This weekend I began my semi-annual transfer of seasonal clothing from my clothes closet downstairs to an upstairs closet and vice versa. Since I don’t go upstairs often at my family’s orders, it’s like finding a new house when I go up there.
Since I have been having back problems in recent seasons, I don’t make the trek up my stairs unless someone is with me, just in case I may fall. This weekend was one of those times I made the stair climb. After making the clothing switch and bagging up items to be donated to a thrift center, I got prowling around to see just what is up there that I had forgotten.
This usually ends up being one of several book cases containing many of my collections of books about Texas, Denison and other interests including presidential first ladies, and people I know or am familiar with the name.
This weekend’s selections include, among others, a revised and updated “Texas Trivia,” as updated as 1947 might be. The book was compiled by Ernie and Jill Couch. I also came across “Rawhide Texas” by Wayne Gard written in 1965, in which I found numerous notations of pages concerning the mention of Denison.
The third book that I brought downstairs to look at once again is titled “One Guy’s Dream” and the author is the Rev. Guy D. Newman, pastor of Denison’s First Baptist Church for seven years. Newman wrote the book in 1985 and autographed it for Elizabeth Bledsoe, one of my Denison High School teachers. I assume I purchased it at a sale at her home after her death.
Let’s first take the trivia book, since tidbits of information are always interesting to learn about a wide variety of subjects. The first question and answer that I found was one I cannot verify, but certainly is interesting. The question: What county courthouse was torn down in 1857 to settle a bet about the nesting site of a duck? The answer: Grayson County courthouse in Sherman. That’s one that I really should do more investigating about.
Our readers in Fannin County may know the one place there that was named for the heroic messenger of Alamo fame? The answer is Bonham, named for James Butler Bonham.
The next trivia doesn’t exactly fit Denison’s history, but since the Doc Holliday Festival is coming up this month, we are always interested in anything that involves him. The question asked is “Who busted ‘Doc’ Holliday out of jail in Fort Griffin by setting fire to the building?” The answer is “Doc’s lady friend Big Nose Kate.” You can see both “in person” during the festival in Denison on April 27.
The last trivia question here involves early Denison. The question is “In 1879, what gambler and saloon keeper left his entire estate of $15,000 to the Denison public schools?” Many probably will know the answer and anyone who doesn’t can see a monument in the median of the 700 Block West Woodard Street. It was Justin Raynal.
The second book to share, “Rawhide Texas,” is about “What makes a Texan Tick.” Denison’s first mention is talking about long wagon trains hauling buffalo hides to Denison and Dallas from Fort Griffin in the 1870s. The dried hides were piled high in as many as 40 wagons, each pulled by six or eight mules.
An item in the Denison News in 1873 was quoted telling about the difficulty that doctors had in collecting their fees. One doctor rode 50 miles to attend a farm wife and presented a bill for $50 before he headed home. As he was leaving, the patient’s husband arrived with his rifle in hand and handed the doctor $10 and said he thought that was a “square thing.” If the doctor didn’t agree, the husband invited the doctor to get his weapon and come behind the hill to settle the bill where his wife wasn’t disturbed.
We all know that the Butterfield Overland Mail went through this part of the county before Denison had been settled. Its trek was discussed after crossing Red River at Colbert’s Ferry, stopping at Sherman and heading southwest. Possible attacks by Comanches and other hostile native Americans were among the many hazards facing the frontier stage line.
Denison’s Skiddy Street that we now know as Chestnut, is discussed along with Lee Hall who was deputy sheriff of Grayson County assigned to keep order in Denison as the town was emerging from a tent and shanty town. Hall, 23, wrote of Denison in Scribner’s Magazine. He stuck to his job until he had driven out the worst of the border scum, the book reads.
Newman’s book is his autobiography and in chapter eight, “My Years in the Pastorate” he talks about his seven years at the First Baptist Church in Denison, which he said “in many ways were some of the most rewarding in my life.” It was during this time that he was permitted to begin his graduate study at the seminary by providing him with an associate while he was away during the week, and enabling him to complete his doctor of theology degree. It was during his pastorate that he led the church members to secure funds to build the sanctuary that now stands.
Newman’s four children attended high school here and their son was a star on the football team. The pastor often announced the games over the public address system.
“Most people thought it was quite interesting that the pastor of the First Baptist Church would announce the games,” he printed. “We were a 4-A school with some outstanding teams and even went to the semi-finals where we played Amarillo.”
A graduate of Baylor University, Newman was pastor in Brownwood before returning to Baylor as vice president of fund raising and development. Then he was selected to serve as president of Howard Payne University from 1955 through 1973.
He was born in 1906 at Dorchester, and died on July 4, 1988.
It’s interesting what you can learn by reading books that you forget you have.
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 column. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.