Justin Raynal


First Raynal School 1891 - 1923

Monument to Justin Raynal






Yesterday – 1910 or 1914 to be more exact – a monument to Justin Raynal,  Denison school benefactor, was placed in the center of the street in the 700 Block West Woodard, just north of Denison High School. The school is the abandoned junior high school today.

Today that monument (stacked stone oblique) no longer stands. It was struck by an automobile two weeks ago and broken into large pieces.

Fortunately, the large stones were recovered but no doubt some chips could not be salvaged, according to David Howerton, public works director. The plan now is to find someone to put them back together so that the monument which has been there longer than most anyone around today remembers, can be replaced.

Officials now are trying to determine who owns the monument that stood on city property, but was placed there by a school organization. Actually, as automobiles became more prevalent, the monument was moved to the media for protection, according to Paul Jennings as reported in Monday’s Herald Democrat. That protection worked for more than 90 years.

Information that we could come up with is that the monument was erected in about 1910 (Paul thought it was 1914) by the Denison Parent-Teacher Association in recognition of Raynal’s contribution to Denison schools. This is believed to possibly be the only monument anywhere in honor of a saloon operator.

A native of France and a bachelor, Raynal, whose only education was limited to the common school offered by that country, came to Denison in about 1873 about the time that the brand new town was talking about building the Educational Institute, first school building in the city.

One article among historical papers reviewed said that Raynal was first in the hotel business in Denison and built the Grand Southern Hotel the year he arrived. Harold Holder, whose ancestors had a stone business here in the 600 block West Main up until the early 1960s and did a lot of cemetery monument work, possibly made the monument. Holder said he had read that the Grand Southern was the name of Raynal’s saloon. It could be that he had a hotel upstairs and a saloon downstairs.

In the early days in Denison Raynal had no connection with education.

Instead he opened his saloon at the corner of Main Street and Austin Avenue, according to Jack Maguire in "Katy’s Baby –The Story of Denison, Texas."

Maguire said that Raynal’s bar became a gathering place for the towns business and professional people.

When he came to Denison he had no political clout or ambition, but later he did serve two terms on the city council beginning in 1877. He was, however, very vocal about free public education.

Maguire said that the stool behind his bar became his platform on which he urged customers to support the building of the Educational Institute. For a town like Denison with a reputation for crime and rowdiness, Raynal met some opposition from many citizens who thought a good jail should have priority over building a school.

Robert S. Stevens and the Denison Town Company, got things moving when Stevens announced a gift of $1,000 in cash and a block of building lots on West Sears Street for the site. Every realtor in town began offering free land for the school, and then the 700 block West Main site was selected even though some felt the location was "too far from town."

Raynal fought hard for the school and was successful in that the community slowly came around to accept the idea and voted to build the school.

When Raynal died Aug. 4, 1879, he left his large estate as an endowment to the school system. He left to the city the building located at 202 West Main, where his bar had operated, for Denison’s schools. One report said that a mortgage of possibly $4,000 was on the building which was liquidated by the city. Rent from the building was applied yearly to the general school funds, the report said.

The town showed its appreciation by naming a grade school constructed in1891 at 526 East Morton for him.

Miss Nellie Moore and Miss Edna Foster were listed in a school report in 1904 as teachers in the Raynal School which was a handsome, two-story brick structure with a bell tower in the front.

For some reason, however, erosion played havoc with the building, according to a report by Walter T. Brown, and when the weather caused the bricks to crumble it was torn down in 1923 and a new school was built there. Enrollment at the school was never large and in 1947 only about 170 students were attending. It was the smallest of grade schools in Denison.

Dr. Henry Scott, superintendent of schools, said that enrollment dwindled even further through the years and was closed in 1979 along with two other schools, Peabody and Central Ward.

Scott said that Denison schools were overseen by the city until 1950 when a new form of city government went into effect and the school district became a separate entity.

That building at 202 West Main was the school tax office until the city, school and county tax offices were merged as an economic measure. In 1994 the tax office was closed here and the building was sold.

Raynal School was traded for a property on which a laundromat stood across Mirick Avenue from Denison High School. In 1985 the Raynal annex was traded to the city for property on the north side of Munson Stadium in Forest Park, Scott said.

The school district still owns property around the annex that is leased to the city for use as soccer fields. In fact, the city recently renewed the 20-year lease on the property for $1 a year.

It is the feeling by many that the oblique should be repaired professionally and the cost is being investigated. Holder said that he would help support a fund drive to raise money for the repairs and replacement of the monument. At least one person has pledged $100 to have the monument repaired and replaced.  - Donna Hunt


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