Alexander County

Biography - Leon E. Denison

LEON EMORY DENISON. In every community there are leaders, men of superior ability, energy, judgment and intelligence, who whether in the professions or in the business world, not only attain prominence in their particular line of endeavor, but at the same time are large factors in the advancement of their community along all lines of progress. One of the foremost business men of Cairo, Illinois, is Leon Emory Denison, who as president of the Denison-Gholson Wholesale Dry Goods Company and as a partner in the firm of W. T. Wall & Company, proprietors of a large department store, has done much to promote the commercial importance of Cairo.

Mr. Denison was born in Marion, Illinois, May 29, 1870. His father, the late Hon. Charles H. Denison, of Marion, Illinois, was a prominent financier and man of affairs in that locality who had made Marion his home and the scene of his business activities from 1870 until the time of his death in 1909. Charles H. Denison was born at Seneca Falls, New York, August 31, 1837, the third of seven children. His father, Edward Denison, a native of Vermont but of Irish descent, was born in 1789 and died at Marengo, McHenry county, Illinois, in 1872. At Utica, New York, Edward Denison married Evelina Hitchcock, who was born in Utica in 1808 and was of 'English lineage. They removed to Huron county, Ohio, in 1841 and thence to McHenry county, Illinois, in 1849. There Edward Denison spent his life as a farmer and died in 1872, as stated, but was survived by his wife until July, 1886, when she passed away at the home of her son in Marion. Charles H. Denison was reared on a farm in McHenry county and remained a resident of that county until his marriage, in 1869, when he removed from the northern part of the state to a farm near Bainbridge, Williamson county. There he alternated farming and dealing in live stock with school teaching until 1873, when he took up his duties as circuit clerk of Williamson county, to which office he had been elected as a Democrat. In the meantime he had removed his family to Marion, and upon the expiration of his official term as circuit clerk, engaged in the drug business with W. H. Bundy, but sold out two years later and gave his attention to handling real estate and live stock until 1890. In that year he entered banking', opening a private bank under the firm name of Searing & Denison, with a capital of thirty thousand dollars. From that time until his death he was identified with the banking interests of Marion and was a financier of recognized ability, conservative yet progressive. On July 24, 1902, the present Marion State and Savings Bank was incorporated, with a capital of sixty thousand dollars, of which Judge Denison, as he was familiarly called by his friends, was the largest stockholder and was president. At the time of his death he was one of the wealthiest men of Williamson county, owning besides his bank interests farm lands in that county valued at fifty thousand dollars, and other realty of an equal value in Marion, Illinois, and in St. Louis Missouri. He was for several terms mayor of Marion, his service in that office beginning in 1903. On March 21, 1869, Charles H. Denison married Mary E., daughter of Dr. Samuel H. and Mary A. (Smith) Bundy, the former of whom was a surgeon in the Thirty-first Illinois Volunteer Infantry during the Civil war, which regiment was raised and commanded for a time by General John A. Logan. Mrs. Denison, who was born in DeKalb county, Tennessee, in 1848, still survives and occupies the old home in Marion, where she brought up her family. To this union were born: Leon Emory Denison, the immediate subject of this review; Edward Everett Denison, a graduate of Yale University and of his own University of Illinois, and now a prominent attorney -at-law in Marion, Illinois; Lora B., now the wife of Charles E. Lane, president of the Union Station Bank of St. Louis, Missouri; and Samuel B. Denison, who died at Marion, Illinois.

Leon Emory Denison is a Harvard man, and was graduated from that well known and historic institution in 1896, with the degree of Bachelor of Arts. After his graduation he immediately entered upon an active business career, first as the associate of his father; then later he aided in founding what is now the Carterville State and Savings Bank. A few months after that he engaged in the retail merchandise business at Marion, Illinois, from where he went to St. Louis Missouri, where he was connected with the Rice Stix Dry Goods Company. He remained there six years and during that time acquired a great deal of valuable experience and information bearing on the line of business he has since followed so successfully. In 1904 he came to Cairo, Illinois and formed the Denison-Gholson Dry Goods Company, a wholesale firm with a capital of fifty thousand dollars. This company was composed originally of Roy Gholson, D. L. Mark, J. F. Roberts and Mr. Denison. A reorganization was effected in 1910, the capital increased and Mr. Denison was promoted from the office of vice-president to that of president. In January, 1911, another reorganization occurred and the capital was made two hundred thousand dollars. The company erected its own business house of six stories on a plot one hundred by one hundred and twenty-five feet, is represented on the road by ten salesmen, and gives employment in the house to some thirty of Cairo's citizens. Mr. Denison has further emphasized his faith in Cairo as a commercial city by entering extensively into the retail trade, being an equal partner in the large department store of W. T. Wall & Company, one of the fine establishments of its kind in Cairo. Having enjoyed the advantages of a splendid education and a good business training, and being possessed of industry and admirable commercial judgment, Mr. Denison 's position in the business circles of Cairo were soon established after his advent to that city, and today he stands in the fore of its most successful business men.

Since his residence there he has entered heartily into every movement which would promote the growth and welfare of the city, and in this direction he affiliates as a member of the Cairo Board of Trade and the Commercial Club. His educational attainments and happy social temperament render him a valued associate in the different clubs and orders to which he belongs. He is a charter member of the Elks Club at Marion, Illinois, belongs to the Alexander Club at Cairo, and is a member of the governing board of the Cairo County Club. Fraternally he is a Royal Arch Mason and a past chancellor commander of the Knights of Pythias. In political affairs he is a Republican.

At Litchfield, Illinois, on June 14, 1905, occurred the marriage of Mr. Denison and Miss Mary E. Bennett, a daughter of Dr. B. E. Bennett. Mr. and Mrs. Denison have two sons Richard Charles and Leon Emory.

Extracted 15 Jan 2018 by Norma Hass from 1912 History of Southern Illinois, Volume 2, pages 767-769.

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