Strangers to Us All Lawyers and Poetry

William Benjamin Munson

Kentucky & Texas

Photograph used with permission of the
University of Kentucky Alumni Association

The University of Kentucky Alumni Association, honoring Munson as a member of Hall of Distinguished Alumni, provided the following biographical sketch (which is used here with permission of the Association):

Born in Astoria, Illinois, in January 7, 1846. Engineer. Scientist. Farmer. Financier. Lawyer. Poet. The first graduate of the University of Kentucky, Bachelor of Science, 1869. Died, February 6, 1930.

The first graduate of the University of Kentucky came to Lexington partly because his mother was a Kentuckian. He had attended the county schools of Fulton County, Illinois, and received a year of college at Abingdon, Illinois. With his brother, Thomas, he had taught in the schools near his family farm birthplace of Astoria, before journeying to the Bluegrass state (again, with his brother) to finish the four-year program (with some additional work) in three years.

A student of engineering, he also taught on campus and labored at odd jobs on Saturdays and during vacation periods. It was as a laborer that he began his career, with the Rockford, Rock Island and St. Louis Railway in Central Illinois, but he soon was promoted to the survey corps at a salary of $100 a month. He quit the railroad to enter business, furnishing piling and bridge timbers to the railroad. By 1871, he was in Texas, surveying and locating land for railroad expansion near Sherman. He began the study of law and was admitted to the Texas Bar.

While locating a site for a terminal for the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad, he became interested in the area around Denison (which was selected as the site for the terminal). He settled there to engage in the practice of law and as a real estate agent. In 1883, he was joined by his brother Thomas, and together they formed the firm of Munson Realty Company, which endured until 1915. Early in his Texas career, he also engaged in the cattle business, and talked often of his experiences with the Indians and rough characters of the Texas Panhandle area.

Pioneering continued to rule his spirit. He organized and headed the Southwestern Coal and Improvement Company, and opened coal mines at Coalgate, Oklahoma. In 1905, he organized the Denison Cotton Mill Company, and served as its first President. He organized the Southwestern Surety Insurance Company, and was its first President.

He organized and was President of the Denison Light & Power Company, and was instrumental in building two bridges across the Red River between Denison and Oklahoma. He also founded and was the first President of the Eastland (Texas) Power & Light Company.

He was President of the First National Bank of Denison, President of the Denison and Washita Railroad Company, and of the Sherman and Southern Railroad Company.

He wrote extensively for a newspaper edited in Mississippi and wrote considerable poetry. At one time he owned 75,000 acres of land and had a quarter of a million more acres under lease. With his brother and partner, he donated more than 200 acres of land to Denison for parks and later spent $20,000 in improving the parks.

[William Benjamin Munson biographical sketch, Hall of Distinguished Alumni, University of Kentucky Alumni Association]

William Benjamin Munson
The Handbook of Texas Online


Donald Joseph, Ten Million Acres: The Life of William Benjamin Munson (Denison, Texas: Privately Printed, 1946)

Research Resources

Thomas Volney Munson
William Benjamin Munson's brother