I have written four columns in the last couple of months about Camp Denison, the German POW Camp that was located close to the spillway at the Denison Dam during World War II. I plan to write a couple more with information sent by Manfred Just, the former POW whose letter in January got all this information about the camp going.
Manfred, now in his 90s, kept a journal of his life here in the United States and his return to Europe and his life there. Several people have requested me to write more about the camp and the prisoners and I plan to do so in a couple of weeks. Since I have the camp on my mind, there is another topic close to the Denison Dam that few people know about, but it was a busy place in the early days of Denison.
It seems that there was a school named Riverside that stood where the spillway for the dam now is located, across the road from where the POW camp was located many years later. The school wasn’t a mystery to a lot of people who still live in this area. The story now includes two schools, Riverside and Reasor, that I’ve been told were identical.
The Reasor School got its name from John Comstock Reasor, who settled in Grayson County in 1873. It joined the Layne District on the west and Denison on the north and northwest. Several generations of Reasor children attended the school.
It was one of the first free rural schools in Grayson County, according to a story by Mildred Young Lomoreaux, M.B. Thornton and Sadie Ball Swift, who taught at Riverside, that was published in Volume II of the Grayson County History at Grayson County Frontier Village.
Thornton’s father was a school trustee at Reasor. He said the Reasor school district extended from the edge of Denison to the Red River and the building was located a fourth of a mile west of the Baers’ Ferry Road, which became the road from Denison to the dam and probably now is Highway 91.
The district was so large that it was decided to build a Reasor II for families on the other side of the district. This became Riverside School and was located at the end of where the Denison Dam spillway now is located. Thornton said a third school was built in the River Bottom, but it only lasted two years.
Thornton started to school at Reasor when he was 5 years old. His teacher was a Mr. McKoin. He later went to Riverside, then to Denison schools. From 1930 to 1937, he drove a car used as a bus to pick up children over the large district and take then to Reasor School.
Teachers at Riverside that were remembered by the three who wrote the article were Marvis White, Mattie Bartee, Grant Schmidt, Exie Foreman Hardin, Sadie Ball, Josephine Spencer and Maggie Sommerville. Miss Sommerville later taught English and journalism at Denison High School for many years and is the person who interested me in journalism as a career.
Sadie Ball Swift remembered that she was teaching at Riverside when it had to be moved to make way for the Denison Dam and she moved with the school to Reasor where she was principal of the then two teacher combined school. Mrs. Josephine Spencer had been teaching at Reasor for a number of years and continued as the primary teacher.
When Sadie left to go into government service, Alice Payne took over as teacher and principal then moved in 1939 to Central Ward School near downtown Denison when the Reasor school was discontinued. The Reasor district had consolidated with Denison. Mrs. Payne was the mother of Laura Payne Jacobs, whose late husband, Bill Jacobs was superintendent of Denison schools for many years.
Reasor school district trustees remembered by the writers of the Grayson History article were Freeman Barnhill, C.C. Newland and Henry Rice.
That second Reasor School that became Riverside was featured at the 1936 Centennial in Dallas with a replica in front of the State Fair Music Hall.
When the Reasor family came to this area with the railroad prior to 1876, three brothers, C.D., John Comstock and George Byron, operated a business called The Reasor Brothers located at Main and Barrett Avenue. John Comstock was a carpenter and actually built the Reasor School. The school was eventually converted into a private home located about two blocks west of the Denison Dam road and possibly does not exist today.
Dora Fay Quassa Fowler went to Reasor in the third, fourth and fifth grade. She remembers it being a one-room schoolhouse. Her sister, Wilma Quassa Ball, who now is deceased, started school there. She remembers a teacher at Riverside, Sadie White, driving by them every day as she headed to school. When Riverside School was moved, Mrs. Fowler remembers it was moved to about 30 feet north of the Reasor School.
Josephine Spencer taught the lower grades, first, second and third, at Riverside.
Mrs. Fowler’s mother cooked lunch for the students in what had been the cloak room turned into a kitchen with a big iron stove in the Reasor School.
The first Riverside reunion and a homecoming were held at Riverside School on July 16, 1939, when it became apparent that the school would be moved to the Reasor School area. A picnic lunch was spread under a grove of trees near the school. Reunions continued for only a couple of years.
These were just two of a number of one room county schools around Grayson County before they either consolidated with larger school districts or closed their doors.
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 column. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.