Its always good to have friends who know of my interest in Denison history when I write as many columns about the hometown as I do. Jim Sears and Dr. Mavis Anne Bryant are two such friends who frequently send me things they run across in early day newspapers or in various other locations.
The latest was sent by Jim, who lives in Indiana and spends a lot of time on the Portal of Texas History where they read early day Denison newspapers.
Recently Jim sent a notice about Elwin B. Tommy Thompson, who was the son of a former Denison Herald editor Elwin A. Thompson. Tommy, a former reporter for the Denison newspaper wrote an article in 1921 about Denison's early days and it was published it in the Herald. Obviously Tommy Thompson interviewed Dr. Alexander W. Acheson as part of his research. Some of the details he included are new to me and my friends, both of whom have done extensive research into Denison's history. One such fact is that in 1879 there were three farmhouses on the land that would later become the town of Denison. One was in the 600 block West Gandy and the other two were on the east side of town.
Jim said he didn't remember reading that resident of Red River City were enticed to move to Denison with promises of free town lots, or that John Ourand was the first postmaster instead of C.W. Nelson.
I think printing Elwin B. Thompson's story here will be interesting to Denison friends. Remember, this story was published July 29, 1921, in The Denison Herald. At that time Denison was about 50 years old.
“In 1870 the site where the city of Denison now stands was farming country and only three houses, homes of the farmers, were located on the land where hundreds of brick and frame structures now stand.
According to Dr. A.W. Acheson, one of Denison's first settlers, one of the farm houses stood in the middle of the street in the 600 block on Gandy while the other two were located on the east side. In 1872 the present location of the city was selected as a town site by the MK&T who intended to build tracks to this point and people of all classes began to flock to Denison and buy lots.
At the same time that Denison was given birth another town was founded near Red River on the present site of Warner Junction, and was known as Red River City. This town was located by the H&TC who had a charter from the State of Texas and whose tracks ran parallel to those of the MK&T who had no charter. The antagonism between the two railroads and their respective towns lasted for a year or two and in 1873 or 1874 they agreed on a compromise and every citizen of Red River City who moved to Denison was given a lot. In this manner one town was made out of two.
Denison was selected and laid out as a town site in the summer of 1872 but the Katy tracks were not laid until the following Christmas. However people in the surrounding country began to see the possibilities of a new railroad town and came in from all directions.
The first shelter of any sort that was erected in the city of Denison was a tent that was pitched by a merchant named McGreevy, at the present location of Knaur Grain Co. (100 block West Crawford). That part of town was the business section in 1872 and it was a year or more before Main Street came into its own. The first post office in the city was established in 1873, located where Holdens blacksmith shop (200 West Chestnut) now stands and the first postmaster was John Ourand, who erected the building that bears his name in the 100 block of Main Street.
Before this however, the first hotel was built in 1872 on the corner where the State National Bank now stands (300 West Main). This structure, a one story wooden affair, was built by a man by the name of Jim Leonard and was the largest building in town at that time. In that same year the officials of the Katy opened the first bank, which was located in the middle of the 200 block Main Street and soon three other banks opened in the city.
The first home was erected by a man named Kilgore and was built on the corner of Sears street and Burnett avenue. However the first frame structure of any kind was erected in 1872 on the northeast corner of what is now Forest Park and was used as an office for the Town Co. This later became the place for general information and was used as the post office.
Among the first structures to be erected on Main Street was a small wooden building erected by the Town Co., and the first brick buildings were four erected on the corner where the Crawford Dry Goods store now stands and two erected on the present site of the Bank and Trust Company. These brick buildings were erected in 1874. More to come.”
Because of the length of Thompson's story, the second half will be included in my Wednesday column. That part of the story will talk about early city government and more on early day settlers.
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.