U.S. Presidents, first lady, visit Sherman, Denison area

I have written before about U.S. Presidents visiting in Grayson County. We all know about President Dwight D. Eisenhower being born in Denison in 1890 and visiting three times during his military and presidential life.

We know that President Ulysses S. Grant visited Denison in 1874 and spoke from the top of the first, free graded public school.

We know that President Harry Truman stopped over in Sherman in 1947 during his presidency after first stopping by train in Denison, getting out and taking his morning walk up Main Street before going on to the Southern Pacific Railroad station in Sherman to speak.

We know that President Teddy Roosevelt came this way in 1905 during his campaign for re-election while on a whirlwind campaign swing. He was en route to Sherman to speak on the Grayson County square and had stopped at Caddo, the home of a number of his Rough Riders, in Durant and on to Denison that welcomed him to Texas.

We know that another Roosevelt, President Franklin D., was welcomed in 1936 before going on to Sherman to be welcomed by a crowd estimated at 25,000.

It was on this visit that Roosevelt, speaking from the rear of his special train during a stop at the depot in Denison, said “I hope that some day very soon this great project of the Denison Dam will be started.” Two years later, almost to the day, Roosevelt helped make the project happen by signing the flood control bill authorizing the final survey of the Denison Dam Project that prefaced the actual construction.

While FDR’s visited has been published as being in 1936 with his wife accompanying him on a tour of the Southwest, the report that John Crawford came across and shared said she was here on March 11, 1940, and lectured in the Sherman Municipal Auditorium. The report was in a little Sherman history book by Ed H. Anderson from 1940.

Previous reports said that the outspoken Mrs. Roosevelt had very little to say during the brief visit to Denison, but an article published in 1944 said she was presented a huge bouquet of flowers by Denison women. It is not known if the dates are incorrect or if she made a second trip to Sherman.

During Roosevelt’s 1936 visit that had been heralded for weeks and included elaborate decorations in Denison, the presidential party didn’t leave the train. The excitement of the news he brought about the Denison Dam overshadowed the disappointment of the president not going into the business area to see the citizens’ welcome efforts. The crowd was so thick that a narrow lane had to be opened for the train to pull slowly into the station.

We know that President John F. Kennedy, former President Eisenhower, Former President Truman and at the time Vice President Lyndon Johnson, who later also became President visited the area to attend the funeral of Sam Rayburn in Bonham in 1961. Kennedy, Eisenhower and Johnson flew in to Perrin Air Force Base between Denison and Sherman and were transported to Bonham by helicopter. Truman came by train, and then went on to Bonham.

The article related how Sherman had one visit from a president, two from an ex-president and two from ex-vice presidents. It enlightened us on the visits from these dignitaries from D.C.

William Howard Taft visited Sherman twice, lecturing both times. First, he came to the area in April 1919, six years after his term as chief executive. Taft was a guest in the home of Dr. and Mrs. T.S. Clyce. Dr. Clyce was president of Austin College at that time. Dr. Clyce, C.B. Dorchester, F.C. Dillard, C.A. Shock and others served as a committee to meet with the ex-president at Durant and accompany him to Sherman.

Governor W.P. Hobby shared honors with Taft and introduced him when he lectured in Sherman Hall on World Peace. Governor Hobby called Taft “the most distinguished citizen of the world.”

Taft returned to Sherman a year later in April 1920 and spoke to students at Austin College on “Analysis of Conditions of Government as affected by the Spirit of Bolshevism.”

Thomas R. Marshall, who served as vice president of the country twice and as Governor of Indiana, was a guest in the home of Dr. and Mrs. Clyce in June 1924. He delivered the baccalaureate address at the Diamond Jubilee Commencement of Austin College. Marshall visited Sherman twice, both times to lecture at the college.

Tacked onto the piece on Mrs. Roosevelt and others was information on the first church services to be held in Sherman under brush arbors on the public square shortly after the town had been laid out in 1848. That same summer the first camp meeting was conducted by Rev. Custer and Rev. Duncan.

A bear skin covered the pulpit while the congregation sat on split log benches. The deacons and ministers were the only ones honored with chairs.

People from all over the country came to these meetings, arriving on foot, horseback and in wagons bringing with them their bedding, cooking utensils, children and dogs. The men wore coon skin caps and the women wore bonnets on their heads.

The article said that the first church to be established in Sherman was the Cumberland Presbyterian in 1851 by W.A. Province.

Possibly other presidents have visited this area, but not with the grandeur of the early day ones. Flying into the airport, shaking a few hands, then flying out just isn’t the same as riding in on a train, standing on the observation deck on the back and talking with the crowd. Times have certainly changed.

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