Would you like to read a little trivia about Denison? Things keep popping up that I either don’t have enough information on for a full column, or I haven’t written about in a long time. My list has been hiding in a file appropriately named “Denison trivia.” I’m sure there are many more worthy topics that could be included and I’m sure readers can add to my list.
The list is in no particular order, just as I remembered them.
The Golden Spike designated where the nation was connected from the East to the West by rail at Promontory, Utah in 1869. The North to South connection was made in 1873 in Denison.
First free rural mail delivery in the United States began in Denison in 1901.
Denison’s first mayor, L.S. Owings, was elected the Arizona Territory’s first governor. He was replaced by the military government of the confederacy and headed to Texas with the retreating Confederate forces in 1861. He was appointed Denison’s first mayor on March 1, 1873.
The first free graded public school in Texas opened in Denison in 1874. Located in what now is the 700 block of West Main, some felt it was too far from the center of town. The school building from 1914 that replaced that original school was demolished in 2007 and a new state of the art high school opened in 2015.
The first ice house in Texas was located in Denison.
The first successful shipment of beef to the eastern United States in refrigerated train cars originated in Denison in 1873.
A Denison resident, Hartley Edwards, while in the Army was called to play Taps to signal the end of World War I. He also played at both Pres. Harry Truman’s funeral and Pres. John F. Kennedy’s funeral.
Denison Confectionery Shop owner Joseph A. Euper concocted the first ice cream soda in 1875.
The tallest building in Texas in the 1890s was the Security Building in Denison.
Rogers Hornsby, probably the greatest righthanded hitter in the history of baseball, was discovered by the majors while playing for Denison’s Western Association minor league team.
In 1993, Denison’s T.V. Munson received France’s Legion of Honor award, only the third ever to receive that honor. One other native of Denison, Dwight David Eisenhower, also received the award.
The slogan, “If you drive, don’t drink. If you drink, don’t drive,” was coined by a railroad ticket agent in Denison.
The first interurban train in Texas began running from Denison to Sherman on May 1, 1901. The route was later extended to include Waco and Corsicana, then further south in the state.
In 1895, the XXI Club became the first women’s club in Texas to own its own building, located at 901 West Gandy. Denison’s public library was started in the building as early as 1897 and a historical marker near the entrance of the library honors the XXI Club.
The first female Rotarian in the world was Thelma Braun from Denison. Miss Braun was pianist for the Rotary Club meetings every week until illness stopped her from attending.
George Washington’s great-nephew, Dr. Lawrence A. Washington, moved to Denison in May 1874 to live out the remainder of his life. He and his wife, Martha, are buried in Oakwood Cemetery.
President Ulysses S. Grant came by train to Denison on Oct. 23, 1874, and stayed here 12 hours, many of those hours in a local saloon.
President Theodore Roosevelt’s train stopped in Denison for about 15 minutes while he was on his way to Sherman.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt came to Denison by train June 13, 1926, and made a speech here.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower was born in Denison on Oct. 14, 1890. He made three trips to Denison. His birthplace now is a Texas Historical site.
Denisonian Col. Clayton Lyle designed and built President Kennedy’s eternal flame memorial at Kennedy’s grave in Arlington National Cemetery.
During his 1948 presidential campaign, Harry Truman enjoyed the Katy’s diner meals so well that he “commandeered” the Katy’s dining car and made it part of his permanent campaign train.
In the early 1920s, Groucho, Gummo and Harpo Marx were touring as singers and were booked into Denison to entertain at a school teachers’ convention. They developed a humorous skit here that they adopted with Harpo donning a red wig.
Although he never returned to his home town, Spanky McFarland of Our Gang was born in Denison and spent his early years here.
In 1926, Ginger Rogers and Buck Williams were touring dance partners before she joined up with Fred Astaire. Williams quit and formed his down home dance team that eventually folded. He then came to Denison as a gasoline distributor and service station operator.
Clora Bryant, a native Denisonian who began her musical career at Terrell High School, recently celebrated her 90th birthday in California. She was honored as the top female trumpetist in the country.
Black actor Melvin Bryant (Riverboat, Rhythm and Porgy & Bess), a 1942 graduate of Denison’s Terrell High School, claimed Denison as his hometown.
Annie Laurie Williams grew up in Denison and graduated from high school here before becoming an author’s agent and selling many books and manuscripts to Hollywood producers, including “Grapes of Wrath,” and “Gone with the Wind.”
Tom Selleck’s sidekick on “Magnum P.I.,” John Hillerman (Higgins) was born and raised in Denison, where he was known as Jackie Ben Hillerman. His dad owned a gasoline service station here. He now lives in Houston.
It was a Denisonian, Carlos F. Johanning who developed and patented a device that expanded telephone use many times over with the push button telephone and became a telephone technician for the Katy Railroad.
E.J. (Buddy) Wagner is believed to be the only pilot in the U.S. Navy history to “scare” an enemy bomber into crashing without firing a shot, and to sink a 38,000-ton battleship with a single bomb.
One of Denison’s first jails was a cage on wheels, much like the type used to house wild animals. That jail now is located at Frontier Village of Grayson County in Loy Lake Park.
The Red River Railroad Museum offers railroad enthusiasts a look at permanent rail car exhibits as well as the history of the Missouri-Kansas & Texas Railroad in Denison.
The city’s Keep Denison Beautiful program took a Texas first place in its category for 1992.
I know there are many more bits of trivia that could be added. If you know of one, please let me know your suggestion.
Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.