Denton in 1883
Denton was established in 1857 to serve as the county seat of Denton County. Anglo-American settlement in the region had begun with the Peters colony grant in 1841, but the community, based on sustenance agriculture, grew slowly until the arrival of the railroads in 1881.The population of the city more than doubled to 2,558 in the ensuing decade. The railroad connections to Sherman, Dallas, and Fort Worth provided farmers an avenue to market cash crops such as cotton and wheat, leading to a sharp decrease in the production of subsistence crops such as corn and vegetables, but the lack of an east-west line prevented Denton from becoming a railroad, manufacturing, or wholesale center.
Augustus Koch arrived in North Texas in 1883, two years after the railroads had begun to change the nature of Denton. Although a number of wooden buildings remained, the courthouse square had been largely rebuilt as a result of several fires. As in many communities, the rebuilding spurred the local economy and inspired confidence in the community. The new buildings were brick or stone. Viewed from the northeast, the relatively new brick courthouse, built in 1875, dominated the city and was visible for some distance across the surrounding prairie. On the northwest side of the square was the two-story Clyde Hotel (13 on map), completed only the year before, with Jim Murphy’s saloon at the rear. Coal oil lamps on posts illuminated the city by 1882, but Koch does not show them, just as he later omitted electric wires and poles from his views.
Koch highlighted the railroads by placing them in the foreground of the print. He included the Deavenport Flour Mill (15) at the south end of town, the principal mill in Denton. The railroads quickly pulled construction toward the depot, and Gentry Thompson built a mill and cotton gin (18) along the west side of the tracks between East Sycamore and East Mulberry streets. The inclusion of stock pens near the railroad called attention to the fact that some citizens continued to raise stock, but Denton was primarily farming country, and most of the stock raising and the cattle trails were to the west. The railroads and ease of distribution also encouraged the construction of larger mills, and within a few years Alliance Mill had replaced Deavenport Mill.
There is no clear evidence that African-American churches had been established in Denton in 1883, and the fact that Koch does not show any, as was his habit, suggests that there might have been none.