Wheeler’s Goat

Back in the 1870s, before barbed wire fences had become the norm and the Courthouse was much smaller, there was this goat who had all sorts of misadventures in-and-around the Denton County Courthouse-on-the-Square. I am not aware of his breed, name (although it could have been “That Damn Animal”), nor am I positive to whom he belonged, thanks to the fact that are several versions of the story.

At the time, the Square was a pretty dirty place. Imagine Fry Street at the end of a  weekend, but instead of pizza crusts, beer bottles, and cigarette butts there were goats, produce, and chewing tobacco (and lots of poop). According to Eugene L. Fry, who wrote a small pamphlet book about the early days, called Historical Episodes of Denton,

“The square was just: “… a dumping ground for everybody. The country people would come into town after a day’s work and dump their produce into the town square in front of the place of the merchant’s business house… The eternal botheration of stray hogs, longhorn, cattle, and all sorts of domestic and semi-domestic animals, roaming at will from one pile of rubbish or from store to store, proved quite unbearable and otherwise utterly useless.”

“A man named John Ross, owned an unusual Billy goat who … roamed the square like an army general who had just captured the city… He stole large quantities of groceries (ate) and then went in for calico (ate) and leather saddles (also ate). But despite the serious misdemeanors he was respected around town due to his tendency to charge and never miss.”

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Possible scene of the crime: the J. F. Bell Grocery store on the northwest corner of the Denton square. [photo DPL]

Another rehashing of the goat story appears in the Denton Record-Chronicle in several columns by “The Loafer” (W. H. Browder) that appeared in December of 1928. Among the storytellers were Jack Christal, Jack Fry, Bob Evers, Will Williams, Frank Piner, Mrs. Mattie Hawkins and Mrs. Mattie Farris. According to them the goat belonged to a man named Wheeler and it was followed around by three or four nannies (or maybe none). “They made the business part of town their habitat and subsisted, according to popular belief on rags, paper, and tin cans. Their most famous achievement (or credit) was when they broke in to the County Attorney’s office –

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Denton County Clerk’s Office, c1919 [photo DPL]

– and ate some indictments.

Those indictments were against one man and “the destruction of the true bills prevented the charges against him ever reaching trial.”

I have no idea who that man was, but it sounds like he was pretty lucky!

On another occasion, Bob Evers recalled that: “He heard J. W. Jagoe in his office raising a hullabaloo that we could hear upstairs. I went up to see what was the matter and found Jagoe in his office which looked as if a cyclone had just passed thru. It developed that Wheeler’s goats had climbed into Jagoe’s office from the awning and had made a meal off the lawyer’s papers, documents, abstracts and loose books.”

Mused Browder, “In many ways they [the goat(s)] were a nuisance, but they contributed much to the life of the town and their goatesque way, being privileged characters who were willing to fight for their privileges if any attempt was made to deny them.”

Of course, this couldn’t happen today because the Courthouse is so much bigger and the echoes of a goat clickety-clacking throughout the building just couldn’t be tolerated.  I read later  that the goat retired to the Denton County Poor Farm and spent his last days, no doubt,  in quiet turpitude.

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~Leslie Couture

Special Collections

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In The Weeds 8.16.17: We’re Hungry!

We have four old menus for local businesses here in the Special Collections Dept at the Emily Fowler Library: The Flying Tomato, The Duck Inn and Jim’s Diner. We think “The Tomato” example is from the early 2000s after they were no longer franchised and the “Flying Tomato” menu is from the mid-to-late 1990s. The Duck Inn menu is probably from the early 2000s, as well. Finally, the Jim’s menu is maybe from the early ’90’s? We would love to hear from anyone who knows who worked at any of these establishments. Contact us at the email below.

The Duck Inn existed for nearly 60 years at the same location in Lake Dallas from 1945 to mid 2000’s and were known by the famous and funny motto, “Duck Inn and Waddle Out!” The Flying Tomato was established in 1984 at 1226 West Hickory Street on a location formerly occupied by The Crossroads Club and Bullwinkle’s. Jim’s Diner existed at 110 Fry Street from 1980 to approximately 1997 and was the sight of many a performance and poetry reading from some folks you may have heard of like Brave Combo, Little Jack Melody, and Norah Jones.

Now, without further ado, here they are and we cannot be held responsible for your hunger pangs…

DuckMenuOutside

DuckMenuInside

Here’s an ad from the January 2, 1958 Record-Chronicle advertising the newly “Rmodeled” (oops!) Duck Inn:

DuckAd

Two Tomato menus, donated by Melinda Rule:

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TomatoMenuInside

TomatoMenuBWoutside

TomatoMenuBWInside

Here’s a 1986 Alec Williams photo of the Flying Tomato during the Fry Street Fair of that year:

Tomato

Finally, the piece de resistance: a hand drawn menu from the late and much lamented Jim’s Diner at 110 Fry Street followed by a Denton Record-Chronicle photo, both courtesy of Martin Iles:

JimsMenu

JimsDRC

Many thanks to Melinda Rule, Martin Iles, and Alec Williams for their contributions.

(I had too much fun tagging this blog post with words like, “Gutbuster”, “catfish”, “hushpuppies”, etc.)

Written by Chuck Voellinger. For questions or comments please email me at chuck.voellinger@cityofdenton.com. Thanks for reading!

In The Weeds, 8.10.16: A Square By Any Other Name…

….is still called a “square”. There are 254 counties in Texas and, much like the state itself, their squares represent the varied cultural and architectural influences of over 300 years of Spanish/Mexican, European and early American settlement. We have a volume in our Texas Collection that offers a very detailed and “in the weeds” analysis of them entitled “The Courthouse Square in Texas” by Robert E Veselka.

Denton’s Square falls under the “Shelbyville-related” plan. That is to say, it has a square lot in the center of a grid with nomenclature based on a system developed in 1968 by E.T. Price in his study of courthouse squares from Pennsylvania to Texas and named after a prototype in Shelbyville, Tennessee. Here you can see that plan juxtaposed with others:

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Denton shares similarities with Archer City, Brownwood, Cleburne, and Jacksboro in that they all feature a symmetrical arrangement of smaller partial blocks on the periphery. Here is a Sanborn Map of Denton from 1926:

Denton1926

 

Shelbyville squares and their variants are the most prevalent in Texas and can be found in 157 counties, or 61% of the total. This style was first adopted in the northeast corner of the state in Clarksville and San Augustine and were familiar to settlers from the eastern United States with their simple grids and focus on the courthouse.

There are three other major influences on the square design in Texas: Spanish/Mexican, German and Railroad. Briefly, in the Hispanic tradition, town squares allowed for a plaza that was not to include any building with nearby locations for the Catholic Church, a military plaza and a courthouse. A quarter of Texas’ squares are based on this influence and naturally include such towns as San Antonio de Bexar, Gonzalez, Goliad, Refugio, etc. Here is a map of San Antonio de Bexar from 1896 showing the Military and Main Plazas:

SanAntonio

 

 

The many thousands of German immigrants in the mid-to-late 19th Century to the Hill Country left their mark as well. Both New Braunfels and Fredericksburg have central squares for public use without buildings and in some ways resemble Anglo design otherwise.

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Finally, the importance of the railroad in settling and development of vast areas of Texas meant that their planners had no little influence in how towns were laid out. In some instances, the railroad “split” the town with the court house very near the tracks:rr005

If you’ve made it this far in our little trip around Texas court house squares, thanks for joining us. We won’t think you are “square” for peeking around these court house areas on your next trip through Texas.

Written by Chuck Voellinger, Emily Fowler Special Collections Dept. Questions or comments can be directed to chuck.voellinger@cityofdenton.com.

The DHS Bronco Goes Digital

1946 Bronco

We are so excited to announce the addition of The Bronco, Denton High School’s yearbooks, to the Portal to Texas History.

The yearbooks, ranging from 1905 to 1950, have been digitized and added to the online collection in the Portal to Texas History, a gateway to rare, historical, and primary source materials from or about Texas. The website is created and maintained by the University of North Texas Libraries. With the digitization of The Bronco the books are keyword searchable by name so if you are searching for someone who attended Denton High School during that time span it is much easier to find them.  The yearbooks are a valuable addition to the growing digital repository of Denton County history that is freely accessible on the Portal.

We began contributing materials to the Portal in 2007. Since that time we have added 1,956 items from Denton Public Library’s historical collections. The majority of those items are photographs, but also included are old newspapers, documents, books, and various articles of Denton memorabilia.

1922 Bronco1937 Bronco1948 Bronco

The addition of items to the Portal is an ongoing project for the Denton Public Library, as we endeavor to preserve and share elements of Denton’s history. In addition to the yearbooks that have been digitized, the Special Collections at the Emily Fowler Central Library has almost every year of The Bronco, and yearbooks from the Junior Highs, Colleges, and other High Schools in Denton.  The library’s early yearbooks came from generous donors throughout the community and we are continually seeking copies of the books for the missing years.  We have a small collection of Elementary school yearbooks that we would love to expand. So if you have an old yearbook laying around, the Special Collections Department will gladly accept donations of yearbooks, as well as city directories or other items pertaining to local history or genealogy.

Laura Douglas,
Emily Fowler Central Library

In The Weeds 4.06.16: Fist Fights, Snakebites and Polygamy

We have a collection of 19th and early 20th Century newspaper articles and gleanings about Denton people and events from in and outside the county. They make for fun reading and an opportunity to re-evaluate how we think people lived and behaved in an era we tend to think was so different. There is quite a bit about the sadder side of life such as crimes, deaths, and health issues (“If it bleeds, it leads” is the news axiom). We won’t go into those but, rather, focus on some humor and more lighthearted events. And it was fun to come up with tags for this blog post…

From the Denton County News, Sept. 29, 1898, p.8, c.3:

“BITTEN BY A COPPERHEAD. W. H. Durham, who is employed in Long, Williams & Co’s grocery store, was bitten on a finger last week by a copperhead last Thursday night while engaged in picking up some articles in a dark corner of the store. He immediately drank a quart of whiskey, but the bite was so poisonous that the whole arm swelled considerably. At last accounts, Mr. Durham was improving and is now considered out of danger.” –We think the cure might be worse than than the cause.

From the Legal Tender, Dec.2, 1897, p.1:

“The Green Valley School is progressing fine, and the Algebra class say they can work any thing by the X.Y.Z.”

From the Denton County News, Oct 29th, 1896, p.5, c.1:

“PONDER ITEMS. Ponder, Oct 25. There was quite an interesting wolf chase experienced in Denton creek bottom last Saturday, one being killed by Mr. M. W. Hedrick; also a wild goose and three squirrels.” –A real “wild goose chase”.

From Denton County News, March 2, 1899, p.4,c.3:

“AGAIN IN TROUBLE. Rev. Logan, who conducted a series of services at the Advent Church in this city a year or so ago and who ran away with a young lady of this city is in trouble again, having been arrested in Fort Worth last week charged with having too many wives.”

From the Dallas Weekly Herald, June 6, 1874, p.1:

The editor of the Denton Review takes a whole column of space to tell his readers that he got thrown from a horse and didn’t get killed.” – Ouch! That’s going to sting.

From the Denton County News, Sept. 24, 1896, p.8, c.4:

“Mr. M.D. Saunders, of Fort Worth, has located in Denton and opened a bicycle store in the brick building in the rear of the Masonic building.” –Bicycles. Denton loved them then and loves them now.

From the Denton County News, Sept. 21, 1893, p.3, c.2:

” W.R. Staples and Arthur Smith, living near Stony, had a rough and tumble fight on the farmer’s place Monday which resulted in a number of bruises for each. Mr. Staples came to town and had a physician extract two of his fingers from his own wrist which he had grafted there by rapping Smith too rudely on the mug.” – That must’ve been some punch. How does one graft one’s own fingers to the same wrist?!

From the Denton County News, Jan 31, 1895, p.2,c.2:

“At the residence of Mrs. Stark of Roanoke, can be found a little black bird that can talk as plain as any body in the county.”

Written by Chuck Voellinger, Emily Fowler Library. chuck.voellinger@cityofdenton.com

 

Hilltop Happenings: Newsletters from Flow Hospital

The Denton Public Library recently acquired 11 issues of the “Hilltop Happenings” a newsletter that was published for the employees of Flow Memorial Hospital. The newsletters have been digitized and are available on UNT’s Portal to Texas History.

September1969NOV 1963

The articles in the “Hilltop Happenings” offer an inside look at the hospital’s day-to-day operations and provide a glimpse of the employee’s personal lives. Changes or new hospital services, staff introductions, volunteer activities, and community events are all featured in the newsletters. Flow Memorial Hospital opened in 1950 and it served as a joint non-profit city-county hospital until it closed in 1988.

During the 38 years the hospital was open, as you can imagine, it played an important role for  the Babycommunity.  Many Dentonites were born there, worked there, or have memories of major life events that happened in the hospital.  For my family, at one time four of my family members worked at Flow hospital. Take a look at the newsletters, you just may see a familiar face or two. (That little bundle of joy in the picture to the right is me.)

Laura Douglas
Emily Fowler Central Library

In The Weeds, 7.8.15: Bug Town

Admittedly a more eye catching title than “Elizabethtown”, “Bug Town” was the nickname for an early Denton County settlement named after Elizabeth Creek which was, in turn, named after John B. Denton’s daughter Elizabeth. In the far southeast corner of the Shamblin Survey you can see a tiny cross indicating the Elizabethtown Cemetery. That plat is located near the intersection of Hwy 114 and I-35W (click on image for larger view):

ShamblinSurveyElizabethtown002

Elizabethtown is one of several Denton County ghost towns and got its nickname from its settlers who hailed from Tennessee who had never seen the number and varieties of insects in that area.

Here is a Google Earth image of the area:

Elizabethtown

In Hollace Hervey’s book “Historic Denton County: An Illustrated History” published by the Denton County Historical Museum, Elizabethtown is said to have been settled by Peters Colonists in 1847 at “the point where the Ranger Trail and the stage route from Ft. Worth to Denton crossed the creek.” Isn’t it interesting to see how closely I-35W has apparently paralleled the old Anglo trail which, in turn, may have followed an Indian trail?

By the late 1870s, the town had several businesses, a post office, saloons, and its own school district. However, the eventual arrival of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad a couple miles to the east in Roanoke sounded the death knell to Elizabethtown. On August 2, 1881 the post office was closed and reopened the next day in Roanoke. The community barely survived into the 20th Century and by the 1940s was little more than the location of a cemetery (seen below). The bugs are probably still there, however.

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There is an excellent history of the the town and cemetery written by Mrs. I. Neal Samuels and Mrs. A. B. Harmonson located in our vertical files at the Emily Fowler Library, and an article from the Oct. 19, 1966 Denton Record Chronicle available at any DPL location from Newspaper Archives.

Chuck Voellinger