A History Gal has done it again in quads. If that doesn’t make much sense, let me explain — Mavis Anne Bryant’s latest production is four companion volumes based on the 1901 book “Industrial Denison,” a remarkable collection of photographs and profiles documenting early Denison and its citizens.
A couple of years ago, after Mavis and I finished the last three books that we produced on Denison’s history, she had the idea of documenting all the people included in the 109 page “Industrial Denison” published in about 1900. At first she didn’t realize what a job it was going to be.
The book and her first volume, appropriately entitled “Industrial Denison, a North Texas Town in 1900” contains reproductions of all the early photos and the introduction included in the original historic book.
This new version documents the homes and businesses of leading citizens of Denison at the end of the nineteenth century. “In these pages, today’s readers can glimpse the surprisingly sophisticated work created by their great grandparents as the frontier passed into history,” Bryant said.
She has been interested in Denison’s history since she was a child growing up here. Through various publications, she has readily told its story in many different ways.
Bryant had seen the original “Industrial Denison” almost fade into non-existence through the more than 100 years. With a copy from the Denison Public Library and a rare copy in this writer’s collection, she began identifying the more than 100 people talked about in the book with the idea of profiling them and adding information never before made available about Denison’s early days.
Heading to Ancestory.com, newspapers, the Portal in Texas History and the Grayson County Texas GenWeb she began the task of running down information on these people, placing them chronologically in her file, then combining all her finds into very interesting biographies of many of Denison’s residents and identifying the current location of the houses they lived in that are featured in the original book.
She said that she is most proud that previously unknown facts about people that no one knew are now known.
“My books have turned into a portrait of a community,” Bryant said.
There are people that history lovers have known a little about and people not known. Bryant said she was surprised at the information she found, including about her own family.
For instance what she learned about Charles “Charley” Clymer, her great-grandfather, was a real eye opener. She learned that his first job was at Jerry Nolan’s White Elephant Livery Stable, then operating a saloon next door to a competitor, the Big Little Saloon. He also operated a “wine room” attached to a variety theater occupied by Cox & Clymer (the Alhambra Saloon). B.C. Murray had credited Clymer’s wife with “calming Charley down.”
Bryant also learned that her great-grandmother would go to a restaurant, order a soft drink and pour liquor into it. Until she began her research, Bryant had no idea about either one of these facts about her great-grandparents.
In the beginning, Bryant thought she might have enough information for three books. But when she started to upload the information to be published by CreatSpace, she had exceeded the allotted space for three books. So after reworking the pictures and profiles, she ended up with four books and a total of 762 pages.
With the first book containing the outstanding photographs found in the original 1900 book, the three companion books highlight “The Downtown Community, Denison, Texas, in 1900,” “Health and Death, Denison, Texas in 1900” and “Land, Money, Law, Tycoons, Denison, Texas, in 1900.” The books can be purchased as a set, or individually, but once you have read at least one, you will want all four for your Denison history collection.
Denison was founded when the MK&T Railroad came across the Red River in 1872. In three decades, it grew into a booming community eager to attract new industries. Denison Commercial Club asked real estate dealer Frank Milton Robinson to assemble the 1900 pictorial book to convince prospective settlers and investors of the town’s glowing future. The book, “Industrial Denison,” succeeded in doing just that, but soon the volume was out of print and hard to find, even in the early 1900s.
“The Downtown Community” traces the lives of prominent railroaders, merchants, hotel owners, barbers, confectioners and utility operators shown in “Industrial Denison.” Some of them became town leaders and others were lost to memory until now that Bryant has documented their lives here.
“Health and Death” traces the lives of prominent doctors, dentists, pharmacists and undertakers whose properties were shown in the original book. As their professions evolved over time, so did their fortunes and their personal lives. Some became community leaders while the stories of some were lost to memory — until now.
“Land, Money, Law, Tycoons” is the fourth book with information now available after a century. The book tells about those early leaders who held the reins of power in Denison, controlling the land, money and major employment opportunities. All had in common a special ability to visualize potential in the natural resources and new technologies found in North Texas and Indian Territory.
Writing and editing books for the History Gals is nothing new to Bryant. In addition to these four volumes, she has written, co-written or edited seven other books that are available at Denison’s Main Street Mall, Denison Chamber of Commerce and on Amazon.com.
Donna Hunt, the other half of History Gals, is the former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.