Grayson County TXGenWeb
Denison, 1874


Denison Reminiscences

A Weekly Summary of What Transpired in the Gate City 19 Years Ago

With Running Commentaries When the Incidents Suggest it.

[Source: Sunday Gazetteer, Denison TX, July 30, 1893]

Beginning Jan. 2, 1874

With this issue, the Gazetteer resumes the publication of reminiscences and local news items of twenty years ago. In our last article of this kind, it was Christmas week, 1873. At that time, Denison was one and one-half years of age, having dated its existence from the summer or early fall of 1872.

Vast changes have taken place in Denison since that time. East Crawford and Skiddy streets enjoyed a monopoly of the business of the city; the post office was located at the corner of Houston avenue and Skiddy street, and a man by the name of Baker was postmaster. Dr. Cutler was the editor and publisher of the Denison Journal. The Denison Journal of 1874 and 1875, it should be remembered, is not the Journal of today. At the beginning of 1875 there were three papers published in the city: The Morning News, the Evening Journal and the Southwestern Emigration Journal.

Trade in every line was brisk, money was plentiful, and prodigality instead of frugality was the ruling passion of the masses. Quite a number of people who came in 1872 and 1873 are still here, but in comparison with the whole they are very few. Among them here today are: A. H. Coffin, H. Tone, Edward Perry, W. J. Scott, B. C. Murray, J. H. Nolan, W. B. Simpson, A. B. Person, Sam Star, G. G. Randell, John Nevins, August Knecht, August Uhlig, G. L. Giersa, L. Eppstein, Louis Lebrecht, J. A. Euper, Charles Hotchkiss, J. C. Feild, W. B. Munson, J. B. McDougall, M. J. Fitzgerald and W. Woollacott.

There were living in Denison at that time between 3,000 and 4,000 people, and houses were springing up with remarkable rapidity. No avenues had been opened west of Fannin, and but few houses had been erected north of Sears street. On the south, Morgan street was considered on the extreme outer edge of the city.

Out in what is now the heart of the third ward, and which is the most densely populated district in the city, was a dense forest. A little glade had been cleared off, a dance platform had been erected, and on Sunday afternoons dozens and dozens of hacks ran between it and the city, carrying passengers at 25 cents each to the summer beer garden, where people of indiscriminate birth and calling gave themselves over to amusements of a character that did not admit of social distinctions.

A careful and conservative estimate of the number of men who had no home of their own but lived about in boarding houses and hotels, at 1,000 souls. A single church house had not been completed, and such a thing as a public school building had not entered into the minds of the people.

The Houston & Texas Central had established its terminus at Red River City, three miles north of Denison, and a vast amount of ill convenience was thereby entailed on the general public. The two roads had not effected a traffic agreement and freight from Denison to Sherman was often two weeks in transit, and in one instance it is related where a merchant of McKinney purchased a carload of produce here and it was just three weeks before the car was delivered at McKinney.

Mr. Edward Perry was mayor of the city and cashier of the First national bank. No stock law of any kind had been passed and more, it was very unpopular to advocate anything of the kind. Hogs and cows deprecated in back yards and in the grocery stores with impunity, but to say anything against such a system was looked upon as a thrust at the liberty of the poor man.

The city was thronged daily with cattlemen, trappers, buffalo hunters, freighters and federal soldiers, officers and employees going to and from the forts on the frontier. Vast herds of cattle were held on the range west of the Houston & Texas Central railway, and Denison was the nucleus for shipments north. Millions of head were sent through on the trails to the grazing lands of the northwest but the Missouri, Kansas and Texas north from Denison exhausted its resources in handling all that were offered for transportation.

At that date the Texas & Pacific, transcontinental division, had not started, and wagons by the thousand from Fannin, Lamar, Delta, Franklin, Titus, Hopkins Wood, Rains and Hunt counties were to be found in the Denison wagon yards and thronging the streets of the city. Main street had not been graded, nor was there a system of sidewalks to be found anywhere.

Between Austin and Houston avenues on Main street, a rude culvert of bois d'arc wood had been constructed across the deep ravine, and, even in dry weather, it was no small job to go on foot from the union depot west to the corner of Rusk Avenue. On the spot where now stands the handsome high school building was an open prairie, which, in its turn, was beyond and west of it a dense forest which separated it from the city. The site of the Third ward school building was far out in the country and the locality afforded good hunting ground for squirrel and quail. The tri-weekly stage, carrying the United States mail between Sherman and Fort Washita, stopped for dinner at the Shannon stage stand at Miller's Springs and between that and Denison were two miles of primitive prairie and forest.

The gas works had not been put in, and a few struggling oil lamps in front of buildings occupied by enterprising merchants and thrifty saloon men comprised the system of street lights. Water for domestic purposes was secured from wells in all parts of the city, and at three central points the city had established big wells from which water was pumped by hand in case of fire. The old volunteer hand pump and leather bucket fire brigade continued in operation until the present water system and hydrants were ready for service, which was in 1886. The protection against fire was rude and simple, it is true, but, in comparison with other Texas cities, Denison has suffered little from the fire fiend.


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