In the News – Read Early Editions of DRC

Over 2000 pages of the Denton Record and Chronicle (DRC) from the years 1908 – 1909 and 1911 – 1916 can now be viewed on the Portal to Texas History.

Articles published in the DRC have provided a daily diary of community events since 1882 when the the Denton Chronicle was established as a weekly newspaper. In 1899 the newspaper became the Denton Record and Chronicle when the Denton Chronicle combined with another local paper, the Denton County Record. The paper changed again to the current name, the Denton Record-Chronicle, in 1915. 

Articles from the Denton Record-Chronicle capture the nuances of the community and chronicle the events that changed and shaped North Texas.  It is almost impossible to access an issue of the DRC and not find some gem of information. Whether it is a local story, a crime report, the announcement of a birth, an obituary, or the chronicling of a national event, it is through newspapers that we are able to rediscover and reconnect to our history.

These are the first images to be uploaded to the Portal through the TexTreasures Grant project. More issues will be added throughout the year. In August, the Texas State Library and Archives Commission (TSLAC) awarded $24,820 in funding to the Denton Public Library (DPL) under its TexTreasures grant program. The Library is using these funds to digitally archive issues of the Denton Record-Chronicle (DRC), beginning with issues published in 1908 through the end of 1938.

The digitized images will be added to the collection of Denton County newspapers accessible through the University of North Texas Libraries’ Portal to Texas History. This project is one of 44 statewide projects made possible this year by a grant from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services to the TSLAC under the provisions of the Library Services and Technology Act.

Laura Douglas
Emily Fowler Library

From the Archives… Denton's First Municipal Airport

On December 17th, Denton Enterprise Airport officially opened a new runway. It is thus somewhat serendipitous that while recently doing an inventory of maps and blueprints transferred to the library during Trash to Treasure Day 2016, I came across a survey map of the Denton Municipal Airport dated November 1928 which would serve as the impetus of this posting. The Denton Municipal Airport depicted by this map operated from October of 1928 to December of 1937, but I didn’t know that when I found it.1

What I did know was that Denton had been home to a number of airfields over the years. I further knew that Denton Enterprise Airport was previously known as Denton Municipal Airport, and I assumed this might be an early map of that airport. It wasn’t. For one, The City of Denton didn’t purchase the land for Denton Enterprise Airport until 1943.2 For two, this map placed the airport betwixt (because — 1928) Pecan and Cottonwood Creeks, a location which in no way resembles the physical features of Denton Enterprise Airport, nor did it resemble those of the other historic airfields of Denton, Denton/College Field and Hartlee Field

Map of the Municipal Airport in the City of Denton Texas, 1928. Denton Municipal Archives.

Just by comparing this map to current online maps of Denton I could get a general idea of where this airport was located. Pecan Creek is still labeled on maps and while Cottonwood Creek is not, it is still depicted. The best I could estimate was that this airport laid somewhere west of Carroll Blvd., east of Fulton St., north of Panhandle St. and south of University Dr., but other than that, there seemed to be little easily discoverable information on this particular airport. That lack of information drove me to want to find its exact location.

I searched old editions of the Denton Record-Chronicle using the library’s access to newspaper archives (available to you at the library as well!) and found an article about the opening of the airport on the front page of the Oct. 2, 1928 edition. The article mentions festivities that included air races from Meacham Field and Love Field, stunt contests, a model plane competition and a dance on the courthouse lawn. The article also gave me the general location of the airport, “three fourths of a mile northwest of the courthouse.”3

I was surprised at how close to downtown that sounded and wanted to pinpoint its location as best I could. Other sources have listed its general location relevant to landmarks such as the Calhoun Middle School (the high school of the day), but I wanted something definitive. I reread the October 2nd article and realized I had missed something (not the last time in this story, but more on that later)!

Mentioned in that article were the names of the pilots that participated in the air races from Meacham and Love Fields and their passengers. I recognized one of those names immediately. While I was an intern at the History of Aviation Collection at the University of Texas at Dallas, I was responsible for reprocessing the William G. Fuller Collection, 1917-1978. Fuller was the original Airfield Manager for Meacham Field. He was also Director of Aviation for Fort Worth and Grand Prairie, Mayor of Euless and the name that caught my attention in that Denton Record-Chronicle article. He was listed as a passenger on M.L. Buchanan’s plane during the race from Meacham Field.4

I then realized there were other names that seemed familiar, several in fact: Buchanan, Vernon Johns, W.O. Jones, Bill Ponder and Mrs. W.G. Fuller. Not only were these names familiar to me because of the work I did on Fuller’s collection, but I realized I had seen them all in the same photograph!

From left to right, Top Row: M.L. Buchanan, Evelyn (Mrs. W.G.) Fuller, Vernon Johns, Mrs. W.O. Jones, William G. Fuller, W.O. Jones. Bottom Row: Bill Ponder, unnamed, unnamed, illegible.
William G. Fuller Collection, History of Aviation Collection, Special Collections and Archives Division, Eugene McDermott Library, The University of Texas at Dallas.

On the back of that photograph, along with the names of the people in it, were the words “Opening Denton Airport 1930.” Obviously, the airport opened in 1928 so I believe the date is likely an error in memory or an approximation from when Fuller donated his papers in 1963. Regardless, I thought, if this photograph exists surely there must be others, given the hullabaloo surrounding the airport opening; and because there was a Fort Worth Star-Telegram staff photographer, D.B. Green, and Star-Telegram representative, Mabel Gouldy, on Bill Ponder‘s plane (incidentally, he finished in first place in the race from Meacham Field) as well as another representative, Bessie Stephenson, in Reg Robbins‘ plane (second place).5

The University of Texas at Arlington (UTA) is the home of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s photographic archives, so I contacted Sara Pezzoni, Photo Collections Specialist, but there weren’t any relevant photographs in that collection. Since UTA also has a sizable cartographic collection, I also contacted Ben Huseman, Cartographic Archivist, but he was unable to find anything of relevance in his collections either. Not yet discouraged, I turned to more local sources.

I reached out to Gary Cook, a Senior Development Coordinator with Denton County and local history buff. He concurred with my assessment of the airport’s general location using aerial photographs at his disposal, but nothing showed the airport or its remnants. I checked the aerial photographs that we received from the City of Denton Engineering Department in 2016, but the earliest we have is from 1989. I then got in touch with Cody Yates, a GIS Analyst with the City of Denton, and he was able to provide me with a 1942 aerial photograph of the area. This was the earliest photo he had, but there was still nothing recognizable to me as the remnant of an airport. I decided to broaden the scope of my search, and thus began a series of frustrating disappointments in trying to locate a photograph, map or anything that would definitively show the airport’s location.

I contacted the Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas to see if their Works Progress Administration (WPA) records for Denton County might contain maps or photographs, but no such luck. I struck out with the Texas General Land Office as well. The Newberry Library in Chicago holds the archives of Rand McNally, but had no Denton maps. I found only two institutions that had 1930s era maps of the Denton area (not even the City of Denton has City of Denton maps from the 1930s that I’ve been able to find).

The Texas State Library and Archives Commission has a 1936 and a 1938 map of Denton, but they contain no physical features or street-level detail that would aid in my search; and The University of Chicago, of all places, has a 1931 map of administrative precincts and railroads, but no airport, not even street names. I found myself quite surprised and frustrated that the 1930s presented such a black hole in my quest. If it weren’t for the newspaper article, I would have questioned if this phantom airport ever really existed. Great Depression aside, this was the Golden Age of Flight, how could there be so little information about Denton’s first Municipal Airport?

I was later able to find mention of the airport in City Commission Minutes from 1928 and information on the clearing of the creeks by the Street and Bridge Department in several Mayoral Reports we have in the City Secretary Records, 1892-1976,6 but these were just brief accounts of activities at the airport, nothing of a location. Two local historians, DJ Taylor and Mike Cochran, were then able to provide me, thankfully, with some local, contemporary accounts of the airport.

Mr. Cochran had no personal knowledge of the airport himself, but he located an individual who did. Mr. John Roberts, whose relative, Standlee Ector Roberts, grew up on the 1200 block of the west side of Bolivar St. He relayed a story of how Standlee would jump the fence in his backyard to play in the airfield with his friends as a kid. Assuming the addressing grid is the same today as it was back then, the 1200 block of Bolivar St. begins roughly at the intersection of 2nd and Bolivar Streets. Due west of that location lies the Carroll Park Addition situated between Pecan and Cottonwood Creeks.

Denton Landing Field, 1924. Courtesy DJ Taylor.

Mr. Taylor provided me with a photo of the area from before it was developed as the Municipal Airport and was being used as a landing field by Army pilots training out of Love Field. In the upper left-hand corner of the photograph above, you can make out the landing strip roughly situated between the two creeks. He also shared a story of a young Bob Storrie whose uncle would buzz his house on Egan St. when he would come into town before landing at that airfield. Mr. Taylor knows quite a bit about Denton’s aviation history. For more information on the Storrie boys and early aviation in Denton, including the fate of one of the original hangars of this airport, I recommend reading his articles in the Retrospect from September and December 2012.

From here though, I was stuck. I put my search on hold for a couple of weeks before revisiting it again, from the beginning. I reread that October 2nd article, and here is where I should remind you that earlier I mentioned missing something more than once during my search. This time, it turned out to be the last paragraph of the article, more specifically the penultimate sentence in that paragraph which I skipped over in search of “more.” It reads, “A circle 100 feet in diameter was traced with white rock near the center of the field…” I had dismissed the circle in the survey map that started this search as some arbitrary symbol denoting the center of the map, never thinking for a second this was an actual, physical feature of the airport. Surely, if rocks sat there for nine years they would leave a depression in the ground or even still be there! This is where I am especially thankful that Mr. Yates sent me that 1942 aerial photograph. When I looked at it again, like a slap in the face, there was the remnants of a perfect circle, just east of Alice St. situated between Emery and Cordell Streets.

Section of 1942 Aerial Photograph. Courtesy of City of Denton GIS Analyst Cody Yates.

This was my Eureka! moment. Still, I wanted to be able to better relate where the airport used to be with where current residences are now. Since the survey map was drawn to scale I figured I could superimpose the map onto the image above using the circle as a reference. Once I managed to get the circles to line up and on the same scale I could then put points on the map that corresponded with the four intersections that surrounded that circle. Then, I georeferenced the survey map with current satellite map data using those points, adjusted the opacity a bit and created the two images below that show the location of the original Denton Municipal Airport in relation to how Denton looks today. The creek paths may have been changed a bit over the years and the scale is likely not perfect, but I think it does the trick nevertheless.

Maps of the 1928 Municipal Airport of the City of Denton Texas as it would be seen today. Base maps courtesy of MapTiler, OpenStreetMaps and Google Maps.

Given the season, I can’t help but wonder if perhaps Santa placed any metal detectors beneath the trees of the folks in Carroll Park because who knows, more history could be buried right beneath their feet. Take that, Indiana Jones!

Written by Matthew Davis, Archivist, Denton Municipal Archives

Notes

1 City Commission Minutes. December 20, 1937.

2 Airport History. dentonairport.com.

3 Denton’s New Airport Formally Opened. Denton Record-Chronicle. October 2, 1928.

4 William G. Fuller Collection. History of Aviation Collection, Special Collections and Archives Division, Eugene McDermott Library, The University of Texas at Dallas.

5 Denton’s New Airport Formally Opened. Denton Record-Chronicle. October 2, 1928.

6 Mayoral Reports, 1917 – 1928, Box: 1, Folder: 11. City Secretary Records, MA 2019.002. Denton Municipal Archives.

Other Sources

Mike Cochran, DJ Taylor, Gary Cook and Cody Yates

Respectfully, F. E. Piner

In May of 1922, Denton had a small, but fatal epidemic of smallpox. Dr. Piner, the City Health Officer (CHO), reported that they lost four out of the five cases. The health department, with the help of the police, tracked down everyone they felt had been exposed and quarantined 23 persons who they immediately “double” and “triple” vaccinated, which resulted in “not a single secondary case.”1

After reporting to the State Board of Health and the State Health Officer the condition in Denton, Dr. Piner along with Dr. Fullingim, and their staff, worked to vaccinate more than 4,000 people in a week’s time, including “more than 200 who could not or did not have money even to pay.” And they were all vaccinated a second time!

The town, he reported, was full of sore arms.

Clark, Joe. [Nurse administering a shot], photograph, Date Unknown; (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc489351/m1/1/?q=nurse%20shot: accessed October 18, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Special Collections.

Dr. Frank Ewing Piner was born on January 1, 1869 to Judge Finas Ewing Piner and his wife Henrietta McCleary. He was among the first graduating class in 1886 of Denton High School. And, for a short time after, he was the Secretary of the Owsley Hose Company for the Denton Fire Department, which was noted in the 1890 Denton Business Directory. He then attended medical school at Tulane University in New Orleans from 1892-1894, accepting the position as the County Health Officer in November of 1894.

Dr. Frank Piner on top far left - No.2 -photo Special Collections, Denton Public Library
http://[Portrait of Six Men], photograph, Date Unknown; (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth12553/: accessed October 18, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Denton Public Library. (Dr. Piner is no.2)

The City Health Officer

Much like today, the Health Department has many duties. However, the names and types duties were quite different at that time, and they relied on the help of the general public and police department for their assistance. As the CHO, Dr. Piner had to interact with the Office of the City “Scavenger” regularly. This office was created to “haul off to the city dumping grounds all filth (i.e. human feces), garbage, dead animals, rubbish and offensive manner. And, their job had to be done between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m.2

Below is a list of typical duties the Health Department had to inspect each month and report to the mayor and city commissioners:

Inspect all public ground sewerage disposal; the city dumping ground – which was listed as being one mile northeast of town; the trash – which was a mile east of town; the public well water: sending specimens to the state board of health and adding minnows to the wells to eat mosquito larvae; keeping up with all public health conditions – including vaccinations, quarantines, and fumigating as needed; making sure everyone’s dry closets passed the closet ordinance; and all manner of nuisance calls, such as someone having too many hogs in one pen, or investigating the source of any peculiar smells.

We’re In the Pest House Now

By the time 1900 had rolled around Frank had gained quite a bit of experience. He’d dealt with previous smallpox epidemics in 1895 and 1899. And, in addition to having his own practice, he’d traveled the county far-and-wide to visit patients and assist other physicians in their surgeries, such as Dr. Inge in the removal of one of the eyeballs of a man by the name of C. W. McCombs. Squeamish, he was not. At the age of 26, he even attended the hanging of J. Q. A. Crews, along with other physicians to pronounced the man dead.

Following the alarming 1899 smallpox epidemic , he accepted the position of City Health Officer, succeeding Dr. Lipscomb. The two traded on-and-off for the position until 1909 when Frank was appointed once again because of another small pox outbreak. And in 1910, he brought up “the need for a city pest house to the attention to the council” as well as prodding the city commissioners to invest in cleaning up the creeks which were a breeding ground for mosquitoes and disease.

In 1913, he was appointed deputy pure food inspector to the Texas Pure Food and Dairy Commission and was given a list of many things to inspect within the city, such as testing the city’s milk and dairy cows and making sure the doors to all of the meat markets, grocery stores, restaurants, and bakeries all had screen doors to keep the flies out.3

The American Plan

During and after WWI, there was an increase in venereal diseases around town, and well, everywhere. For instance, in the final City Health Officer’s reports for 1921 Piner states,“we have had much gossip about [the] town being full of venereal disease. This is not true. These diseases have been reduced 50 percent during the past year.” This cannot be verified, however, as there are no surviving reports before 1920.

Using the CHO Reports available in the City Secretary’s Collection of the Municipal Archive, we examined the reports from 1920-1921 to see how many cases of STDs had been reported on. Some of the reports are missing – so with only six months to go on for each month, we took an average. In 1920, Denton had a population of 7,626. The number of venereal diseases would have been around 80 for 1920 and 120 for 1921.

In his report on August 24, 1920, Dr. Piner discussed, “The past month we have had 4 cases of syphilis and 2 cases of gonorrhea. Only two of these cases were home product [from Denton]. Some of the cases on hand are without means as the treatment of syphilis is expensive. They require about 12 doses of the 606 medicine which costs about $2.00 per dose. The State Venereal Law requires the city to have these cases treated and if necessary, provide a place for their detention…Have had lots of help from the Police force in enforcing this law.”

Well, what law? Turns out, the “American Plan” was passed at the beginning of World War I to incarcerate and treat female prostitutes from spreading STDs to soldiers. As all physicians were required to report these cases to the city health officer, who was then required to quarantine [which was usually in a jail] these women until they were considered “cured.”

So did Denton participate in this plan? Yes, yes, we did.

CHO Report, February 22, 1921: “In our raid the last meeting night on a house west of town, we found the reputation of the place was not exaggerated. One [woman] was found infected, another was just convalescing from an attack. In summing up the women that have been taken by the city officers, the Health department found that in this class of women 7-out-of-10 infected. In the work we have done in the enforcement of the venereal law convinces me that it is the greatest law ever passed. Our books show that. this law reduced the number of cases 50%.”

Something interesting to note, no one seemed to use the term prostitute or prostitution in either the newspaper or in any of the CHO reports. The term was usually “case,” the “traveler,” or the “home product.” However, they did not shy away from the phrase “venereal disease.”

The Rain Prophet

From 1924-1925, the country suffered from a severe drought. According to the Denton Record-Chronicle, the ‘rain prophets’ were getting more numerous. Several have ventured predictions that it was “going to rain” and that the drouth would be broken when the rain came. Frank Piner is dubious about Ed Smoot’s act in turning the dead snakes belly upward to bring rain, and says by all means the snakes should have been hung up in a tree – which is pretty unfailing in bringing rain.4

So what about the ending? In the midst of all of these reports, there’s a man who had a sense of humor, a family, and appeared to care deeply about taking care of his community; something that he did for 48 years.

Such a long time.

In reading his reports, we’re not told of his personal struggles, or the hardships endured by a doctor until later on in life. A rather lengthy article appeared in DRC in which he chronicles some early memories of being a country doctor.

He [Dr. Piner] was a character, said Mr. Headlee in the October 21, 1948 issue of his Denton Doings. He died before he wrote a planned history of “The Rise and Fall of Oak Street.” That history would have been good.

Leslie Couture, Special Collections Department, Emily Fowler Library

1Denton County News, May 16, 1895, p.8, c.4. “Denton County Free From Smallpox, Says Dr. Piner, Health Officer.”

2Record and Chronicle, August 4, 1910, p.6. “City Scavenger.”

3Denton Record-Chronicle, October 10, 1913, p.1 – “Commissions Here for Food Inspectors. State Commissioner Abbott Forwards Commissions to Dr. F. E. Piner and Mrs. Murphy.”

4Denton Record-Chronicle, April 23, 1925, p.5 c.2 – “Rain prophets.”

In The Weeds 9.24.19: Happy 70th Anniversary to the Wyatt Hedrick designed Denton City-County Library!

This past weekend, the Executive Board of the Texas Historical Commission met at the Fowler Library for a meeting to recommend new additions to the National Register of Historic Places. While here, we took them on a tour of our building and found that at least one of the members seemed more interested in the architect of the original library building, Wyatt Cephas Hedrick. Here it is in 1949 shortly after its opening:

Denton City-County Library 1949

Here is a 1948 floor plan with the architect’s name in the lower right corner:

What you see in the picture above is the old eastward-facing front entrance on Oakland Street. If you visit our library now, the original footprint is now staff-only since the remodel of 2003. The O’Neil Ford designed addition of 1969 was added on the eastern, front side of the Hedrick design. Obviously, Oakland Street would have to be closed from Parkway to McKinney St. There is a kind of funny story to that where Ford writes to then-City Manager Jack Reynolds at the time of planning the Civic Center Complex in reaction to the “controversy” of closing Oakland. In effect, Ford says that it shouldn’t be one given how more aesthetically attractive the new arrangement will be. So, if you’ve ever wondered why there is that big, sweeping turn from Parkway to Oakland Streets in front of the Fowler Library, now you know!

July 31st front page of the Record-Chronicle announcing the opening:

This is one of many congratulatory ads placed in the same issue back in the days when, as a small town, local businesses welcomed newcomers to the community. Not sure when this practice stopped, but they are quite frequent in the mid-20th century:

The Pioneer Magazine of 1950 has a nice article on the newly-opened library and can be found here as part of our Municipal Archive.

Mr. Hedrick was an incredibly prolific architect with hundreds of buildings, mostly in Texas, ranging from massive, elegant Baker Hotel in Mineral Wells, to several buildings on the UNT campus, to our modest library. In fact, at one time, his firm was the third largest in the country. Their records and archives and those of its predecessor are held at the Alexander Architecture Archive at UT Austin and can be searched here.

Written by Chuck Voellinger chuck.voellinger@cityofdenton.com

From the Archives or… Down the Rabbit Hole

We have recently had a lot of internal interest in former President Lyndon B. Johnson’s connection with Denton. One of our Library Assistants, Lara Elio, contacted the fine folks at the LBJ Presidential Library to inquire about a framed portrait of President Johnson talking to Phyllis George. They were able to tell us that the photo was taken by White House photographer Frank Wolfe at the dedication of the Visitor Center at LBJ State Park, August 29, 1970 when George held the title of Miss Texas. Of course, before being crowned Miss Texas, she held the titles of Miss Dallas and Miss Denton and would become Miss America the following year. Consequently, the Denton Municipal Archives houses the Miss Denton Pageant Collection, 1953-1981 within the Emily Fowler Central Library and is open for research!

Wolfe, Frank. LBJ and Phyllis George. August 29, 1970. Denton Public Library.

Back to LBJ. I came across a 1963 letter from then Vice-President Johnson to Emily Fowler while processing the Denton Public Library Records, 1934-2019 (also open for research). Enclosed with that letter was another from J. George Stewart, Architect of the Capitol, verifying that a flag (presumably sent with these letters) was flown over the Capitol. The only United States flag I have been able to find in the library was in a box simply marked, “flag.” It is old enough to be the flag mentioned in these letters (in fact older, as it only has 48 stars), but the only identifying mark is a small tag sewn between the blue field and the stripes with the number 66 written on it. The manufacturers mark on the flag has long been worn away, but with what little information I did have I tried to contact the current Architect of the Capitol through their website to verify this as the flag from the letter. I received no response. So, I contacted the folks at the LBJ Presidential Library to see what information they might have, but they had no record of the letters at all. At an impasse, I began to wonder what other connections LBJ might have with Denton.

LBJ to Emily Fowler. Correspondence, General, 1934 – 1989. Denton Public Library Records. Denton Municipal Archives.

The request for the flag was made by Emily Fowler through a “mutual friend,” Gene Latimer. Latimer was a former high school student of Johnson’s in Houston and would later become his aide, but what did he have to do with Denton and how did he know Emily Fowler? The internet being what it is, I was able to find out that in 1952, Latimer resigned from Johnson’s Senate staff and took a job with the Federal Civil Defense Administration in Dallas which would later be moved to Denton and its duties absorbed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 1979. That put Latimer in Denton so I was able to search his name in back issues of the Denton Record-Chronicle through the library’s subscription to Newspaper Archives (free to use for anyone at any branch of the Denton Public Library).

The Latimers were quite involved in the community. Aside from his work with Civil Defense, Gene was a member of the Denton Toastmasters and the Friends of the Denton City-County Library, as the Denton Public Library was called then (which satisfied my curiosity about his connection with Emily Fowler). In fact, he was elected president of the Friends in 1966. Mrs. Latimer was a member of the Ariel Club, Altar Society and the Woman’s Shakespeare Club. Having verified their Denton-ness I thought there must be some other hidden mementos of Gene and LBJ hanging around town and immediately got in touch with FEMA to see what they had! They had a couple of photographs of LBJ visiting the “Nations First Federal Underground Center,” but nothing else.

At this point I remembered having seen another letter from LBJ, framed and hanging on the wall at the Water Production Plant while I was there accessioning materials for inclusion into the Water Utilities Records, 1947-2012 (yes, also open for research). I went back to see if Latimer had a hand in that letter as well. He did not. However, the content of this letter seemed familiar to me, so I went back to the library and back through the material I received from Water Production. In it is a file marked “McKenna Park Water Tower.” In that file is an unsigned copy of that LBJ letter to then Mayor Mark Hannah in February of 1951. But wait, that’s not all! There’s also a letter to Mayor Hannah from Senator Tom Connally and several from Congressman Ed Gossett all involving the same issue.

LBJ to Mayor Hannah. February 22, 1951. Water Production.

Apparently the City of Denton was having a hard time getting the promised steel for the construction of the water tower from the Pittsburgh-Des Moines Company, enough of a hard time that it required intervention on the part of both Texas Senators and the Congressman from the 13th District to have the National Production Authority look into the Pittsburgh-Des Moines Company’s purchases to determine that they had enough steel to provide what was promised.

Long story short, the water tower was eventually built, and I still have no idea where the flag came from. What I do know is, another Capitol flown flag was gifted to the Emily Fowler Library by the Elks Denton Lodge No. 2446 in 1981, but I have no idea about its whereabouts either. Perhaps the biggest take away from this search has been in discovering that no one orders custom pants like President Lyndon Johnson.

Matthew Davis
Archivist

Sources

  • Denton Public Library Records, 1934-2019.
  • LBJ Presidential Library
  • Denton Record-Chronicle, 1960-1967.

A Map, a Mural, & a Mystery

Here at the Emily Fowler Central Library, there is a large historical map hanging on the wall over the fireplace. It is a pretty unique work of art but we had limited knowledge of its history. I figured it would be an easy project to research. Little did I know I would uncover a mystery. The painting of the historical mural we see today is actually the second adaptation of a map created by Sena Mounts Wright* in 1936. (But that’s not the mystery.)

.

Historical pictorial map of Denton County drawn by Sena Mount Wright in 1936

The map drawn by Ms. Wright is a historical pictorial map of Denton County.  She based her map on one made by W.H. Pierce, an early surveyor.  Ms. Wright added artwork that identifies the four sites of the county seat, the early settlements with dates, trails, schools, wildlife, and the streams and creeks. A few other samples of her work can be found online on the Portal to Texas History.  

Ms. Grady’s mural, based on Sena Mount Wrights map, on the wall behind the
front desk in the Denton Library opened 1949.
From the Denton Public Library collection on the Portal to Texas History.

Close up of the mural painted in 1949.
From the Denton Public Library collection on the Portal to Texas History.

When the first stand-alone library building was being built in 1949 one of the unique features planned for the building was a mural, which featured a color replica of Ms. Wright’s map.  According to an article from the January 26, 1949 issue of the Denton Record-Chronicle, the mural was commissioned by the Parent-Teacher Association and was painted by Mrs. Irene Grady on the wall behind the front desk in the main foyer of the library. Ms. Grady added a border to each side of the map depicting the old cattle brands of Denton County. These brands are listed on the front of The Geography of Denton County which was written in 1936 by Mary Jo Cowling, a faculty member at North Texas State Teachers College (NTSC), which is now called the University of North Texas.

For those readers who are railroad aficionados, Ms. Grady and her husband, Seymour, also painted the murals on the interior of the remodeled Texas and Pacific passenger depot in 1948. The Grady’s owned a furniture renovation business in town, The Denton Color House.

Ms. Noel’s painting, based on Sena Mount Wright’s map and Ms. Grady’s mural,
on the wall behind the front desk in the Denton Library, remodeled in 1969.
From the Denton Public Library Collection.

Well, progress waits for no one, or in this case, for artwork. When the library was expanded in 1969 the mural was on a wall that had to be demolished. The library explored different ways to save it: from removal to a photographic reproduction; all were cost-prohibitive. Miss Tommye Noel repainted the map and brands featured in the mural and donated her work to the library in memory of Otis Fowler, Emily’s husband. The new painting was not done on a wall but on a board and framed in a bookcase which held materials and books about Denton and books by Denton authors. As before, the historical map welcomed visitors to the library from behind the front desk in the main foyer. Interestingly, upon close inspection, Ms. Noel’s interpretation of Ms. Wright’s map is truer to the original than Ms. Grady’s.

As the library has gone through various expansions and remodeling, the painting of the historical map has been located in different areas of the building. After the 1981 expansion of the building, it hung on the wall in the Texas Room, which at the time housed the Texas and Denton historical materials. It is now once again in the lobby of the Emily Fowler Central Library visible to all on the wall above the fireplace.

Miss Tommye Noel’s painting. Photograph taken in 2019.

As a side note, in 2007 Christie Wood created a stained glass fireplace screen featuring the Denton County Courthouse on the square and echoing the early county cattle brands as a companion piece to the painting of the Historical Map. 

So where is the mystery in all this? It is way back in that January 26, 1949 article from the DRC. The article contains the following statement:

“This historical mural is one of four planned by several Denton artist in 1935. Included in this group were Mr. and Mrs. Crow Wright, Rudolph Fuchs, Alexandre Hogue, now of Dallas, Milton Martin, now of California, Myron Stout, now in Hawaii, and Mrs. Margaret Paterson. Designs of mural number three were made by Martin. Later these designs were scaled by measurement by Mrs. William W. Wright, 403 Mounts (Street), to a Denton County map made by W. H. Pierce, who was one of Denton’s early surveyors and printed as a historical map of Denton County. All four murals made by the artist were creative designs drawn from readings in Bates’ Denton County History.”

I have yet to find any other mention of this series of four historical murals. Not in the newspapers nor in the written histories. Local historians haven’t heard or seen them. The article makes it sound like they were actually created, and Ms. Wright used elements from the murals to create her pictorial map, but what happened to the originals?  Have you seen them? Could they be in your attic?

Notes:

*Sena Alleen Mounts was born in Denton on December 13, 1875, to Martha Elizabeth Haynes and William Henry Mounts. She was salutatorian of Denton High School’s class of 1892 and continued her education on scholarship at Sam Houston Normal in Huntsville. She was a teacher before she married William Wesley Wright in 1896; worked with Miss Beulah Harris of NTSC to establish the first Girl Scout commission in Denton; and was a charter member of Denton’s first parent-teachers’ organization, the Denton Historical Association and the Benjamin Lyon Chapter DAR. Ms. Wright died in Denton on December 22, 1952, and is entombed in the Wright Mausoleum at I.O.O.F. Cemetery. 

*In 1936 Texas celebrated its Centennial

  • Behind the Murals: Depot Decorated by Artist Couple. Denton Record-Chronicle. September 19, 1948, Page 6-3.
  • County Library to Have Mural of Historical Map, Denton Record-Chronicle. January 26, 1949, Page 7.
  • Library Notes, Denton Record-Chronicle. July 30, 1967.
  • Library Notes, Denton Record-Chronicle. February 2, 1968, page 2-7.

Laura Douglas
Special Collections Librarian
Emily Fowler Central Library

In The Weeds, 7.15.19 T&P railroad bridge.

Many of you will have probably noticed by now the construction and widening of US 377 south of I-35 in the last few months. One piece of Denton history is likely to be removed in the process: the Texas and Pacific/Missouri Pacific/Union Pacific railroad bridge.

In 1881 the railroad came to Denton, forever changing our town as this event did to thousands of others. What you are looking at, and probably didn’t realize when you see the trains and the tracks, is a 138 year old footprint. Sure, the technology has changed but the right-of-way and grade is basically the same as when Oran Roberts was governor of Texas and Rutherford B. Hayes was president.

Looking at the first three pictures below, one can barely see the outline of the T&P logo; the words “Texas” and “Pacific”; the names of two cities it served via connections with parent company Missouri Pacific (“St. Louis”, “Memphis”), “New Orleans”, and “California”. We’re not sure of the exact date of the lettering, but, it’s a good guess that it was done in the 1940’s-1960’s range.

“St Louis” and “Memphis” can be seen at far left.

In the picture below, folks with hawk eyes will notice “76” painted on farthest right of the bridge; likely remnants of the Denton High School Senior Class of our nation’s bicentennial. (Sorry, kids, I think your senior prank is finally going away. Pretty good run, though.). And, for the truly train-obsessed, if you blow up the same picture, you will see an engraving or stamp that says “Lancaster Shops” in the second to last panel. This undoubtedly refers to the T&P railroad shops at their main facility in Fort Worth: Lancaster Yard.

“New Orleans” and “California” barely visible to the right.

Located on the eastern abutment is a construction date stamped in the concrete, 1933, which is the same date and font as used for the T&P bridge over Dallas Drive where it becomes Bell Avenue in downtown Denton.

This is what the T&P “diamond” logo might’ve looked like when new:

It wouldn’t be a true “In The Weeds” blog post if we didn’t get into some more minutia so, to fulfill the mission, this bridge appears to be of the “steel plate girder” type. Also, while this construction is going on, the Union Pacific is building a temporary “shoofly” track to accommodate rail traffic while the new longer span is put in place. This is a common thing for railroads to build and has about the greatest name!

So, before this old bridge is replaced, take a short trip down US 377/Ft Worth Drive to see 86 year-old infrastructure.