This column is a continuation of the one that ran Sunday about Elwin B Thompson’s story written in July 1921 when he was a reporter for The Denison Herald. Thompson’s story is about when Denison was founded a half century earlier when Denison and Red River City were combined into one Texas city.
In Sunday’s column, we discussed the first tent being pitched by a man named McGreevy, first buildings, including the one that was built in the middle of Gandy Street, remembrances of Dr. Alexander Acheson, one of Denison’s first settlers and the arrival of the MK&T railroad in 1872.
Today’s column begins with the first city government. We are printing the remaining portion of Thompson’s story as he wrote it, followed by information that we found in our own research.
“The first city government was established in the winter of 1872 and the mayor and the city council were appointed by the governor. L.S. Owings, a former governor of Arizona, was the first mayor of the city of Denison and he served for one year. At the end of that time the people were given the right to elect their own mayor and council and Frank Strader was the people’s choice for that position. Owings was a brother-in-law of B.C. Murray, who is one of the early settlers of Denison, and a resident here today. (Remember this was written in 1921.)
“Denison was named after one of the officials of the MK&T as was the custom of that board to name towns that they founded after the officials of the road. The streets of Denison are practically all named after some man who was directly or indirectly connected with the city or state.
“Woodard and Gandy streets were named after directors of the Katy. Sears was the Katy attorney, Morton and Johnson were officials of the road, William Bond was the receiver, Walker was the Katy surveyor and A.H. Coffin, now city tax collector, was his assistant. Johnson was an official of the Katy and Chestnut Street was originally called Skiddy Street after Francis Skiddy, who was a director of the road, Crawford was a director of the road, and Morgan was one of the officials, while Owings street was named after the first mayor. Nelson and Shepherd were agents for the Town Company and Day was a cattle man who came to Denison from the West and taking a liking to the town made his home here.
“Acheson and Munson were named after Dr. A.W. Acheson and W.B. Munson of this city. Hull was a wholesale grocer in Denison in the early days and Heron was an engineer brought here from Canada by the Denison Improvement Co. Murray was named after B.C. Murray, who still resides here, and Hanna received its name from Sam and Dr. Hanna, both of whom were mayors of Denison in the early days. Texas and Monterey were named to commemorate the war between Texas and Mexico, and Travis, Crockett, Lamar, Houston, Austin, Rusk, Burnett and Fannin were named after Texas heroes by those names.”
Three lines are smudged here and Jim Sears said that probably is where Armstrong was named and it probably said something to the effect that he operated a stagecoach line that ran through Denison.
“Continuing the street named: Burnett built a packing house here; Scullin was the contractor that built the Katy, Chandler was a wholesale merchant and Tone was an agent for the Town Co. Perry was a banker, Eddy was the division superintendent for the Katy and Maurice was the superintendent of the Overland Transfer company that did hauling for the Katy. Therefore practically every street in the city of Denison is named after some man who had a part in making the city what it is today. (1921)
“At the present time the city of Denison has a population of 17,065 inhabitants, manufacturing plants of various sorts and other assets too numerous to mention, and it holds a different aspect from the little town that was founded by the MK&T years ago.”
Elwin “Tommy” Thompson spent his life in the news business. He died when he was 87 years old in Sarasota, Florida, where he moved after spending most of his retirement years in Largo, Florida. He was born May 7, 1901, in Denison and went to work at the Denison Herald when he was a teenager.
He later worked for the Dallas Morning News and the Fort Worth Record, and was an editor or manager at the New York American, Universal Service, Kay Features, the New York Morning Telegraph, the Miami Tribune, the Philadelphia Inquirer and King Features Syndicate. His obituary appeared in the Fort Myers News-Press on Mach 6, 1989, in an Associated Press article.
I checked my files of local stories published in the Denison Herald. I didn’t find a copy of Thompson’s story, but did find another story about Denison streets and avenues and found a few others that probably were not around in the beginning. They included: Mirick Avenue honoring the secretary for R.S. Stevens, general manager of the Katy. Barrett Avenue listed as Burnett in Thompson’s story, was named for J.R. Barrett of Sedalia, Missouri, who established the first slaughter house here and began the practice of shopping beef in refrigerator cars for the first time in Texas. Chandler Avenue was named to honor Bob Chandler, the first furniture dealer here. Tone was named in honor of Harrison Tone, father of Harry Tone, and clerk for the town company at the time the first lots were sold.
Bullock Street was named after one of the 147 home seekers brought here from Boston by the Denison Land and Development Company to encourage expansion here. The first vestibule train to enter Texas was chartered for the trip and the project cost the land and investment company $15,000.
I found additional information on Levi P. Morton, New York banker and politician. Later Morton, Bliss & Co., that reorganized the Katy Railroad. More important was that Morton served as vice president of the U.S. during the presidency of Benjamin Harrison and later was governor of New York. Also, the presence of elm trees along Johnson Street was responsible for the Elm Street name.
Vaughan Drive came with the development of the Cuff Addition in North Texas and was named for Samuel Benton Vaughan, who was county commissioner at the time the addition was started. Vaughan just happens to have been this writer’s grandfather.
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.