Even before there officially was a Denison, there was a newspaper in the north part of Grayson County. It was for the residents in the nearly forgotten Red River City that was established five miles north of where Denison would become a reality.
The Red River Journal was actually printed in “kind of a red brick colored ink” to be sure that the paper was “red all over” was a newspaper for residents of that little community on the Red River near the Houston and Texas Central Railroad. Actually two issues had been printed by the time Denison was four months old.
Harlen Lowe, who wrote a thesis on “A Short History of Denison, 1873-1900, as a part of work on his master of science degree in history at East Texas State University in August 1950, told how the Cutler Printing Company Office in Denison in 1872 had issued two numbers of the Red River Journal.
At that time, Harlen called Denison “a city that did things” and there are a lot of us that still believe that is true. He wrote in his paper that Cutler’s Printing Office was one of a row of businesses that also included Edelstein, McCabe and Collins liquor stores; Brown’s Bakery, McGreevy’s Miscellaneous stock; Dr. Johnson’s Drugs, Kelly’s Tin Shop and L.S. Owings’ dozen scrub ponies that were the nucleus of what later was a stable.
However, Red River Journal lasted about as long as Red River City and while once there was at least one copy at the Denison Public Library, Dixie Foster, retired assistant librarian once told me that someone with sticky fingers picked up the copy and walked off with it. Now, as far as is known, there are no copies of the unusual newspaper.
Once Denison was established, numerous pioneer newspapers sprang up, many of which didn’t last long enough to leave a recorded history of their existence.
Then B.C. Murray came to town in 1872 as the first businesses were putting down their roots and set up a small room of unseasoned boards in the 300 block Skiddy Street that now is more favorably named Chestnut Street, and gave the city a newspaper that was printed weekly. At that time Murray lived in a tent at the corner of Austin Avenue and Morgan Street.
The Denison News was established shortly after Denison was founded and in 1876 it operated in a two story brick building at 112 West Main. The first morning newspaper began operation in June 1882 and was called The Denison Morning Herald-News.
After working with The Herald-News about a year, Charles Chapman and his father withdrew and began publishing The Denison Evening Journal.
Another newspaper that is better known to those of us living here now is the Sunday Gazetteer that published for several years beginning in 1883 under Murray’s management. That newspaper put Denison on the printer’s map with a large, well-equipped job printing shop that printed large posters for theatrical billboards used throughout the Southwest.
Murray published The Sunday Gazetteer that he called “Your Sunday glass of beer” until he retired in 1913. Speaking of those billboards, on “Antique Roadshow”, popular television program on PBS, such items are professed to be worth many thousands of dollars if they can be found today.
The Denison Dispatch, published by M.M. Scholl and his brother, Charles, Began publication on July 4, 1888, at 212 West Main. Scholl, popularly known as the “Snake Editor” because of his thin stature, later was employed by The Herald and was a local justice of the peace, familiar to residents because of his long white flowing sideburns, flower in his lapel, cane and top hat.
The establishment of The Denison Herald in 1889 was one of a series of developments that year. The newspaper was the third active paper in the city. It undertook the responsibility of recording the important happenings, noting the growth and informing the citizens of the progress being made by the town.
The original charter for the Herald Publishing Co., was issued July 3, 1889, but the paper did poorly until 1891 when E.A. Thompson bought controlling interest and started building the paper’s circulation and advertising. When Thompson died in 1910, his widow carried on until 1913 when J. Lee Greer and Henry Ellis formed a stock company and bought the paper.
A weekly paper, The Denison Press, was started in 1925 by Leroy M. Anderson Sr., whose specialty was editorials. He was joined in the business by his son, Carey in 1948 then retired two years before he died in 1961. The Denison Press continued to operate as a printing business.
While it started on Main Street, The Denison Herald was published for many years in the building at 202 and 205 West Woodard. But in 1926 fire swept through the plant, destroying many of the old records.
Machinery already was on order for a new plant being planned. The equipment was put on a rush order and set up temporarily in the fire charred quarters, where employees managed to get out the daily paper under very difficult conditions.
The new building at 331 West Woodard had been started before the fire and was occupied in November of that year. In 1966 the Herald undertook the first major remodeling of the building.
Another milestone was reached in 1971 when on Dec. 26 a new era of operation was begun with the conversion to photo-composition and offset printing, eliminating the old metal-casting equipment and metal type that had served the paper since its founding.
Then another important change took place in October 1981 when the computer age was entered with the installation of video display terminals for production of the newspaper, thus replacing the clickity-clack of typewriters and the beep-beep-beep of computers.
Color came along in 1986 when the Herald joined the ranks of 75 other newspapers across the country in adopting a color separation system invented and marketed by German immigrant Peter Moritz.
Things began to change a year later when Harte-Hanks Communications announced that the newspaper was part of a planned divestiture of four Texas newspapers along with of four other properties.
Donrey Media Inc., owner of neighboring Sherman Democrat signed an agreement in November 1987 to purchase the newspaper, thus beginning a series of events that first involved the printing of The Denison Herald in Sherman, then expected merger of the Denison and Sherman into one paper, the Herald Democrat that serves the area today under even different ownership by Gatehouse Media, printed Tuesday through Sunday in the Sherman facility. The former Denison Herald building has now been sold, erasing any evidence that a daily newspaper ever existed in the city of Denison.
Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at email@example.com. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of the Herald Democrat.