Charles William Nimon, had dual careers—as an undertaker and as a soldier. His unusual life took him far from Denison and then brought him back to play a dramatic role in his hometown's history. His life is recounted elsewhere on this site.

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