The town of Denison, Texas (located at
Denison’s location is near the historic site of Colbert’s Ferry, a popular Red River crossing dating as far back as 1842, that provided access from the Indian Territory of Oklahoma to north Texas. Over the years, the Butterfield Overland Mail and other stage lines used it. When the railroad reached the river from the north, it built a bridge about a half mile upriver only to see it destroyed within a year by a flood. The bridge was rebuilt and again washed out several times more until it was finally replaced in 1908 with the bridge that still stands just east of the Highway 69 vehicular bridge.
Denison was the home of numerous well known individuals including the famous gunslinger and dentist John Henry “Doc” Holliday, actors George “Spanky” McFarland of “Our Gang” and John Hillerman (perhaps best known as the stuffy character in “Magnum, PI”), former Texas Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower, and pro football player Fred Washington.
Arguably the most famous individual born in Denison was Gen. Dwight David “Ike” Eisenhower, born October 14, 1890. Ike was born in a small frame house now owned by the city and designated the Eisenhower Birthplace State Historic Site. Ike’s family briefly lived in Denison while father was a railroad employee.
In the blue collar hierarchy of the railroad, the engineer was at the top. At or near the bottom was the wiper, Ike’s father’s job at the time. A wiper typically worked 12 hour shifts at the roundhouse and was required to pack every moving part of the locomotive with grease and then wipe it down. Following their brief residence in Denison, the Eisenhowers moved to Abilene, Kansas before Ike’s first birthday and they remained there until he graduated from high school. Ike would consider Abilene his home town, but Grayson County and Denison are both proud to honor Ike by acknowledging Denison as his birthplace.
Ike was a graduate of West Point where he and future close associate Omar Bradley played on the football team. He became a career soldier in the U. S. Army, rising through the ranks to serve as a 5 star general. He distinguished himself in World War II as Supreme Allied Commander and led Operation Overlord, a decisive battle that turned the tide of the war. Eisenhower went on to become the 34th President of the United States, serving two terms from 1953 to 1961. He was proud to have served as President, but he always preferred to be addressed and referred to with his military rank of General.
Denison is home to several museums including the Red River Railroad Museum on East Main Street in the old Katy Railroad Depot. Other museums include the Perrin Air Force Base Museum and the Harber Wildlife Museum.
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