I know this information may not be a favorite column, but when I decided to write on it, the temperature was a lot warmer than it has been this week. So hot or cold, summer or fall that feels like winter, I’m going to use it this week and maybe we can just play like it would be a good day for a big dish of ice cream.
If it was Ashburn’s ice cream, there would be a big line of people waiting to purchase an ice cream cone or whatever the creamery in the 600 block West Main had to offer, no matter what the temperature was outside. But this column is about another ice cream that was in Denison long before there was an Ashburn family in the business.
Today’s ice cream is in the form of a soda. That delicious treat was first concocted by Joseph Anton Euper in the town’s earliest days. Euper had a confectionery on the north side of the 300 block of West Main, near where the Security Building once stood across the street at the location of present-day Heritage Park.
Denisonians know Euper’s soda was the first, but a few other towns have also claimed the distinction. Don’t ask me how I know he was the first, those of us who have been around for a while just know it. Besides, we’ve seen stories in the local newspapers giving him credit.
Euper must have been a very brave man because during the age of saloons and rough and rowdy frontier towns, he dared to make a success of a business with nothing hardier than ice cream and soda water in combination. He was in stiff competition with the much stronger drinks available in the town’s saloons.
The “Complete Book of American Trivia” says the ice cream soda was invented by a Robert Green at the Franklin Institute Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1873. He ran out of cream to mix with syrup and carbonated water, so he used ice cream instead. But Euper was making his sodas here before that.
The “Tomlinson’s Texas Records,” Fourth Edition from 1980, said Harnisch and Baer Ice Cream Parlor in San Antonio made the world’s first ice cream soda in 1868. He named it for a famous opera star of the era, Dolly Varden. That soda might be hard to dispute, but there is no doubt that Euper’s was better. A town in Michigan actually celebrated a J.A. Euper Day in honor of his creation, but that town never claimed it was a first there.
Euper made the discovery more or less accidentally as a result of experiments, or just “playing around” with his ice cream products in Denison. Early local newspaper articles document the claim. He tried many different combinations, making ice cream with soda water, fresh fruit, juices and whatever he could think of. Finally, he hit upon a concoction that tasted really good.
Merchants near his confectionery and other friends were his taste testers and many brushed handlebar mustaches to the side to sample the mixture, smacking their lips in approval. He later moved his ice cream business down the street from the Security building.
Euper came to Denison in 1872 to help establish the town. He married Miss Carrie R. Arey here in May 1876. The marriage was recorded in an issue of The Denison Herald. While he loved ice cream and continued with his confectionery, Euper also joined in building the first street railway system and was connected with industrial and other developments of the city. He died in 1937 at the age of 87.
Even before his invention, Euper marketed ice cream throughout this area and across the river in the Indian Nation, according to early day articles. He used his own special recipe, according to a 1946 article in The Denison Herald in which his son, Karl F. Euper, was interviewed.
At one time, he began to charge his own soda water, using a roomful of tanks and pipes that must have looked like something from outer space.
Euper’s son, Karl, was born in Denison in 1884, then the family moved to Los Angeles in 1906, taking his dad’s recipe. There Euper pursued a career in the real estate business.
Karl was a member of the Denison, Texas, Reunion group that met annually for many years in California. He visited the real Denison in 1946 and while here donated the final $200 to the Eisenhower Birthplace Fund to renovate the house. That was the year that General Eisenhower made his first visit to Denison since he was a toddler to see the house where he was born.
While Euper’s ice cream was the talk of the town in its early days, I feel sure it was nothing to compare with Ashburn’s Ice Cream that opened first at 115 South Rusk Avenue after Euper moved to California.
Every time we bring up the subject of that ice cream parlor, we get replies telling us favorite flavors. It seems that once a cone of Ashburn’s Ice Cream was sampled, it was never forgotten. Adults and children alike flocked to the creamery.
From the day that W.L. Ashburn Sr., cranked out his first ice cream in a 10-gallon freezer using ice and salt, Ashburn’s Ice Cream became a tradition. There was no mechanical refrigeration at that time, so the shop used ice and salt to store the vanilla, strawberry and chocolate ice cream in wooden tubs. Wooden tubs also were used to deliver the ice cream that was packed in cans and kept cold by the ice and salt. The small plant prospered and by 1918 it moved to 615 West Main.
Ice cream and summertime, or maybe even fall, seem to go together. Just thinking about it, I believe it sure would be a treat to have a good old double dipped cone of vanilla, chocolate or fresh peach or strawberry or … on and on and on, ice cream is a treat any day.
Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at email@example.com. 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.