Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of four articles about Denison’s "Night of Terror" that took place in May 1892.

Editor’s Note: This is the first in a series of four articles about Denison’s "Night of Terror" that took place in May 1892.

On Friday, May 19, 1892, a mass meeting was held in Denison’s City Hall to make a plan of action to capture the murderer or murderers who took the lives of four women here the previous Tuesday night.

Denison Mayor J.D. Yocum conducted the meeting and the Denison Sunday Gazetteer editor George B. Goodwin, who spoke for a committee formed because of the tragedies, offered a set of resolutions deploring the affair and pledging to use their untiring energies in finding and arresting the criminals. The group was offering a $1,000 reward for the capture and conviction of the perpetrators. This $1,000, along with another $1,000 offered by the governor, $1,000 by the city and $500 by Dr. W.F. Haynes brought the reward to $3,500.

Sheriff Lee McAfee, who wasn’t present at the meeting, later added $100 to the reward pot and T.C. Dillard of Denison, a brother-in-law of Dr. Haynes, also added $100.

As would be expected if so many murders were to take place in one night today, the town was up in arms. The Stanley rangers, Denison’s rifles, and many private citizens were on duty protecting the citizens.

Sheriff McAfee and his deputies had barely closed their eyes since Tuesday morning when information on all four murders became known. Anyone who looked the least bit suspicious was being watched closely, and talk on the streets was that information on some startling developments would be released within the next 24 hours although no arrests had been made the day the article was published in the Sherman newspaper.

People throughout Denison, and Sherman too, were talking about the happenings and about the story of a man named Myers being picked up at the union depot and later released on Wednesday afternoon.

Conductor Lasher of the Houston and Texas Central (H&TC) Railroad said, "This fellow boarded my train at some point below Ennis. I suspected that he was a crook or some kind, and, after a while, I sat down in the seat in front of him. I asked him what his business was. He replied that he used to run an engine on the Central. I asked his name and he gave the name of an old engineer who is now dead. I penned him down on that and he said he was the engineer’s son. I knew that was not true, for the engineer was a young man. The fellow got off at Denison, and on Wednesday afternoon got on a southbound with a grip on which was painted a name different from the one he had given me. On reaching Sherman I turned him over to the officers."

The suspect told the Sherman officers that his name was Myers. They searched him and became convinced that he was unaware of the murders. They let him go. He didn’t leave town and still was hanging around on Thursday.

A story published on May 22, 1892, in the Sunday Gazetteer stated that on Tuesday night the skies were cloudless and the streets were neither dusty nor muddy. The town seemed like a peaceful place that would be safe for all the citizens. The North Methodist congregation, with a large group in attendance, was participating in a literary competition under the auspices of the Knights Templars. The Elks Lodge, 51 members strong, along with 20 visiting members, were at the Denison club rooms holding a reception for members and the organization of the order.

This picture of tranquility didn’t last long though. As the dark shadow of death struck the city sending a chilling blast of hell’s demons to the hearts of Denisonians, the night went down in history as one that had never been known before either here, or all over Texas, if not the entire United States.

During the quiet hours of the late evening and early morning, four women, two of whom were among the city’s most respectable people, were targets for the killer’s deadly weapon — the six shooter or a Winchester.

The first murder took place at the home of Dr. and Mrs. W.F. Haynes in south Denison, near the exposition grounds.

The second shooting took place at Madame Lester’s bagnio (brothel) on Chestnut Street, which was known as Skiddy Street at that time. As a man was thumping away on the piano, Madame Lester was coaxing customers to purchase a bottle of beer when one of her girls yelled, "I am shot."

A short time later a girl in the Rivers bagnio, across the block, was dancing when she, too, was shot.

Early in the morning a man approached the bed of a sleeping young woman. She woke to see a man with a pistol in one hand and a knife in the others. During the ensuing panic, the young woman was shot and died instantly.

While four women lost their lives that night, a brief notice in the Southern Afternoon Press on May 20, told of another woman being shot by what seemed to be the same person. She was also in a bagnio in Denison and was shot by a bullet fired through a window that passed through the fleshy part of her leg. The article said she was expected to live.

Each of the murders is a story within itself and three subsequent articles will detail the events of the unforgettable night in Denison.

Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at d.hunt_903@yahoo.com.


1892 Denison murder believed to be robbery gone wrong