Before automobiles became popular, horses and mules were the way people traveled and the way that goods were transported. Stables and horse lots were important businesses in every town.

Before automobiles became popular, horses and mules were the way people traveled and the way that goods were transported. Stables and horse lots were important businesses in every town.

Jeremiah H. "Jerry" Nolan operated the White Elephant Livery Stables in Denison. He also had operated the Nolan Opera House on Main Street in 1875-1881. I realize this is a very unusual business combination.

The 1888 City Directory carried the advertisement for the "White Elephant Livery, Sale and Feed Stables, J.H. Nolan, Proprietor, Fine Carriages, Single Rigs and Saddle Horses for Hire at All Times. Horses boarded by the day, week or month. Charges as reasonable as any livery in the city. Satisfactory prices and good treatment assured all. Everything first-class. Horses bought and sold. Stables – 121 North Rusk Street, Corner Woodard."

With that first-class business, good treatment for horses and upper class service, I suppose the combination of a livery stable and opera house may have been unique rather than unusual.

By 1898 John Lorimer Higginson Sr., who was born in Ireland about November 1868 and immigrated to the United States in 1888, became Nolan’s partner in the Livery Stables. The Denison City Directory had an advertisement, "Nolan &Higginson, Fine Turnouts a Specialty. Our special attention given to boarding horses. Gentle horses for ladies, Carriages for Balls, Wedding Parties, Operas and Funeral Calls."

By 1893 Higginson had become a Missouri-Kansas &Texas brakeman in Denison and was rooming at 327 West Gandy until he married Sarah Dorothy "Sadie" Maurer. They had two sons, John Lorimer Higginson Jr., and William Crawford Higginson. The family built a fine home at 1002 West Morton, where they lived for many years.

By 1901 the company must have been expanding because the City Directory’s advertisement said "Carriages, Buggies, Phaetons (Dealers in) Higginson, John L., agent, Columbus Buggy Co.," In 1903 he was listed as "Higginson, John L. (wife Sadie) Councilman 2nd Ward, and proprietor of White Elephant Livery Barn and agent, Columbus Buggy Co., 113-121 North Rusk Avenue. Residence at 1002 West Morton Street."

Early in the 20th century, automobiles began to leave the horses behind for transportation, but through the 1910 Census Higginson still was listed as a salesman of carriages, but by that time he had sold the White Elephant stables to M.T. Mathes.

Through 1934 Higginson was a traveling salesman, agent or representative. In 1934 he was selling machinery. All that time the family continued to live at 1002 West Morton. John died on Jan. 16, 1936, and was buried in Fairview Cemetery. At least through 1946 his widow, Sarah continued to life in the house on Morton Street. She died on October 9, 1951, and was buried beside her husband in Fairview Cemetery.

Higginson also was a district judge and an alderman as well as a member of the Knights of Pythias and the Woodmen of the World, according to Nancy Brooks who purchased the Morton Street House from Earl and Aunt Mattie "Mel" Prather. The Prathers lived in the house for many years. Mrs. Higginson was a vice president of the XXI Club, according to their obituaries in the Denison Herald. Their granddaughter, Jane Higginson also lived in the house at one time. She graduated from Denison High in 1950.

Esther Logan Henderson did a "talking" autobiography that was recorded in 1991. Ms. Henderson lived next door to the Higginsons on Morton Street. The Higginsons lived on the corner and the father was gone all week, but had a very spirited and beautiful horse, Ms. Henderson said.

When he came home on weekends he would hitch it up to a little two wheeled phaeton and drive around. She said that occasionally his wife, who was a timid soul, also would hitch the horse up. Once the horse ran away with her and she was injured severely.

Ms. Henderson recalled that there were two boys in the family, Bill, who was her age and in her class, and a younger son John. She recalled that in her senior year at Denison High School Bill took her for a ride one Sunday afternoon and she thought that was elegant to have a ride.

Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at