I really screwed up last Sunday’s bakery picture to go with my column. Fortunately someone at the Herald Democrat office remembered that I had written a bakery column several years ago about Crane’s Bakery in downtown Denison and found the photo of Mrs. Crane and added it to my column after doing some editing.
The photo accompanying this column about the Denison Bakery didn’t make it to the office. Instead I sent two copies of the column. The editor found the error, but I didn’t check my email for several hours and by the time I learned that the newspaper didn’t have the Denison Bakery picture, the page was made up and ready to be printed. A picture of Mrs. Crane at her bakery had been located and ran with the column instead of the Denison Bakery picture.
Shirley Clark in Sherman sent the picture of the bakery to me and I had not seen it before. The bakery was located at 308 West Woodard but I’m not positive of the year. Maybe a reader can tell me the date from looking at the vehicle. One thing that I noticed about the picture is a sign on a building up the street on the front of Snow White Laundry at a location where it still stands today. A sign on the sidewalk lists a Dye Works in the area. I wanted to thank Shirley for the picture.
This is one of those catch-all columns with topics I have had on my desk for some time. One is about Harry Stephens who gave up a stage career to become a nurseryman and cattleman. The story in my file by the late Jack Maguire said that he might have been a stage or motion picture star but he preferred cattle punching to acting.
The article does not have a date so I don’t know when he was offered a motion picture contact after he was seen twirling a rope in a San Francisco vaudeville theater.
Two other members were offered and signed contracts. One was named Art Acord. The other member of the company also was a part-Native American from Oklahoma who loved to punch cows, but had a greater yen for the stage. His specialty was intricate rope tricks and a line of patter that kept his audience in stitches. He was just beginning and shared the spotlight with Stephens. Two decades later, he had become America’s best-known and most beloved son and his name was Will Rogers.
Stevens was a teenager when he left his father’s nursery to head for Arizona and a cousin’s cattle ranch. He learned to punch cattle before he pushed on to a stage driver’s job in Yellowstone. From there he migrated to Montana to ride herd on a large spread of cattle.
He heard that a young Texas professor at A&M was collecting cowboy ballads for a book he was writing. Stephens had been collecting them too, so he wrote the professor, John Lomax, whose book, “Cowboy Songs,” was an immediate hit and brought a letter of praise from Theodore Roosevelt. In the introduction, the author credited Stevens for many of the ballads in the book.
The stage didn’t really appeal to Stevens, so he went to Sacramento and started riding in rodeos. It was there that he roped and tied a steer in 27 and one-half seconds to win the world championship from Clayton Danks, three-time winner and one of the great rodeo stars of the time.
Later, Stephens returned to Arizona and became a rancher for a number of years, shipping cattle and wild horses to market. In 1920, he sold his ranching interests and came home to Denison and took over his father’s nurseries.
A favorite story around the newsroom when I as a young reporter was that after he hung up his spurs and came back to Denison in the 1930s, he brought a string of calf ears into the Herald office to dramatize a claim that a pest treatment in use by the government was killing his cattle.
“Acting is all right,” he told Maguire. “I’m glad that Art Acord and Will Rogers got their chance, but I’ll take a cattle ranch anytime.”
La Una De Cordova Skinner
There is one other person that I want to talk a little about here. She is La Una De Cordova Skinner, who was born in Collinsville and was state poet laureate and a member of the Daughters of the Republic of Texas. A granddaughter of early Texan Jacob De Cordova and Rebecca Sterling De Cordova, she was approved in April 1936 to the James Butler Bonham Chapter of the DRT. She was married to John William Skinner Sr., and she died Oct. 28, 1963.
Mrs. Skinner’s papers consist of three items documenting Texas history during the 19th century. Legal documents include an 1859 index to land grantees in Texas and an 1874 quit claim deed from William Carton to Mrs. Rebecca De Cordova. Also included is a poem by La Una De Cordova Skinner entitled “Sidney Sherman and His Men,” regarding Texas’ fight for independence. She also donated sheet music of her own composition titled “Texas Shadows,” that is housed in the sheet music collection.
In Denison Mrs. Skinner resided at 1410 West Woodard. She is described as very modest and always on talking of other Grayson writers other than herself. She refused to speak about her own achievements. Her mother was a prominent club woman and a Grayson County music teacher, having taught in Collinsville from 1889 until 1902.
It was in February 1952 that Mrs. Skinner was interviewed for a thesis. At that time, she gave the writer several of her poems including the one listed here entitled “Service.”
“Today in Alamo we stand where once our heroes stood / We pay our homage to the worth of men both brave and good; Tis holy gound on which we stand where men for honor fought / We humbly say a prayer to God of thanks for what they wrought; It is but fitting we give praise to men of worth while deeds / We know, for reason tells us thus, not every soldier leads; But in our day came dauntless men, and join in love together / To brave the horrors wrought by foes who find us bound forever.”
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.