Grayson County TXGenWeb

The Gate of Denison, Gate City of Texas

Herald Democrat
16 May 2013
Donna Hunt
Denison has been called the "Gate Way City" and has always been known as the "Gate City of Texas".  But did you know there was an actual gate?  I had heard about the gate but hadn't actually seen any information or a picture until recently when I was included in some information discussed on the web by my friends, Dr. Mavis Anne Bryant and Jim Sears.

Jim, who does a lot of research on his hometown although he doesn't live here any more, initiated the discussion when he reminded Mavis of the Denison Gate at the 1884 - 1885 World Cotton Centennial in New Orleans.  He mentioned it after he found a postcard of it in the Jones Collection at Southern Methodist University in Dallas.

Recently he found it discussed briefly in two places.  One was in an article on the front page of the Galveston Daily News that ran on Nov. 29, 1884, headlined "Denison's Exhibit Forwarded to New Orleans as a "Special to the News".

"DENISON, Nov. 28 - Denison forwarded her exhibit for New Orleans to-day and the principal article is a magnificent gate, typical of Denison - the Gate City of Texas.  It is eighteen feet high, made of native wood handsomely carved with panels and also decorated with hand painting and embroidery and the principal buildings of the city.  It is the finest piece of work ever executed in Texas and reflects lasting credit on the noble ladies who have conceived and carried out the project.  The gate has cost over $2,000, $1,000 of were given by the City Council."

Gate City
1884 - 1885
World Cotton Exhibition
New Orleans

The "noble ladies" who raised the money are anyone's guess.  My first thought was that it might have been the XXI Club until I checked and found that it wasn't formed until October 1890.

The second reference that Jim found was in a book published contemporaneously with the exposition in New Orleans, "Gems From a Texas Quarry," also known as "Literary Offerings by and Selections from Leading Writers and Prominent Characters of Texas being a Texas Contribution to the World's Industrial Exposition at New Orleans, La., 1884 - 85."  That's a pretty descriptive title for a book of "gems".

Information accompany the Stereograph photo listed with Lawrence T. Jones III Texas Photographers in the DeGolyer Library at Southern Methodist University says that Edward L. Wison was the creator of the "gate".

Gate City 
1884 - 1885
stereo view

The last chapter of the book contains a story taken from the New Orleans Times-Democrat that describes exhibits from various Texas cities, including a paragraph on Sherman and one devoted to Denison.

"The reporter and the lady commissioner, who was to chaperon in taking a view if the entire display of woman's work, entered first by the Denison gateway.  It was very fitly represented as a gateway, since Denison is called the Gate City of Texas.  All the ornamentation, except the carved woodwork, was done by the ladies of Denison.  Hand-painting of different kinds is exhibited, some of it on wood, satin, glass and silk; embroidery, too, in a variety of stitches and materials.

"Plates of china, hand-painted, are even inserted with the square receptacle(s) for the ladies' work.  Two square panels of oil paintings done by ladies, are on either side of the centre star of gilt, on which in raised letters, Texas is spelled.  Above this, in wood carving, stand out the name of Denison.  Two long panels of needlework adorn the sides of the columns supporting the archway.

"Suspended beneath the curve of the arch hangs a scarlet velvet banner, gold-edged, with "Gate City" painted on it in letters of old gold.  The points of this description include woman's work entirely.  There is much more to be said of the workmanship in detail and as a whole, but we pass that by as outside of our present province."

Taking into consideration that Denison was founded in 1872 and was a mere 12 years old when the New Orleans World Cotton Exhibition was underway, one has to wonder about the women of Denison and what ever possessed them to build such a gate to enter in the event.

I would love to be able to view the actual gate and wouldn't it be a wonderful showcase for Denison today.  I wonder if anyone has any thoughts about undertaking such a project today.

"Gems from a Texas Quarry" contains one other entry from Denison, A poem, "A Day and a Night," was submitted by Mrs. M. Johnston Bentley.  Melissa (or Malissa) Johnston (or Johnson) was the wife of Samuel A. Bentley, listed as a bookkeeper in the 1887 City Directory. He also was described as a cotton buyer by some of their descendants on and may be the reason for Mrs. Bentley entering the poem.

The Bentleys came to Denison from Mississippi and lived at 121 East Walker.  Both are buried in Oakwood Cemetery.

Mrs. L.S. McPherson of Sherman was author of another piece titled "Theosophy," that was included in the "Gems from a Texas Quarry."  The book contains 300 pages.

Many thanks to Jim and to Mavis for sharing this wonderful information with me.  They will no doubt continue to search for additional information about the gate.

The edition of the Gazetteer is August 20, 1893. The story falls under a heading in column 2 of page 3 that reads "SUNDAY NIGHT'S FIRES".
"The magnificent gate, which was exhibited at the New Orleans exposition, was burned."



Elaine Nall Bay
Grayson County CC
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