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Walled in Denison: Stone Ruins off the old Jefferson Highway

Updated: Sep 10, 2023

A stone wall in the forest near Denison, Texas

Stone ruins near Denison, just a stone's throw from the Old Jefferson Highway, could be related to automobile travel or something else entirely.

A while back, a reader of Red River Historian invited me to come to his property to see a very old structure. I'm not going to give away the location, but suffice to say it's about a mile or so from the Red River in Grayson County, Texas. His property sits along the old Jefferson Highway alignment.

When the Jefferson Highway was named in the 1910s, it was not a brand-spanking-new road. Even named highways that crossed between states were originally maintained with private and/or local funds. Therefore, many of these highways mirrored paths that had been established decades and even centuries before. These paths were stage coach, military, or trade routes, some of which were even older Native American paths.

In Grayson County, a portion of the Jefferson Highway, which connected Winnipeg to New Orleans, was once part of the old road that connected Warren's Trading Post (today's Ambrose) to Shawneetown and to Holland Coffee's Trading Post at Preston. The road may have also been an earlier aboriginal path. It is now Texas Street leading east out of Denison.

Back to my visit at the reader's property: along this road are the ruins of a fairly large stone building, which now sit on the reader's property. Constructed of stacked sandstone (a building material used throughout the early settlement period in the area), the exterior had a stone/ cement/ adobe wash, which signifies that it was meant to be a rather substantial structure. I am almost certain (never can be 100% sure in history!) that this ruin is in some way connected to the road that runs alongside it, but was in use prior to the named highway, as the highways' roadbed deviated slightly from the original one. Perhaps it was a way station/ boarding house? A store? A mule/horse operation?

Whatever it might have been, it's a neat place lost to history, and a big THANK YOU to the reader who shared this place with Red River Historian.

Wall and post.
A bois d'arc post in the stone wall may indicated that the structure had two stories.
Mound with stones
As the landscape rises, the stone work is swallowed by soil.
Wall with wash
The adobe (?) cement (?) wash on the stacked stones look similar to original construction seen in nearby Denison. When the city was first founded, abundant stone was purposed into structures, including bridges, held together by cement.
Stacked stones
The stacked stone, without the wash, can be seen on the other side of the wall.
This 1858 plat map shows several roads in the area that would become Denison by 1872: the California Road (red), the Dallas Road (yellow), and the river road (blue) that seems to parallel where the stone ruins are now.
This sketch of the Red River area in Grayson County from 1843 shows a dotted line extending from Warren to the Post on Red River (Camp Johnson). This dotted line is the river road that runs past the stone ruins.

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