Lake Texoma

Because Life is Better at the Lake

Does Anyone Refer to Denison, Texas, as Katy's Baby These Days?

Lumini Services
Kendall Davis is well-versed in the English language. She has 20 years experience as a published author and writing for clients. Her published works include historical articles in museums, magazines, newspaper articles, columns, content marketing, advertising copy, blogging, and academic papers. Kendall also makes her way in the literary world as a copyeditor. Writing about history is her first love interest. If you have editing or content needs on your website or for your books, articles, blogs, or columns, please visit her website to see details and more examples of her work, the services she offers, and contact information.

 Born September 23, 1872—Katy's Baby

Katy’s Baby, a.k.a. Denison, Texas, was the love child of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad (MKT or Katy) in 1872. By 1873, Katy’s Baby had boomed into a rowdy and exciting existence within one year of its establishment. Upon the speculation of a new MKT depot near the Red River in Texas north of Sherman, a temporary tent city with some shacks named Red River City popped up by the banks of the Red River near Colbert’s Ferry.

The Grayson County seat of Sherman offered an incentive bonus to the Houston & Texas Central Railroad but not to the MKT. MKT’s vice president, George Denison, is Denison’s namesake. Since Sherman did not offer a bonus to the MKT, George decided to build the new depot outside of Sherman. Only one newspaper, the Atchison Daily Patriot (Kansas), mentions George visiting Denison, Texas, on October 18, 1872. Apparently, the President Lincoln-appointed George was not well-thought of, and there is no Grayson County record of George visiting his namesake town.

The MKT executives kept the location of the new railroad town quiet until the first city lots were put up for sale on September 23, 1872. Colonel Robert Smith Stevens, the “Agent and Attorney for the purchase of lands” for the Katy Railroad, organized the Denison Town Company. Within four months, 3,000 people had moved to Denison, and Red River City was reduced to a single, empty wood cabin. The coming of the Katy induced the sale of $90,000 in city lots by January 1873.

Many families lived in tents. Residents occupied new homes as soon as they were livable. The town’s population was made up of two contingents, investors in the future and a fringe society which operated with little interruption from the law. (1, 2, 3, 4)

The first Katy rolled into Denison on newly laid tracks on the cold Christmas day of December 25, 1872

When Denison Was a Toddler

Excerpt in Denison in 1874 from a book written by Edward King * on a two-year tour of south and midwest America:

“It was exceedingly remarkable, also, that in a community one-half of which was undoubtedly made up of professional ruffians, “terminus” gamblers, and the offscourings of society, and where there was not yet a regularly organized government, there was not more of terrorism.

“Every third building in the place was a drinking saloon with gambling appurtenances, filled after nightfall with a depraved, adventurous crowd, whose profanity was appalling, whose aspect was hideous. Men drunk and sober danced to rude music in poorly-lighted saloons and did not lack female partners. In vulgar bestiality of language, in the pure delight of parading profanity and indecency, the ruffian there had no equal. The gambling houses were nightly frequented by hundreds. Robberies, of course, were frequent occurrences in the gambling hells, and perhaps are so still; but in the primitive hotels, where the luckless passengers from the Missouri, Kansas, and Texas railway awaited a transfer by stage to Sherman, where they were packed three and four together in beds in a thinly-boarded room through whose cracks rain might fall and dust blow, they were as safe from robbery or outrage as in any first-class house. Rough men abounded, and would, with no doubt, have knocked anyone upon the head who should find himself alone, unarmed, and late at night, in their clutches. But carrying concealed weapons is so expressly forbidden by the laws of Texas that cases of shooting rarely occurred, and there was no more danger to the life or limb of the traveler that may be met with on Broadway.

“The businessmen of Denison are a stern, self-reliant, confident company. They have a thorough belief in Northern Texas; intend to tame its wildness, and make it one of the gardens of the world. The Kansas and Missouri and Illinois and Western New York character crops out, and is the chief reliance of the town.” (5)

Early Denison Demographics

A ten-day census taken in 1873 measured the demographics of Denison. The census counted 3,951 people, 451 wooden houses, and 18 brick and stone buildings. Two churches were already built and the foundation for a third had been laid. Denison opened the first free graded school on February 6, 1873, and the first free rural mail delivery in Texas.

Within one year of the first land sale in 1872, these Denison businesses were in full swing by September 1873: (6, 7)

cabinet maker
furniture store
gun store
hardware store
ice company
metallic cement roofer
tonsorial (barber)

agricultural implement dealers
book and news stores
harness and saddle makers
photograph galleries

livery stables
lumber dealers

carpenters and contractors
jewelry stores
tailor shops

drug stores/druggists
dry goods merchants
liquor dealers

auctioneers and commission agents/merchants
boot and shoemakers
brick kilns
meat markets

attorneys and land agents

Twenty: saloons

Arctic Ice Company

One important 1873 Denison business was the Arctic Ice Company, owned by W. W. Salisbury and located near the Katy tracks. It eventually became the Denison Crystal Ice Company and then the Southern Ice Company. Ice companies usually located themselves near a freshwater lake or pond. They cut the surface ice in winter with long saws and stored ice blocks in huge ice houses insulated with sawdust or straw. They transferred them to delivery wagons which transported them to homes with wooden ice boxes. I do not know where they found enough surface ice around Denison, and they may have imported it from the north. It’s hard to imagine that ice did not melt in our Texomaland summer heat and last until the next winter. (8)

The Invention of the Ice Cream Soda

Denison was home to the first ice cream soda in Texas, Indian Territory, and beyond. Elaine Bay interviewed Jack McGuire and reported on this cool historical information. Joseph A. Euper moved to Denison in 1875. He owned an ice cream parlor on West and Main. He wanted to create something that would make him money like some of the more profitable establishments in Denison. Maybe by accident, Joseph mixed together ice cream, fruit flavoring, and soda water. Michigan celebrates a yearly Joseph A. Euper Day honoring his invention. Joseph opened a larger confectionary and ice cream parlor 1887 which the town touted as the most elegant thing of its kind in Texas. Joseph never did make the kind of profit he expected from his invention and confections. (9)

The Grape Man of Texas Who Saved France’s Grapes

France became so indebted to Thomas Volney Munson, a celebrated American horticulturist and viticulturist, that they traveled to Denison to award him the French Legion of Honor Chevalier du Merite Agricole. Thomas first opened a horticultural nursery in Lincoln, Nebraska, in 1873. He dedicated his research to the study of grapes. He thought the droughts, grasshoppers, and hard winters made it difficult for him to progress. He found that the northern species of labrusca and vinifera grapes failed from different diseases and that native (wild) grapes were more resistant to disease.

Thomas’s brothers, William Benjamin and J. T. Munson lived in Denison, so he moved there and found a whole new world of horticulture in Texas. He traveled around the state collecting horticultural species. In his lifetime, he covered over 50,000 miles by rail, horseback, and foot in Texas and Mexico. He published his articles on the classification, hybridization, and varieties of grapes in the American Agriculturist, Farm and Ranch, and the Revue de Viticulture.

From the 1840s to the 1860s, a fungus parasite, odium, plagued the wine vineyards of Europe. France lost 80% of its vines. The European wine industry imported American lambrusca rootstock, but with it came the plant louse, phylloxera. The louse attacked the recovering vines. In 1868, the French destroyed six million acres of vineyards.

France asked Thomas to send some of his hybrid phylloxera-resistant rootstock. The French grafted the rootstock with their varieties of vinifera. Horticulturists Hermann Jaeger and Thomas Munson saved the European wine industry from extinction. The Société Nationale d'Agriculture de France elected Thomas as a foreign corresponding member, and the Société des Viticulteurs de France appointed him an honorary member. (10)

Doc Holliday 

Doc Holliday successfully practiced dentistry in Dallas in the early 1870s. When his patients realized his coughing fits were caused by tuberculosis, they did not return. Around the same time, Dallas outlawed gambling, one of Doc’s favorite pastimes. He was indicted there in 1874 for illegal gambling, and after a shootout with a bartender in 1875, Doc was acquitted of any wrongdoing. Doc moved to Denison for a few months in 1875 where his increasing coughing fits again ran off his patients. He closed his practice and moved to Ft. Griffin near Albany, TX, went to Colorado, either met Wyatt Earp on the train back to Ft. Griffin or in Dodge City, Kansas, and the rest is OK Corral history. **

 John Hillerman

John Hillerman, actor on Magnum P.I. (1980-1988), was born in Denison, Texas, on December 20, 1932. His father, Christopher Hillerman, ran a gas station. John drove himself 75 miles to Dallas to study opera when he was in high school, studied journalism for three years at the University of Texas, played in an amateur production of Death of a Salesman while stationed in Fort Worth in the Air Force in the 1950s, moved to New York to study at the American Theatre Wing, played supporting roles on stage, moved to Hollywood in 1969 where he worked with Betty White, Burt Lancaster, Robert Ryan, and director Peter Bogdanovich who placed him in The Last Picture Show and Paper Moon, and the rest is Magnum P.I. history. (11)

Yep! It All Happened in Denison—First City Ordinances

The State of Texas legally incorporated Denison in 1873. Some of the first ordinances enacted by the City of Denison included the following:

No Speeding! Any person who shall ride or drive a horse, mule, or other animal on the streets, roads, or alleys within this city, in an unnecessarily rapid manner or gait, shall be fined on conviction, not less than five nor more than twenty-five dollars.”

No: discharging of firearms, gambling, rowdy assemblies, disturbing the peace, fighting, disturbing a worship service or other lawful assembly, being drunk, nudity and indecent exposure, selling alcoholic beverages to drunks, saloon keepers permitting disturbances, and playing ball on streets or alleys.

No: swimming or bathing nude in public water spots from the “hour before sunrise to hour after sunset.” (12)

* Not to be confused with King Edward

** There are so many conflicting stories about when Doc Holliday did what that I have recorded the history to the best of my research. It is well-known that Doc practiced dentistry in Denison in 1875.


1. Created / Published [Denison, TX.] : D.D. Morse, [1876].

2. Denison gambling house circa 1874. Sketch by Wells Champney.

3. Denison saloon circa 1874. Denison Men Drunk and Sober Dance to Rude Music. Sketch by Wells Champney.

4. Red River City Map.

5. The Katy Flyer steams through Denison. Courtesy of the American Railroad Museum.

6. The Katy: Fogg Postcard.

7. MKT Railroad bridge finished in 1872 over the Red River. Postcard, circa 1911.

8. Littlefield Church of God In Christ, Dennison, Texas ~ In the years directly following the Emancipation Proclamation in 1865, many newly free blacks discarded the spirituals as reminders of a time they wanted to forget. They were called “sorrow songs,” these folk tunes that spoke of a weary people held captive and beat down because of their race. But there was no getting over the songs which resonated so deeply with listeners. By Tempest Reese-Roberts.

Courtesy Elaine Nall Bay and Tempest Reese Roberts. No date, but the church is a lot older than the car parked there. Tempest refers to the picture on her Pinterest site as representing a church of freed slaves soon after the Emancipation Proclamation.

9. Cutting frozen ice.


1. “Denison Texas.” Grayson County TXGenWEb, Elaine Nall Bay, 2017,

2. Bridges, Jennifer. “The Katy 's Ladies: Prostitution in Early Denison, Texas, 1872-1880.” East Texas Historical Journal, vol. 53, no. 1, 2015.

3. Masterson, V. V. The Katy Railroad and the Last Frontier Columbia: University of Missouri Press. The Katy Railroad and the Last Frontier Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1852. p. 22, 177.

4. “Geroge Denison, Katy Railroad Director for Whom Denison Was Named.” Grayson County TXGenWEb, Elaine Nall Bay, 2013,

5. King, Edward. The Great South a Record of Journeys in Louisiana, Texas, the Indian Territory, Missouri, Arkansas, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Florida, South Carolina, North Carolina, Kentucky, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland. W. G. Blackie Printers, Glasgow, 1875. p. 177-178.

6. Denison Daily News. Denison Daily News. (Denison, Tex.), Vol. 1, No. 159, Ed. 1 Tuesday, September 23, 1873

7. Denison Daily News. Denison Daily News, Vol I, No. 139 Friday, September 5, 1873 pg.1

8. Denison Crystal Ice Co. 210 N. Houston Ave. Denison, Texas.” Grayson County TXGenWEb, Elaine Nall Bay, 2013,

9. Bay, Elaine Nall. “Joseph Anton Euper.” Grayson County TXGenWeb, Grayson County TXGenWeb, 2013,

10. “The Grape Man of Texas: T.V. Munson.” Grayson College, 2017,

11. Carlson, Michael. “John Hillerman Obituary.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 14 Nov. 2017,

12. “Warring Factions Gave City Politics Rough Start.” Grayson County TXGenWEb, Elaine Nall Bay, 2014.

Other Sources

1. Denison Texas.” Grayson County TXGenWEb, Elaine Nall Bay, 2017,

2. Maguire, Jack. Katy’s Baby: The Story of Denison, Texas. Austin: Nortex Press, 1991.

Tell us what you think!

Striper Express at Lake Texoma

Lake Texoma Email Updates


Visit our Lake Texoma Sponsors!

Lake Texoma on Social Media


Lake Texoma Current Weather Alerts

There are no active watches, warnings or advisories.


Lake Texoma Weather Forecast


Mostly Cloudy

Hi: 71

Wednesday Night

Mostly Cloudy

Lo: 56


Slight Chance Thunderstorms

Hi: 69

Thursday Night

Mostly Cloudy

Lo: 61


Chance Thunderstorms

Hi: 73

Friday Night

Rain Showers Likely

Lo: 46


Chance Rain Showers

Hi: 65

Saturday Night

Mostly Cloudy

Lo: 57

Lake Texoma Water Level (last 30 days)

Water Level on 4/1: 622.95 (+5.95)

Lake Texoma Fishing Report from TPWD (Mar. 25)

FAIR. Water stained; 54-58 degrees; 3.69’ high. Striped bass and white bass are fair using slabs, shad imitations, and live shad on main lake humps and points. Largemouth bass are fair fishing plastics and crankbaits in shallow water. Crappie are fair on minnows and jigs by boathouses, marinas, creeks, and inlets. Catfish are fair on cut bait, and minnows in 25’.