I found an interesting article on Facebook concerning an early day grocery market and the first free graded public school in Texas. The grocery store would have attracted little attention, but an article in The Denison Herald on Dec. 14, 1923, gave it prominence.


When the old school that was replaced in 1914 when the “new” Denison school was opened in front of the Educational Institute, it was time for the old school to go the way of many buildings with a historical past. You might wonder where the stones went when our first public school was dismantled.


Well, the 1923 article explained that those stones went to the Nelson family to build their business a block west of the two schools, where First United Bank (formerly American Bank of Texas) is located at 931 West Main. After Nelson’s market went out of business, the Lutheran Kindergarten was in operation there.


Nelson’s market was a unique building on the inside as a combination home and business. The entire second floor was for living quarters. The left half of the downstairs was occupied by a storeroom and delicatessen. The right half of that floor was used as a reception room for the living quarters. In those early days, the market was known as a meat market, delicatessen and home and was built primarily from those historic stones.


The rock was purchased by Denison “Den” Nelson, who stored it for several months until he was ready to build the store. The south steps leading to the entrance are the stones, as was the main building. The story goes on to say that “many prominent business people of the country have marched into the classrooms of the old high school. The rock walls forming the first story also were a part of the old high school, within the walls that many people received their first high school education here.”


Building of the business was supervised by Den Nelson and his sister, Susie, as material was taken from their old school.


Obviously, Den was named after the city of his birth and is said to have been the first male baby born here in 1875, two years after Denison was founded in 1872 and chartered in 1873. If that statement is true, it must have been a long dry spell before a boy was born here. However, Sam Hanna Jr., an ancestor of a favorite son today, Sully Sullenberger, was born here in December 1872 before Denison was incorporated.


Several years ago, I wrote a column about Den Nelson being the first boy born in the new town of Denison. That was before I learned about the stones from the old school being used in the market’s construction.


Den was a son of Mary Taylor Nelson and L.B. Nelson, who were divorced before little Den was born. Mary then married Jim Durham and they had three children born in Indian Territory before Oklahoma was a state. The children were Anna Durham Sandlin, who graduated from Denison High School in 1900, and Dude and Jim Durham.


L.B. Nelson also married again and had a daughter, Sue Nelson, who lived here until her death in about 1944. She also graduated from Denison High in 1900. She was involved with Den in building the market and the two were active in the First Presbyterian Church, where they are said to have left a sizeable amount of money in their wills. Susie made fashionable hats and Den operated the market.


An article said, “In the construction of the building, Mr. Nelson had taken the steps and other materials from the first free public school in Texas which was located on the present site of the high school.” The article also says that Nelson “was known the city over for his special preparation of cheese and meat products.”


Jim Sears provided some of the information from the Dec. 14, 1923 newspaper article and Mavis Anne Bryant posted it on Facebook.


I wonder where all those stones went when the building was demolished. Maybe Jim will find that on the internet too.


Donna Hunt is a former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at donnahunt554@gmail.com.