Before there was Facebook…

So how did we keep up with what was going on around town before the age of the Internet and Social Media? In Denton, other than the local newspaper and actually talking to each other, we had a monthly community newsletter published by E.J. Headlee. The newsletter was distributed from 1936 to 1972 under four titles, The Doings, This Week in Denton, Doings in Denton, and The Denton Doings.

The Doings started as a family newsletter but grew to a publication that distributed over 6000 copies monthly. The newsletter, subtitled “The Magazine of Goodwill” was a free publication that featured community news, events, and information about people’s lives.  The issues are packed with photographs and articles about events in people’s lives as well as organizational (churches, clubs, and schools) and community activities.

Cover March 1956

In 2017, the Denton Public Library was awarded a Rescuing Texas History Mini Grant which provided funds to digitize and add issues of the newsletter from 1948 to mid-year 1956 to the University of North Texas Portal to Texas History. If you have family in Denton during these years you can search for them by name in the online newsletter.

We applied for the grant again in 2018 and were again awarded funds for the digitization of the next set of newsletters from March 1956 through May 1964. These are not yet available on the Portal but they should be up by the summer of 2019.

If you would like to learn a little more about E. J. Headlee (who is also the namesake of Headlee Street in North Denton) you can listen to an oral history Mr. Headlee shared with the staff of the Denton Public Library in 1975. Or visit the Special Collections Research Area at the Emily Fowler Central Library.

Laura Douglas





On November 28, 1916, the City of Denton passed a mashing ordinance.

I ran across this while looking through some old Denton City Council minute books and was really surprised. Well, first I was confused because I didn’t know what mashing meant. I’d made a guess that was wrong (mashing=beer=prohibition), not to mention that guessing is too easy. So, I decided to look it up which is what you do when you work in a, um, library.

What is Mashing?

“Mashing,” also known as flirting, ogling, or petting is an older word that was used beginning around 1880. Nowadays, we call it sexual harassment. Back then it was a problem for women, just like now.

So yeah, it’s the same old story.  I’ve come across quite a few good articles on the subject of “mashing” and “mashers” in the early twentieth century and the significance of society’s response towards protecting women and sometimes men, just like now.

As to the ordinance, I believe the enacting of a law came about in the early 1900s as the first newspaper accounts of cities passing a mashing ordinance start showing up around that time period (see Chronicling America, mashing ordinance).

Denton’s ordinance, Section 379 said: “It shall be unlawful for any male person in the City of Denton, Texas, to flirt with or ogle any female person unknown to him, or to utter, make or produce any sound intended or calculated to attract the attention of such female person, or to annoy or embarrass such person.”1

Minute Bk. 05 1916 - 9_1920

City Council Minute Bk. 05 1916 – 9/1920, p.7

When you compare the other fines, the fine for mashing was pretty hefty. For instance, in 1935 it was $25.00 per instance, which using a CPI inflation calculator, comes to $327 for 2018. And here I would like to insert that I’m not “picking on” Mr. S. E. Lee, only using him to illustrate this. However, looking through the monthly reports there’s not a whole lot of men on the books (in Denton) who got fined for mashing, only a handful here and there – just enough to send a message.


1935 Monthly Report of Fines, by Denton City Marshal, W. L. Knight

There’s not anything mentioned in Denton after 1948 so we can assume it was eventually voted off; I just don’t know the when of it. This is the last article I ran across that had any mention of a mashing ordinance in the Denton newspaper.

Mashing Law 27 Sep 1948 s1p1

Denton Record-Chronicle, 27 Sept. 1948, sec.1, p.1

Most of the information that I have used has come from newspaper articles; some on The Portal to Texas History, the Chronicling America project, and through the library’s subscription to Newspaper Archive. One author Kerry Segrave, a cultural historian, has written several books on the topic that looks quite promising. The library does not have any of her books, but a limited preview is available through Google Books. I have paged through, Beware the Masher: Sexual Harassment in American Public Places 1880-1930 which looks fascinating and will be on my list to borrow through the library’s Interlibrary Loan service in the future.

~Leslie Couture, Special Collections Department


 1Denton, Texas, Municipal Code art. VI, § 379 (1941)

Cousins Across Continents

In 1991 my great-aunt Mary, the oldest daughter of Nicholas and Catherine Szpet, received a letter from Jelenia Gora, a small city in Southwestern Poland.  Nicholas and Catherine had immigrated to the United States from Europe in the early 1900s and met for the first time in America.  The letter was from a Katarzyna Pawliszyn and addressed to my great-grandfather Nicholas at his home in Southwestern Pennsylvania.

Though Mary still lived in the house where her parents raised their family for a time, her father Nicholas, unfortunately, no longer lived there.  Nicholas had died in 1957 of carcinoma, most likely from a life spent below ground in the coal mines that pockmarked Pennsylvania’s share of the Appalachian Mountains.  I was told he suffered from black lung, an incurable disease that is caused by prolonged exposure to coal dust[1].  Catherine would die in 1972.  None of the remaining family had heard of Katarzyna and, because no one could read the language the letter was written in, the letter got shuffled away in grandmother’s house for more than 20 years.


In the Fall of 2014, while I was pregnant with my second daughter, my mother casually mentioned a family letter that had resurfaced and was written in what Great-Aunt Mary assumed was Ukrainian since that is what she remembered her parents speaking.  The contents of the letter were unknown and Mary was very curious about what it said.  Being that I was having a tough pregnancy and was not employed at the time, I badly needed a project and asked my mother to send a copy of the letter.  My interest was not only in the contents of the letter, but also in whether or not I would be able to translate the letter for my family.

Catherine and Nicholas
Photographs from family archive, also found at

After I received the letter and began work on it, I realized something very quickly – that in my excitement over the letter and the translation, I had been very naïve.  I would not be able to translate this letter.  The Slavic language of Ukrainian was too different from my native English, combined with the fact that the letter was written in cursive and hard to read.  So I set it aside for 3 more years while I began a new life as a mother of two and a new career as a Reference Librarian here in Denton.

While working in the Special Collections and Genealogy department at the Emily Fowler Library, the thought of the letter floated back into my brain.  Perhaps I could reach out to someone to translate the letter for me and finally solve the mystery of what it said.  I did a random Google search on Slavic language professors and found one at a university in Indiana.  I had no idea how much time the translation of a 2-page letter would take, in addition to a professor’s usual workload, but I took a chance and emailed her a copy of the letter and asked her if a translation was possible.

She was very nice and agreed to translate the letter for me.  I was so excited and shared the news with my mom.  Unfortunately, I was unable to share this news with my Great-Aunt Mary, as she passed away in June 2016 at the age of 93.

In December 2017, several months after I first emailed her, I heard back from the professor.  The language of the letter, it turns out, is a mish-mash of Ukrainian and Polish.  Luckily, the translator spoke both!  She told me that, in her opinion, the writer was a Ukrainian speaker as a child, but then grew up to speak mostly Polish.  The boundaries of Eastern Europe shifted a lot historically and the Ukrainian and Polish languages, both from the same Slavic roots, have greatly influenced each other as a result.[2]

An example of the changing borders of Eastern Europe. [3]

The letter turned out to be from Nicholas’ cousin Katarzyna.  In the letter, Katarzyna tells the family that her father Mykhaylo Shpyt is the brother of Nicholas’ father.  Interestingly, she addresses Nicholas as ‘brother’ and refers to herself as his ‘sister.’  Terms of endearment I am assuming.  Also, her father’s name is another spelling of the family name ‘Szpet,’ which is good to know when doing genealogy research.  The letter, however, is very sad to read.

Katarzyna, it seems, is 73 years old at the time and very sick.  She states that her husband died 6 years ago and, with the exception of a grown son and two teenage granddaughters, she is alone.  She had written to Nicholas before and it seems he had written her letters while he was alive.  She said her son had written to the family after his death, but did not receive a reply.  She figures this is because no one could read the language that the letter was written in and admonishes the family for forgetting their roots.  Those who forget the native language “have not a heart but a stone.”  She does say that she hopes to see them and hear back from them.  Of course, she never did.

I did a search for Katarzyna Pawliszyn in several Genealogy databases and only found one potential match.  However, the birth year on the record does not match the birth year that I inferred using the date of our family’s letter and Katarzyna’s statement in the letter that she was currently 73 years old.  This doesn’t necessarily mean anything, but at the present time I do not have enough information on Katarzyna to take my search on her any further.

As I finished reading the translation for the first time that December, my first cousin twice removed, Katarzyna, this woman whom I will never know, became a new member of my family.  She knew my great-grandfather who died some 20 years before I was born.  My great-grandfather helped give life to two of the most important people in my life – my Great-Aunt Mary and my grandmother Sophia – whose presence in my life became as familiar to me as the presence of my parents.  And my grandmother, of course, helped give me my mother.  And so to Nicholas and Catherine, to Katarzyna and her son, and to her grandchildren – Hello.

If you are interested in finding out more about your European ancestors, here are some great books that can be found at Emily Fowler Library’ Special Collections Department to get you started:

And don’t forget that with your library card you get access to great genealogy and history databases that include Ancestry LibraryEdition, Family Search, Fold3 and more!

Dawn Terrizzi
Public Services Librarian

[2] The Polish and Ukrainian Languages: A Mutually Beneficial RelationshipMICHAŁ ŁESIÓW, Robert De Lossa and Roman Koropeckyj Harvard Ukrainian StudiesVol. 22, Cultures and Nations of Central and Eastern Europe (1998), pp. 393-406.


In The Weeds, 8/22/18: Ford-A-Palooza!

We’ve been working with Herbert Holl and Meredith Buie of UNT on the Square, City Historic Preservation Officer Roman McAllen, City Planner Sean Jacobsen, The Chamber of Commerce, TWU and UNT Special Collections, The Alexander Architectural Archives at UT Austin, and many others over the last year planning the new exhibit at UNT on the Square focusing on the life and works of noted Texas architect and former Dentonite, O’Neil Ford. This has been an amazing journey with some very passionate and dedicated preservationists, historians, and archivists.

We are incredibly fortunate in Denton to have so many historic O’Neil Ford structures to enjoy, both private and public. Every book about and expert on Texas architecture lists Ford near the very top in influence. We have become custodians of these important, one-of-a-kind buildings and it is hoped that we will continue to preserve them for generations to come.

As part of this celebration, we have a small exhibit at the Emily Fowler Library dedicated to Ford collaborators; brother Lynn Ford and Martha and Beaumont Mood of San Antonio.

There are so many facets to the O’Neil Ford story, that eliminating works or people for space considerations is not a fun task. Lynn and the Moods were so integral to Ford’s vision that they deserve tribute generally and especially because so much of their work is still very visible in Denton.

           The details of the exhibit are as follows:

     “O’Neil Ford: The Architect In His Works and Words”

    August 24th-Sept. 22nd. UNT On The Square, 109 N. Elm St.

   Opening Reception and Gallery Talk by Architectural Historian

   Stephen Fox, Friday August 31st 6-8:00 pm.

      Panel Discussion on Ford, Saturday, Sept 1st, 10:00am-12:00pm.

As a brief refresher on O’Neil Ford in Denton, the following is a representative list of buildings and homes extant as of 2018: Little Chapel in the Woods (TWU 1939); Civic Center Complex (Quakertown Park 1967-69); First Christian Church (1959); Gertrude Gibson House (1929); Selwyn School campus (1965-1969); etc. We have a collection of books, pamphlets, and news articles on the life and works of Ford at the Emily Fowler Library, as well.

Our exhibit at the O’Neil Ford-designed Emily Fowler Library focuses on Lynn’s wood carving and the ceramic fixtures designed and manufactured by Martha and Beau Mood. Here are a few pics of that exhibit and some Lynn Ford and Mood lighting visible here at the Fowler Library to whet your appetite:





If you decide to come by the Fowler Library to view these works, please come to the Special Collections Desk and speak to a staff member and we’ll be happy to point them out and provide access, as some are in the staff area and others may not be obvious to folks who are not as familiar with our library.

We plan to add to this blog post as the main exhibit at UNT on the Square progresses through September 2018, especially to document the Opening Reception and Panel Discussion on Labor Day Weekend. Please stay tuned!


Written by Chuck Voellinger,






Z. Wiggs Reinvents the Wheel

We just got a letter in the mail from a thoughtful man in Michigan.

A typed letter.

I can’t tell you how rare that is, but to top it off – inside – a copy of a story from the November 1939 issue of Popular Science about a Denton man called, Z. Wiggs and his invention – which either they or Wiggs had coined “The Poochmobile”.

Z. Wiggs and his Poochmobile in Denton, Texas, 1939. -Popular Mechanics, Nov. 1939, p.142

Z. Wiggs and his Poochmobile in Denton, Texas. Note the sign at the top of cage, “All Rights Reserved For Advertising Purposes Consult Builder, Z. Wiggs, 218 Blount St., Denton, Texas.” -Popular Science, Nov. 1939, p.142

Who was this Wiggs and what led him to such machinations of four-legged ambulatory madness?

Haywood Zephaniah Wiggs, otherwise known as “Zeph” or “Z.”, born in Union Co., Illinois in 1859 and grew up farming.  He married Rachel Ann Wilson in 1881 and they lived in Lick Creek, Illinois. I’m going to take a leap faith here to say that they left Illinois (and farming) in search of a different life. They first landed in Bonham, Texas where Zeph worked for the Texas & Pacific Railroad and then gradually made their way to Denton arriving, on Aug. 1, 1888.

Z. got a job with the railroad and was foreman in charge of the track department for 12 years. In 1901, he was appointed Street Commissioner for the City of Denton.1 His job was to keep up the roads and sidewalks in town. Back then, sidewalks were either made from oak planks, flagstones or brick. Wiggs advised the city council that he could have “good durable sidewalks using gravel and oak plank curbing that would cost 10¢ per foot.”2

There was a great need for sidewalks back then, especially after a rain. The photo below is a shot of the Wiggs home, but this one allows you to see the oak plank curbing filled with crushed rocks next to the dirt road. Now, imagine getting to your house in the rain without sidewalks in a sea of mud.


Portrait of Wiggs’ Family Home at the corner of Blount and McKinney Streets in Denton, Texasphotograph1912; ( of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Denton Public Library.

In his down time, Zeph did things.

For instance, in 1895, he caught an alligator in Pecan Creek and brought it home, but it later died.3

18 July 1895

And in between 1896 to 1903, he filed four patents with the U.S. Patent Office for things ranging from a “Shaft-Tug” to a “Railway Cattle-Guard”. The Railway Cattle-Guard was filed Aug. 19, 1896 and was listed as patent No. 579,507 with the United States Patent Office.

Railway Cattle-Guard

Wiggs, Zeph. Railway Cattle – GuardpatentNovember 23, 1897; [Washington D.C.]. ( of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.

After his 16 years as street commissioner were up, Z. turned in his resignation – several times – but the city refused to acknowledge it and kept him on until finally, “he asked for a leave of absence and never returned, continuing private contract work.”4


The Justin-Ponder-Krum Road being graveled in 1913 by the Z. Wiggs crew; of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Denton Public Library.

Looking at the photos we have in our collection, I have to say that building roads back then was not for sissies. Nor was it an easy thing to accomplish at that time: materials were very expensive, they could be hard to obtain, and you had to have the means to haul them.

When he started the job, the City only paid for one person to do the work. In 1903, they realized that more help was needed and hired two others to help him out. The “street force” grew as the needs for improvements to sidewalks and roads grew.

Z. Wiggs and unknown crew laying the base for paving on E. Hickory St. in Denton, Texas, 1913.

Photo of Z. Wiggs and his “street force” laying the base for paving on E. Hickory St. in Denton, Texas,, University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Denton Public Library.

By 1920, roads had become a major issue: “On January 1, 1910 there was a total of 52 automobiles in Denton County. Ten years later, January 1, 1920, there were about 2,800. As the number of autos increased, the general demand for good roads increased. In 1910 there was practically not a foot of good roads in the entire county in the modern sense. By 1920 the situation in this respect was not materially changed… not much was done about road improvement until after the close of the war.”6

But enough about roads.

Zeph and Rachel were married for 59 years and had ten children, five of whom died at early ages. Their daughter, Ruth (below, 4th from the left) passed in 1928.

The Wiggs family at the Z. Wiggs  home on Blount Street in Denton, Texas.

Z. Wiggs and family at his home on Blount Street which used to run from McKinney to Mulberry (close to and parallel to Bell Ave.). -Photo Denton Public Library, Special Collections Department

Zeph intrigues me. I picture this man always busy with work and ideas, sketching on pieces of paper that remain tacked to the walls and then taking long drives through Denton County in his Dodge Roadster6, testing out the roads with a grandkid by his side and talking about possibilities.

And maybe that, was how the idea for the dog came about.


Leslie Couture, Special Collections


1 City Council Minute Bk. 1900 to 1907, p.41.

2 “Civic Improvement League. The Organization Will Make an Effort to Thoroughly Clean Up the City.” Denton County News, 18 June, 1903, p.1.

3“From Whence He Came.” Denton County News, 18 July, 1895, p.5.

4“Mr. and Mrs. Z. Wiggs.” Denton Record-Chronicle, 3 August, 1938, p.3.

5Bridges, Clarence Allen. “History of Denton: From Its Beginnings to 1960.” Texian Press, 1978, p.286.

6 “Diamond Cords Give Good Service.” Denton Record-Chronicle, 27 November, 1922, p.8.

Finding a Family Legend or a Sly Stone Story

Working in the Special Collections research area can lead to its own set of frustrations and rewards. Sometimes when people contact us they have run up against a “brick wall” while researching their family history.  They have exhausted all their known resources and have reached out to contact libraries and other organizations in the area where their ancestor lived, hoping for help finding more information.  From time to time we are unable to help them. Even though we have checked every resource we have access to – newspapers, birth and death records, land records, local histories, city directories, family histories, census records, and more – we just cannot find any trace of the person in question. (As you might imagine this is really frustrating; it is amazing the number of people who just disappear off the face of the Earth.)  Then there are times that all the pieces fall into place and we are able to find that missing bit of information that helps make the connection.

One such instance happened this spring. I was contacted by Kierra Benson, a UNT student, who needed help verifying a family legend. She said she was going to use it as the basis for a podcast. I was a little unsure about her request at first because family legends are a funny thing. Many times they are based on fact, but occasionally they are proved false, which may, or may not, cause more than a little consternation in a family.  In her own words, here is a description of Kierra’s research into her family legend:

“I am currently a senior at the University of North Texas at Dallas in pursuit of a bachelors in Communication and Technology. This past semester, in one of my classes I was assigned to create a podcast on a subject that interested me. After considering a few other topics for my podcast, one question lingered in the back of my head for years. That question was based on a claim that my grandfather made about famous funk singer Sly Stone being related to our family. I had always had my doubts about my grandfather’s claim, so I decided to use this project as an opportunity to verify (or debunk) this claim once and for all. With the help of professional genealogist Laura Douglas and past accounts from my grandfather, I pieced together information about my family history and Sly Stone’s family history to see if there is a true connection.”

Was there a connection? Did her family legend prove true? You can listen to her podcast here.

Helping Kierra with her research was one of those rewarding experiences that makes working in Special Collections so much fun. Do you have a “brick wall” or a family legend you would like help with? Email us at and let’s see what we can help you find.

Oh yeah, if you are in the mood for a little funk from a Dentonite, here’s some of the albums you can check out from the library:


Laura Douglas
Emily Fowler Central Library

Toponymy and Cartophiles. In The Weeds, 5/24/18.

Did you know that a person who is interested (obsessed? Not me…) in maps is called a “cartophile“? Did you ever wonder who or what certain streets were named after? That study is called “toponymy“. Combining the two is what we’ll do in this blog post. A tiny sampling of names and stories follow.

Piner Street, located just east of Carroll Blvd (named after Civil War-era Judge Joseph Carroll) between Oak and Hickory, was named for another judge from the 1870s, F. E. Piner, who was also a member of the IOOF. ¹

Sawyer Street, located between Locust and Bell south of the Square, was named after the first mayor of Denton, J. B. Sawyer, who was elected in August, 1869. Wait, you ask. Wasn’t Denton founded in 1857? Why so long to elect a mayor? The Texas Legislature granted the City’s charter in 1866 and only afterwards did they get around to electing a mayor, or “daddy”, as he was called in the 1869 Denton Monitor. ²

Hinkle Street, located off University Dr. going north to Windsor St, was named after a prominent local surgeon who helped open in 1949 the Medical and Surgical Clinic at Normal and Scripture Streets and passed away in 1955.  Here is his obit from the Record-Chronicle: Hinkle DRC 20 APR 1955.jpg

Below is a map from 1922 apparently made by the City Engineer, V.G. Koch.  Please ckick on each image to make it larger. In it you will see some oddities and irregularities:

For instance, Egan St. is spelled “Eagan” on the map but nowhere else that we can find. What happened to all the streets named after states? I think I know the reason why but I’ll let y’all take a guess. Personally, I’m kind of sad that “Lula St.” doesn’t exist anymore (now Bryan St. between Fry and Ponder St.). What other differences from today can you see?

Now, about that word “toponymy”. Here is a quote from a Turkish paper from the 2016 International Planning History Society Conference,

“Cities have a multi-layered and living structure, thus they also have a memory. Therefore, actions such as forgetting, recalling or storing information occur in cities as well. Urban memories sometimes change or disappear due to the rearrangement and reshaping of various components in cities. When the components of the urban memory are removed, the interaction is interrupted, and such components are removed from the urban memory and are thus forgotten.”


“Among the interventions on urban space, those carried out on streets are the  most remarkable. The political, cultural, economic and social interventions on streets wipe out or reproduce certain information in the urban memory.”

What people, ideas, or forces made Dentonites name streets the way they did? What made them change names, as well? Some were named for decidedly important reasons and some for the more prosaic.


¹ Bridges, C.A. “History of Denton, Texas From the Beginning to 1960”. Texian Press, Waco, Tx. 1978. p. 65.

² Ibid. p. 111.

Written by Chuck Voellinger.