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MUNSON, WILLIAM BENJAMIN, SR.

MUNSON, WILLIAM BENJAMIN, SR. (1846–1930). William Benjamin Munson, founder of Denison, the son of William and Maria (Linley) Munson, was born in Fulton County, Illinois, on January 7, 1846. He attended county public schools and a college in Abington, Illinois. After a year, however, he could no longer afford the financial burden and was forced to return home. To compensate for the lack of a college education, Munson's father gave him a tract of land. Munson planted a wheat crop and worked as a public school teacher for a year in order to raise money to return to school. He entered the University of Kentucky in 1866. Three years later he became the first graduate of the agricultural and mechanical college of the university. His first job following graduation was laying track for the Rockford, Rock Island and St. Louis Railway. His performance and education resulted in the company providing him with a subcontract to furnish supplies for the construction of a rail line in his native county. He and his brother invested in a drugstore in Astoria, Illinois. A year later he moved to Texas.

In 1871 Munson arrived at Sherman and found work as a surveyor. He also studied law and passed the bar exam in 1873. That year he formed a partnership with Jot Gunter. The two men, along with Thomas J. Brown, attempted to persuade Sherman residents of the importance of attracting the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad to the town, but the community refused to supply a financial enticement to railroad officials. Munson then took matters into his own hands. Working with two MKT officials, he purchased land a few miles northwest of Sherman. The site was to be the North Texas hub of the MKT. He assisted in laying out the townsite, provided facilities for the railroad workers who would construct the line, and built a two-story brick home to act as a symbol that the town, named Denison, would survive. Denison not only survived but was an economic windfall for Munson. Over the next two decades he purchased large tracts of land surrounding Denison, including the land north of town that became the T Anchor Ranch. These purchases were made in collaboration with his law partner. In 1883 the two men dissolved their legal relationship. Munson retained the ranch properties; Gunter held the Sherman holdings. Five years later Munson sold the ranchland and returned to Denison.

Between 1876 and 1888, to please his wife, Munson lived in Sherman. He had married Ellen Newton on September 3, 1876. The couple had six children. In 1888 they moved to Denison. Munson and his brother, Thomas V. Munson, established a successful realty business in Denison. Munson established the Denison Cotton Mill in 1905 and served as its president until his death. He also helped found the Citizens State Bank and was a president of the First National Bank of Denison. He was an executive in the Denison and Washita Valley, the Sherman, Shreveport and Southern, and the Galveston, Houston and Northern railroad companies. He organized and was president of the Denison Light and Power Company and the Eastern Light and Power Company. Both firms later were purchased by the Texas and Pacific Power Company. Munson remained active in business and community affairs until his death on February 6, 1930. His papers are at the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum in Canyon; the Gunter-Munson papers are at the Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin. The T-Anchor Ranch headquarters has been designated a historical monument.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Denison Herald, August 31, 1947. Frank W. Johnson, A History of Texas and Texans (5 vols., ed. E. C. Barker and E. W. Winkler [Chicago and New York: American Historical Society, 1914; rpt. 1916]). Grayson County Frontier Village, History of Grayson County, Texas (2 vols., Winston-Salem, North Carolina: Hunter, 1979, 1981). Donald Joseph, Ten Million Acres: The Life of William Benjamin Munson (Denison, Texas, 1946). C. Boone McClure, A History of Randall County and the T Anchor Ranch (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1930). Vertical Files, Dolph Briscoe Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin.

David Minor

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

David Minor, "MUNSON, WILLIAM BENJAMIN, SR.," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fmu09), accessed October 30, 2014. Uploaded on June 15, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.