By Shaun Treat
Veteran’s Day seems a perfect opportunity to look back on the truly unique contributions and characters in Denton history as a salute to our family and friends in the U.S. Armed Services. Well, them and maybe more’n a few soldiers who actually took up arms against the USA, which gives us some food for thought on the nature of patriotism from back in the day.
Today, folks tend to throw around the word “patriotism” or “patriotic” as if it’s a natural God-given good thing, but this ain’t always been the case. The classical Greeks invoked patrios ("of one's fathers") or pater (genitive patros, "father"), note scholars Liddell & Scott, as derision "applied to barbarians who had only a common [patris], [politai] being used of Greeks who had a common [polis] (or free-state)." Connotations towards non-thinking knuckle-dragging nationalists endured into the mid 18th century as “a factious disturber of the government." Little wonder then, that cantankerous American revolutionaries took up the term as a banner of pride, and so it has endured. The City of Denton was barely 3 years old when the “War between the States” began, pitting an increasingly abolitionist United States against the South’s secessionist Confederacy. Denton narrowly supported secession by 75 votes in 1861 but, our representative James W. Throckmorton was one of only 7 to vote against it to the boos of the Austin gallery. Throckmorton is said to have loudly retorted: “Well may patriots tremble, when the rabble hiss!!” Although smallholding Dentonites complained it was “a rich man’s war but the poor man’s fight”, since most large Texas slaveholders outrageously earned conscriptions that exempted them from fighting in the Civil War, make no mistake that most of Denton’s loyal Texas sons volunteered to great personal cost. These old timers were so hard, y’all, a 72 year-old Denton County local straight-up walked to a Confederate Veterans Reunion in Macon GA, over 900 miles away!! It took ole J.C. Williams 65 days!
Many folks may not realize that Veteran’s Day was actually the 1938 rebranding of Armistice Day, the holiday commemorating the cessation of armed World War I hostilities between the Allies and Germany that went into effect on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month in 1918. This end of the terrible “Great War” was celebrated “with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service” and “because of the opportunity it has given America to show her sympathy with peace and justice in the councils of the nations…" After the announcement of the end of WWI in 1919, Denton celebrations included the cancellation of schools and business, a parade around the downtown Square accompanied by campus bands, fireworks from the Denton Courthouse well into the night, and a few maniac soldiers riding a goshdurned TANK around the frackin’ Square!! Boy howdy, Denton has always loved excuses for a parade!
But hey now, we also promised stories of kickbutt heroes, right? Rest assured, Denton has plenty! Here, then, is my photoessay as a big THANK YOU to all those veterans who have served and are still keeping America safe with their courage and commitment! Take a free trip on the DCTA A-rain today, y’all deserve it!
Shaun Treat is founder of the Denton Haunts historical ghost tour. Treat has written about numerous local places and personalities at his Denton Haunts blog, and is forever indebted to the great work of the fine folks with the Denton County Department of History & Culture as well as our local keepers of history like Mike Cochran and Laura Douglas at the Emily Fowler Library for their tireless work in helping preserve Denton’s intriguing past.