Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 27, Number 2, Fall 2015 Page: 34 of 67
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The Infidels of Denison
BY STEVEN R. BUTLER
"The world would be astonished if it knew how great a proportion of
its brightest ornaments, of those most distinguished even in popular
estimation for wisdom and virtue, are complete skeptics in religion."
-John Stuart Mill,
from Autobiography of John Stuart Mill (1873)
nison, Texas, a small city located on the
Red River about seventy-five miles north of
Dallas, is perhaps best known as the birthplace
of General and President Dwight D. Eisenhower,
who resided there until he was two years old, at
which time his family moved to Kansas.Although
their city's association with the leader of the al-
lied troops that defeated Nazi Germany in World
War II and then went on to preside over one of
the most prosperous eras in American history is
somewhat tenuous, the citizens of Denison are
understandably proud of it.
Denison is likewise proud of its connection
to Thomas Volney Munson, a world renowned
nineteenth century viticulturist who after phyl-
loxera (tiny, sap-sucking insects) threatened to
destroy the French wine industry, almost single-
handedly saved it not only by providing French
grape growers with valuable scientific advice but
also phylloxera-resistant graft stock from his own
North Texas vineyards. In 1888, in grateful thanks,
the French government awarded Munson a gold
medal-the Legion of Honor Chevalier du
Merite Agricole.1 Volney, as his family called him,
was also a respected local businessman and edu-
cator, receiving several other honors and awards
in his lifetime, including, in 1906, an honorary
doctorate from the State College of Kentucky in
Lexington2-where in 1870 he had earned a B.A.
and in 1883 a Master's degree.
Although the Eisenhower name is better
known outside of Denison, locally the Munson
moniker is equally well-remembered. Professor
Munson's two-story brick home, which he called
"Vinita," has been preserved by admirers, and
like the former President's, his surname can be
found on both street signs and historical markers
throughout the town, although in some cases the
references are to one or the other of his philan-
thropist brothers,J.T. and W. B. or "Ben" Munson,
for whom Munson Park and Munson Stadium
were named. T. V Munson's own memorial-a
hillside vineyard at the West Campus of Grayson
College, named in his honor and overlooked by
the college's Viticulture and Enology Center
commemorates his life's work. The celebrated
horticulturist's name and portrait also wave
alongside those of President Eisenhower and
32 LEGACIES Fall 2015
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Hazel, Michael V. Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas, Volume 27, Number 2, Fall 2015, periodical, Autumn 2015; Dallas, Texas. (https://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth712400/m1/34/: accessed September 28, 2020), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, https://texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Dallas Historical Society.