This is a bad news/good news column.
The bad news is that in about 2006 the stacked stone obelisk in memory of Justin Raynal in the 700 block West Woodard was struck by an automobile and broken into large stones.
The good news is that it has been restored but just a little shorter and this week made a glowing return to its foundation facing east in the 700 block.
The Anice Read Fund through Texas Downtown Association made a grant available to pay for about half of what was needed to repair and replace the marker, according to Donna Dow, Main Street Coordinator a few months ago.
At the time it was broken some of the pieces were so small they could not be repaired. Thus the obelisk is shorter than original, but it is a welcome site in its original location, and people were seen this week shooting pictures before something happens to it again.
At the time the Reed Fund grant was made available, several people indicated they would contribute toward the restoration of the marker. Let’s hope their offers and other interested citizens contributed to make the repair project come alive.
Dow said the pieces of the obelisk were stored at the city lot, but not all the pieces could be used to make the repairs on the marker.
The obelisk has been the subject of the exchange of messages on Facebook group “I Love Denison, Texas and its history” Friday and one person suggested putting bollards around it to protect it from some other driver hitting it again.
The monument was erected in about 1910 by the Denison Parent Teacher Association in recognition of Justin Raynal’s contribution to Denison school. Raynal was a good friend to Denison schools and the monument in the median of the 700 block West Woodard, across the street north of where the former Denison High School that was demolished in 2007, was established in his honor.
The PTA unit at Raynal first was organized as a Mothers Club in 1924 during the administration of Principal Anna Moss. Mrs. Harry K. Steele was president from 1925 to 1928, followed by Mrs. C.B. Carroll and Mrs. W.E. Matthews. Raynal had the distinction of a bachelor, Russell Giarraputo, serving two terms as president of the PTA and as president of the Dads Club. His nieces and nephews attended the school.
Some of the early projects were curtains for the auditorium, a phonograph for the children and milk for needy children. A major accomplishment of the group included sponsorship of a school lunch program and the purchase of a piano for the auditorium. Not only did the school have a Mothers Club, but the Dads Club as well. They provided playground equipment, fans and water coolers. In 1957, the Dads Club presented a television to the school, the first in a Denison school.
The marker is believed to have been the only monument anywhere in honor of a saloon operator — Raynal’s profession.
A native of France and a bachelor, Raynal, whose only education was limited to the common school offered by his home country, came to Denison in about 1873. That was about the time the new town was talking about building the Educational Institute.
In the early days here Raynal had no connection with education, but opened the Grand Southern Saloon at the corner of Main Street and Austin Avenue, where it is said that there was a hotel upstairs and the saloon downstairs. The Grand Southern building was destroyed by fire in the early 1880s.
His bar is supposed to have been a gathering place for the town’s business and professional people. Raynal eventually served two terms on the city council, beginning in 1877 and was a vocal supporter of free public education.
A stool behind his bar became his platform as he urged customers to support the building of the Educational Institute. He fought opposition that wanted a good jail instead. Raynal was determined and fought hard for the school and the community slowly accepted the idea and voted to build the school.
When he died in 1879, he left his large estate as an endowment to the school system and also left to the city the building at 202 West Main for Denison’s schools. Rent from the building was applied yearly to the general school funds.
The town showed its appreciation by naming a grade school that was built in 1891 at 526 East Morton for him. Denison schools were overseen by the city until 1950 when a new form of city government went into effect and the school district became a separate entity.
Raynal School first was built in 1891, then torn down in 1923 and replaced by a new facility. In 1974 the school had a traveling cook. Imogene Forguson, and her assistant Rosalee Sheffield, prepared meals at Lamar Elementary after it reopened in 1973 after being closed for two years because of a fire there.
Raynal closed in 1975 after parents in the area protested the plan to close and were able to buy a little more time for the school before the day finally arrived that the doors were locked. About 170 students were transferred to Lamar School. The building still is standing, but no longer belongs to the Denison Independent School District. In recent years the school building has operated as a church.
The monument when standing bore only the name “Justin Raynal” in his honor. That plaque on the east side was saved and has been returned to the repaired obelisk . It is a welcome site on Woodard Street.
Donna Hunt is a former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.