Homer St. John (1837b -
1915) was a railroad man
who brought his family to Denison between 1891 and 1896. In the latter
was working as a painter in the MKT car shops. This job was something
demotion for Homer, as previously he had been a railroad conductor
based in Bloomington,
Illinois (1870) and Mexico City, Missouri (1880), then a freight
the Houston & Texas Central Railway based in Dallas, Texas
consisted of his wife, Lilla Viola
Martin St. John (1853–1932), and his son Ralph
(1879–1954). Another son, Herbert,
born in 1871, had died in 1888. Perhaps his death had
something to do with the decision to move to Denison when Homer was in
fifties. In the next few years he worked in the Katy Railroad car shops
painter (1900, 1910, 1911) and car repairer (1905, 1907). He also was a
carpenter (1909). He died on January 19, 1915. Lilla lived on until
were buried in Fairview Cemetery in Denison. All that time, the St.
at 611 West Owings Street.
Home of St. John Family
611 West Owings Street
Frank M., comp. Industrial Denison. [N.p.]: Means-Moore Co., [ca. 1909].
Ralph, who had been
born in 1879 in Missouri, was seventeen in 1896. That spring, he
Denison's Educational Institute in the Class of 1896. He also had what
like a fun job as a clerk at Wilfred Hallenbeck Confectioners, which
bakery, caterer, and ice cream parlor at 309 West Main Street. He
college for a year.
The Census of 1900
showed Ralph as a bookkeeper at an unspecified grocery store. A year
Denison City Directory listed him and Wilfred
Hallenbeck as partners in the Elite Catering Company, also
"Hallenbeck & St. John." The business was a "bakery,
manufacturing confectioners, cafe, ice cream, oyster parlors" at 309
"Hallenbeck & St. John, Caterers."
309 West Main Street
Frank M., comp. Industrial Denison. [N.p.]: Means-Moore Co., [ca. 1909]. Page
At this time, Wilfred Hallenbeck's wife Mary was running a
in their home. Perhaps the Hallenbecks were having trouble making ends
were moving toward retirement; they were gone from Denison by 1907 and
were living in St. Louis, Missouri, where Wilfred died in 1915. He and
were both buried in Fairview Cemetery in Denison.
By 1907, the Main
Street business had closed. Ralph, however, moved on. The 1907 City
listed him as a clerk. In 1909, he was an "agent." A year later, the
1910 Census reported that he was "proprietor of hotel." By 1911, at age
32, he had become assistant manager of the elegant Denison Hotel at 500
"The Denison Hotel Building.
Carter's Music Store and Pace's Furniture Store on
Robinson, Frank M., comp. Industrial Denison. [N.p.]: Means-Moore
Co., [ca. 1909]. Page 7.
All this time, Ralph
had remained single, living with his parents at 611 West Owings. In
he married Goldie K. Lanom (1884–1973).
They purchased a home at 612 North Chandler Avenue and had two
daughters, Jane D. St. John (1917–1968)
and Barbara G. "Bobby" St. John (born
1920). In 1916, Ralph was president of the Denison High
Association, founded in May 1901.
Ralph remained as
assistant manager of the Denison Hotel until it burned in 1920.
Denison Hotel Fire
January 24, 1920
500 W Main Street
Photo by Kelley
Collection of Grayson County Frontier Village.
found him working as a merchant purveying "confections." The 1921
City Directory listed him as partner in "Ireland & St. John,
Confectioners," at 329 West Main. However, the business appeared to be
transition. The listing for partner Thomas
B. Ireland billed the Main Street location as "distributors,
Milling Co." And Ireland also sold auto supplies at 114 South Burnett
Avenue. He was rooming upstairs at 425 West Main.
The St. John family's
fortunes apparently reflected the devastation of the local economy
the great Railroad Strike of 1922. Between 1920 and 1930, Denison's
dropped dramatically, with the MKT Railroad moving many of its jobs
The Ireland & St. John partnership did not survive the strain.
City Directory listed Ireland as a baker at 415 West Main and also
supplies at 304 West Chestnut. He was rooming upstairs at 430 West
St. John abandoned the confectionery and took a job as car steward on
Railroad. He and Goldie left their home on Chandler Avenue and went to
with his mother Lilla, back at 611 West Owings.
Ralph continued as a
car steward through the Great Depression of the 1930s. Lilla St. John
away in 1932, and Jane and Bobby graduated from high school in Denison
and 1936. The 1940 Census found the family living in Fort Worth, Texas,
Ralph was an "owner and manager" of a restaurant, ready for the
postwar boom years. The St. Johns lived next door to another "owner and
manager" of a restaurant, Terry R. Brown.
Ralph passed away in
Fort Worth in 1954, while Goldie lived until 1973. She may have
remarried a man
named Ralph R. St. John, married to another Goldie St. John, lived in
City from 1910 through 1945. He worked as a clerk at the post office.
Ralph R. St. John, married to Mary St. John, lived in Abilene, Texas,
to 1928. There he worked as a clerk at the Abilene Gas &
There is no known connection among these three couples.