‘Lost Sherman’ book reveals treasures of history

While looking for something else, I ran across a book published by the Sherman Historical Museum in 1981 titled, “Lost Sherman.” My friend, Joan Ball was editor of the book and a lot of other familiar names are connected to it.

The home of Capt. John Root is on the cover in the form of a drawing done specially for the book by Sherman artist Mary Margaret Robinson and lettering was added by Dorothy Howdeshell.

I know I usually write about Denison’s history and maybe a “Lost Denison” column will follow one of these days, but this book is so interesting I thought I would point out some of Sherman’s lost treasures.

The book was prepared to preserve some of Sherman’s history as well as photographs back when they were alive and show again at the time the book was prepared. A check with the Sherman Historical Museum told me that the books no longer are available. It’s a shame that they are sold out.

I only found two of the historic homes that still were standing when the book was prepared. As in most cases, more “modern” houses, parking lots or other smaller homes replaced the ornate historical Victorian homes, some with a widow’s walk and porthole window.

The Keliehor House was the only house still standing in its original location, but just before the book came out, it too became a fire loss to Sherman. Located at 812 South Travis, the house was first built by H.G. Stinnett, president of the Diamond Milling Co and the first automobile dealer in Sherman. Keliehor was a cattleman, dentist, contractor and bank director. He bought the house in 1912 and still owned it when it burned.

I thought one house looked familiar as I was thumbing through the book and on closer look found out why. It was the Bullock-Bass House, the first house moved to Loy Park that was the beginning of Grayson County Frontier Village. The house was the home of Miss Nettie Bass, who was born in the house and died there when she was 97 years old.

The house was built at 215 West Houston in the 1850s by Dr. Randolph L. Bullock, early Sherman doctor. It was the first house in Sherman that had glass window panes. Soon after it was moved to Frontier Village in 1967, vandals broke the glass window panes and they have been replaced with regular glass windows.

Dr. Bullock and Col. T.C. Bass, who bought the house in 1867 were both veterans of the Civil War. The house now is the showplace of the Frontier Village that has been assembled with pioneer homes and other buildings. The Bullock-Bass house was awarded a Texas Historical Medallion in 1972.

Featured in the “Lost Commercial Buildings” is one that just about everyone in Grayson County and many throughout the state are aware of. This was the fourth building erected as a county building and was built in 1876 in the courthouse square in downtown Sherman.

The story of how it was destroyed during the infamous riot of 1930 has been well talked about and publicized all these years. Sherman would just about as soon forget about it so we won’t dwell on it today. The county’s first court session was held in 1846 at the farm home of Robert Acheson on Iron Ore Creek near the present site of Denison, long before Denison was even thought about. Then a courthouse was built at the first location of Sherman.

After the town moved, court was held at the “edge of a grove” until a log building was erected. That building was destroyed by partygoers who had a little too much to drink and court was held under the Pecan Tree on the square for a while.

The present courthouse was built in 1936 of native Texas limestone. A new wing was added in 1964 and while the Grayson County Justice Center in just across the street, the courthouse still is in full use today.

In 1877 a Gothic-style jail was built at the southeast corner of Houston and Rusk that was said to have been inadequate almost from its beginning. Reading from the book that belonged to my uncle, the late Judge R.C. Vaughan, it was interesting to me to see how he underlined sentences that were of special interest to him. He did this in just about everything he read and I always feel close to him when I see his handiwork.

He underlined the paragraph, “The most interesting feature of the building was a rotary cell constructed in cylindrical form which operated inside a stationary enclosure of the same shape. The innovative cell was torn out in 1912 and the cell rail now is located over the entrance to Loy Park. The building was abandoned after a new jail was built in the new courthouse in 1936.The old building was torn down and the site was used by an auto agency for many years.

One of Sherman’s most historic buildings was the Binkley Hotel that was built in the 200 block North Travis in 1877. It burned 11 years later and was rebuilt, but was destroyed by fire once again in 1890. Once again it was rebuilt on the same location. The building burned for the last time in 1967 after having been abandoned as unsafe.

The Jewel Theater was one of at least 30 movie theaters that operated in Sherman through the years. Elegant stained-glass leaded windows were seen and stained-glass inserts in the double doors had the initial “W” in each panel. The letter stood for Jim Wilson who owned the building.

Other buildings such as Grayson Hotel, Washington Iron Works, The Opera House, city hall and the fire station, St. Vincent’s Hospital, Union Station and many others also are featured in the book. Fabulous early churches and schools, including Kidd-Key and Burdette colleges also are included.

It’s a shame that all these beautiful buildings had to go, but that’s what is called progress. It’s so nice to see a building with that much age on it that is preserved for us “newcomers” to see and enjoy.

Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at d.hunt_903@yahoo.com.