I know that it isn’t quite a new year yet, but I ran across a copy of a special holiday edition of the Denison Daily Herald dated Jan. 1, 1879, that contains thumbnail sketches of 28 of Denison’s leading citizens at that time. Many of their names are very familiar, but the edition sheds a little light on some of these people and who they were.
Sheriff at the time was W.C. Everheart, who was born in Calhoun County, Alabama, in 1848 and was brought to Texas to grow up. He followed merchandising for several years before going into law enforcement. He was serving his second year as sheriff in 1879.
William B. Boss was superintendent of the Lone Star Flour Mill in Denison. Boss was born in 1832 in Baltimore. After high school, he went to work in merchandising for several years then turned his attention to railroading. In September 1872, the year that Denison was established, he began the business here as the head of the firm of Boss, Pinto and Jennings, in the lumber and agricultural implement business and the building of the Lone Star Flouring Mill, where he became superintendent.
Most of us have heard of Justin Raynal, who was an outstanding early-day resident and a supporter of education in Denison. Raynal was a native of Bordeaux, France. His education was limited to common schools of that country and in 1873, he moved to Denison and was engaged in the hotel business. He built the Grand Southern Hotel that summer and operated a saloon there. In 1877, he was elected to the City Council from the fourth ward. When the special edition was printed, Raynal had just completed a two-story saloon on Main Street showing that he expended money here “instead of putting it in his pocket and walking off with it as others have done,” according to the article.
Dr. C.B. Berry was one of the best known and most successful physicians in Denison. He came to this area from Augusta County, Virginia, in 1846 before Denison was established, and earned a collegiate and medical education. In November 1872, he came to Denison where he had a large practice, evidenced by his skill and success in his profession.
M.H. Sherburne was a wholesale and retail dealer and manufacturer of boots and shoes. He was a “live Yankee with true western get up and git,” according to the article. He was born in Boston and “cradled in a shoe and corrected it with a slipper,” according to the article. He came to Denison in the winter of 1872 where he saw the necessity for a good boot and shoe business, established it and conquered high prices.
Major R.M. Grubbs served two years as mayor of Denison. He was born in Kentucky in 1831 and received a common school education before settling in Indiana, a state he represented in the Federal army. He came to Denison in 1873 in charge of D.W.C. Davis hardware store. That year, he was appointed postmaster, an office he filled to the satisfaction of the public for one year before being elected mayor in 1877.
Robert C. Foster also was born in Kentucky in 1831. He received a common school education and afterwards a course in the law school of Cumberland University in Lebanon, Tennessee. In 1836, he went to Kansas to practice law and was chosen a member of the constitutional convention of 1859. He was three times chosen a member of the lower house of the Kansas Legislature and was sent to the state Senate. He came to Denison in 1873 as an attorney for the MK&T Railroad and also was an attorney for the Dallas & Wichita Railroad. He was elected, in November 1878, to the Texas Legislature by an overwhelming majority.
William Hardwick was Denison’s City Marshal. He also was born in Kentucky and received a common school education before single-handedly going out to make a way for himself in the world. He followed railroading for several years and came to Denison with the Katy Railroad. Here, he was elected city marshal and the thumbnail sketch said that the duties of his first term were so well and satisfactorily performed that he was re-elected by an increased majority.
A.H. Coffin was city tax assessor and collector and a practical civil engineer by profession. In Denison, he was engaged in the real estate business. He was born in Jamestown, North Carolina, and received a scientific and classical education. He was connected with the Corp of Engineers, who established the lines of the Katy Railroad and assisted in surveying and platting of Denison. He was bookkeeper for the First National Bank for three years and in 1877 was elected city assessor and collector and then re-elected in June 1878.
C.C. Schmucker was born in Pennsylvania and brought up all the way from there to Kansas City. He managed to pick up a good business education and fitted himself for running a hotel. He was a clerk at the Alamo Hotel for so long that he was known to the traveling public from Red River to the Gulf of Mexico. In 1879, he was the proprietor of the Alamo and was striving harder than ever to add to its comfort, convenience and popularity.
Watchmaker and jeweler J.P. Woodyard was born in 1844 near Parkersburg, Virginia. His education was only as available in the annual three months district school until his 15th year. He was a farm boy and his time was required at home. In 1873, he settled down in Denison, where he hung his sign out as a jeweler and watchmaker. He spent several terms on the city council.
All these men and many others were the city’s leaders through those early years. Pictures used in the edition are, I believe, line drawings. Every one of the gentlemen sports a moustache or a full beard. They all have a stern look on their faces, but no doubt they were good founding fathers since Denison thrived in those early years and got a good grip on the foundation that remains today.
Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org. She has been a longtime contributor to the Herald Democrat with her bi-weekly column, which appears in the Wednesday and Sunday editions. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.