I have lived in Denison all my life so far. Sherman is not far away and football rivalry aside, it also is a good place to live. Sherman was established long before Denison and there are some wonderful stories that have been published through the years about its earliest days.
I came across several clippings from the 50th anniversary edition of The Sherman Courier dated Aug. 15, 1817. That newspaper was chock full of interesting stories from that city’s earliest days.
Tom Bomar, who was well known in Sherman until his death before the newspaper article was written, related his thoughts and remembrances. He said he came to Sherman in 1853 with his parents when he was only 6 years old, so his impressions from an early age lasted for many years.
About a year after his family moved to Sherman, Bomar said there were 23 houses in town and some of them were a sort of clap board “affair” and the others were built of logs and covered with clap boards.
The first school he attended was taught by Mrs. Burl Smith in a little house on South Montgomery Street. Later, Bomar said, the Odd Fellows established a school that ran on up to the war. I’m assuming that was the Civil War. He said there was no such thing in those days as public schools and there were no school houses. He remembered that there were some public funds given to the different private schools in the county.
Travel in those days was on horseback or in ox wagon. Horseback was for people travel and oxen were used to haul a load.
When a new person arrived in town, he was given a hearty welcome, but watched very closely until the community knew just what kind of a person he was. If he proved to be OK, he had the confidence of everybody and the word was passed around that he was all right. But if he didn’t pass scrutiny by the community, a committee was sent to him and he was told that he should move on. This was to keep the community free of tough characters.
Evidently Sherman was more particular about who settled there than Denison was since the reputation over here in early days was much more “tough guy.”
Bomar said that even in the 1850s there was a little wheat raised around Sherman, but the crops were small. A man he called “Old Uncle Jim Chaffin” had a small farm. He remembered hearing him say that his wheat made 60 bushels to the acre. It was not uncommon for wheat to make 40 and 50 bushels to the acre, he said. Some corn and a little cotton also were raised.
J.L. Randolph was an early settler and one of the first businessmen in Sherman. The story quoted in the 1917 article was expressed in 1910 to a Courier representative. Randolph said he came to Grayson County in 1859 and since that time everything had been turned completely topside down.
He said he didn’t think there was but one house standing that was there when he arrived and it was at the corner of Crockett and the alley that ran beside the M&P Bank. Few people were trying to farm and a few were near Red River trying to raise cotton.
During the war and just afterwards, people of this county had a pretty hard time getting by. There weren’t many people at that time and clothing, shoes and other needs were “mighty scarce.”
Randolph said most of their money was Confederate and kept going down in value although it seemed that the things they needed kept going up in price. He said he sometimes wondered if that was the cause of “present high prices.”
Things never change, do they?
E.F. Halsel was another early settler in Sherman who gave an interview to The Courier in 1910. He said he came to Sherman in February 1862 and later lived in Collin County before returning to Sherman in 1865.
When he moved back, a two-story brick building on the northwest corner of the square was being built. There was a brick building on the southeast corner of the square and those two were the only brick buildings in town.
There was a frame building where in 1910 the Commercial National Bank stood and one next to it. A little “shed of a thing” stood on the north side and Halsel remembered seeing hogs sleeping in it. This was on the north side of the square in downtown Sherman. A little further down on the north side was the old frame hotel that stood there for many years.
There were little shacks along North Travis Street and Judge Binkley had an office where the new five story M&P Bank Building then stood.
He said he didn’t know how many people lived in Sherman when he came to town, but imagined it was only a few hundred.
An early settler and leading Sherman physician, Dr. J.B. Stinson said he rode up on the public square in Sherman about 10 o’clock on Dec. 16, 1866, and he regretted that he had not kept a diary of events since that time.
He remembered that there was a dense thicket from where the Grayson Oil Mill stood in 1917 to the Union Depot. Prairie chickens and deer were all around town and it wasn’t long before the courthouse was being built by Capt. L.F. Ely — probably about 1875.
Stinson said when he came to Sherman, physicians were Dr. Freeman, Dr. W.E. Saunders, Dr. Hunter and one other old doctor whose name he had forgotten. Stinson said in those days tough characters sometimes came to Sherman and would get drunk and try to ride into the stores “and all that kind of foolishness.” He said that was all long since passed along with a lot of other things that have been replaced with far better things.
Now more than 100 years after all these early settlers’ remembrances were published in 1917, things still are changing. People still imbibe in the spirits and instead of riding their horses into things, it’s high powered automobiles.
We now have plenty of doctors in this area, but I dare say very few house calls are made anymore. It’s the sick people who make the long rides to see the doctors.
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.