The Surprising Background of Denton, TX
Denton, TX is well-known for a few key features. We’ve all heard about the famous rockers and musicians who have emerged after studying at the city’s own University of North Texas, such as Norah Jones and Don Henley. But this music-loving, college town has a past that may be surprising to many. Here are a few of the interesting, little-known stories of the history of this Texan town.
The Life and Death of John B. Denton
Much of the country’s history is marked with both the great achievements of immigrant ancestors and the unsightly battles and challenges that made the nation stronger and led it to become the society it is today. The background of Denton, Texas is no different.
The city’s namesake, John B. Denton, was a native of Tennessee who traveled to Texas. He was a Methodist church leader but became a lawyer. While towns began to settle and expand in Texas, there was conflict with the local Native American populations. After raids and fights and many lives lost on both sides, a company of men was organized in 1841 and they set out into the uncharted territory. They discovered well-established Native American campsites and villages, and split into groups to explore the area. While roaming the land, one of the groups—led by John B. Denton himself—was ambushed and John did not survive. His body was later retrieved, and today he is buried in the center of the city as a memorial to the city’s history and one of their founders.
Denton Flourished out of Frustration
Denton, while dating back to the 1800s, was in no way one of the first towns settled in Texas. About 7 miles south of where Denton currently sits, there was a town called Alton. While Alton—a small stagecoach stop—was made county chair in 1848, it did not remain county chair for long. When it was discovered that Alton had little safely usable water, another township nearby became the county seat—still retaining the name of Alton. Although this town began to flourish—homes were built and a post office was established—citizens of Alton grew restless and voted to once again move the county chair. Thus, the county seat was moved to Denton, and Alton began to slowly diminish. In 1859, Alton’s post office permanently barred its doors and little remains of the town today.
A Ghost Town with an Eerie Legend Left in its Wake
One of the few things that does remain of Alton, though, is a bridge. In 1884, years after Alton’s demise, a bridge was built on the old townsite. Called The Old Alton Bridge, and now listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this small structure carries with it a dark legend.
Often referred to as “Goatman’s Bridge”, this structure is said to be haunted by the Goatman. This legend stems from an incident in 1938 when a group of hateful men stormed into the home of Oscar Washburn—a successful local goat farmer known as the Goatman—and hung him over the bridge. When they looked down, they did not see his body. Ever since he has been said to haunt The Old Alton Bridge and the history of the town that became Denton, TX.
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