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Legends & Legacies: Early Denton doctor received early medical training during Civil War

Cuvier Lipscomb got his early medical training the hard way, providing surgical assistance for wounded Civil War soldiers. The sandy, red-haired veteran became one of Denton’s most respected early physicians.

When Civil War turned Middletown, Mississippi, into a ghost town, 21-year-old Cuvier helped his parents, Dr. Dabney and Millicent Lipscomb, move to Tarrant County. He enlisted in the Confederate 7th Texas Infantry in Marshall under the command of his cousin, Maj. Khleber Van Zandt. Cuvier battled at Shiloh, Tennessee, witnessed the first gunboat siege in Vicksburg, Mississippi, and fought in the hotbed of the Civil War, in Chickamauga, Chattanooga, Jonesboro and Atlanta.

After each battle, Pvt. Lipscomb gained practical medical training assisting surgeons. Two years later, acting surgeon J.R. Crain recommended Cuvier’s promotion to hospital steward, the Civil War equivalent of a nursing supervisor. Cuvier completed military service in Howard’s Grove Hospital in Richmond, Virginia. While performing steward duties, Cuvier lectured for $28 per month and graduated from the Medical College of Virginia with the class of 1865.

Cuvier Lipscomb

Cuvier opened a medical practice in Birdville, Texas. In 1866, the 26-year-old married 20-year-old Mary Ann Walden from Arkansas.

The Lipscombs moved to Denton in 1870, and his practice became a household name. Cuvier maintained memberships in the Christian Church, Masons, the International Order of Odd Fellows and served as the surgeon for the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway.

Cuvier practiced medicine in a drug store at present-day 121 N. Locust St., near the northeast corner of the Square. He partnered with J.R. Burton in an enterprise eventually managed by son Legrand, who became a druggist.

Mary Ann Lipscomb presented Cuvier with 12 sons. Her unexpected death at age 43 left him to care for eight sons between the ages of 1 and 16. Cuvier’s closest friend, William Bowen Gregg, died a few months later, leaving him as guardian for three children between the ages of 1 and 5. The Mounts and Greggs, two of Denton’s prominent early families, united in grief and a romance developed between widower and widow. James Martin officiated what must have been a joyous 1890 wedding between 50-year-old Cuvier and 24-year-old Emily Belle Mounts.

While tending Denton’s sick and dying, Cuvier faced his own losses. Only six of 12 sons from his marriage to Mary Ann survived childhood. Thomas died just before his second birthday in 1870. Four months later, twin boys died at birth. Two-year-old Burton died in 1880. His wife’s death was followed by William, age 19, and LB, age 13, in 1890.

Emily Belle and Cuvier’s 25-year marriage produced two more children, Cuvier Jr. and Emma Belle. Emily Belle was president of the Ariel Club and the Denton Women’s Federation.

Joseph Priestley Lipscomb, one of Cuvier’s 17 children, became a respected ear, nose and throat specialist practicing on the south side of the Square. The house at 918 W. Oak St. was his wife’s wedding present.

Mark Finley / Courtesy 

Joseph Priestley Lipscomb, one of Cuvier Lipscomb’s 17 children, became a respected ear, nose and throat specialist practicing on the south side of the downtown Square in Denton. This house at 918 W. Oak St. was his wife’s wedding present.

Cuvier Lipscomb died in Denton in 1915 at age 73. Emily Belle Mounts Lipscomb died in Dallas in 1957 at age 91. They’re both buried at Denton’s I.O.O.F. Cemetery.

Their house, built in 1885 at 802 W. Oak St., served the family until 1970, when the city quietly rezoned Oak Street. Controversy erupted with its demolition and replacement by apartments that didn’t fit the historic neighborhood, the event that led to Denton’s Oak-Hickory Historic District. Fortunately, other Lipscomb family homes survive and will qualify for Denton’s proposed National Register District.

Parking concerns continue into fall semester at TWU

With new residence halls and ongoing construction at the Texas Woman’s University campus, the parking available in the heart of campus for commuters is continuing to shrink — leaving students concerned for their safety accessing remote parking lots at night.

TWU students Abigail Beard and Carli Varble, student employees who say they often work until after 9 p.m. in the Blagg Huey Library and park in the Lowry Woods lot behind the building, say walking across campus to an all-decal or commuter lot after dark threatens their safety. All decal lots are open to any student, faculty or staff with a valid parking permit.

While there is shuttle service between the remote lots and campus during the day, they stop running at 6 p.m. — when plenty of students are still working or studying on campus.

“Now we have to either walk down Oakland Street for some of that parallel parking if it’s open [and] if we manage to get there,” Varble said. “Or [we have to] walk across Bell Avenue and even farther to one of those all-decal lots or the faculty-commuter lot, and that’s terrifying in a place that’s not well-lit, and that has criminal activity because something could happen to you and nobody could see it.”

Beard and Varble say they and other students concerned about the parking situation on campus first reached out to Marcus Wenzel, manager of TWU Parking, Communications and Public Safety Technologies, who sent out an email announcing the parking changes.

After referencing TWU’s policy that allows students to park in resident and faculty/staff lots after 4 p.m., Beard said Wenzel stopped responding, which led to them creating an online petition earlier this month.

Mark Finley / Kara Dry/DRC  

The Texas Woman’s University remote parking lot shuttle station is shown near the intersection of Frame Street and East University Drive in Denton.

So, the two students created a Google Form petitioning for “safe commuter parking” and gained more than 900 responses in less than four hours last week before being removed by administrators.

Beard and Varble created the form after receiving an email about parking changes for the fall semester, including the rezoning of the Lowry Woods lot on the northwest side of campus from all-decal to resident-only parking. Varble emailed the petition Wednesday, Aug. 7, to students attending the Denton campus via TWU’s mass-mailing list, Listserv.

Varble said she received an email from Monica Mendez-Grant, vice president of Student Life, several hours after sending the petition telling her administrators had taken the form down. By that time the petition had gained 930 responses, and Varble said she continued to receive emails from students.

“There are a lot of people who emailed me personally and said, ‘Thank you for doing this, this needs to be done [and] this is an issue we need to talk about,” Varble said. “Obviously, there’s a large portion of students who feel they’re not heard.”

Mendez-Grant, who is listed as a moderator, said Varble’s email was approved before being thoroughly reviewed and later taken down because it did not meet the university’s standards for using the Listserv.

But Beard and Varble say they fear the administration may have been trying to stifle dissent regarding the changes.

“It seemed like they were trying to silence the voices of students,” Beard said.

Beard and Varble doubt they will be able to easily move their cars after 4 p.m. because they say many residents have no reason to leave. Although they say the lots at Denton Bible Church and on Frame Street do help combat commuter overflow, they worry they may not have time to find a spot on campus before the shuttles that take students to the remote lots stop running at 6 p.m.

Petition respondents expressed similar frustrations, citing safety concerns brought on by recent burglaries on campus and disabilities that make walking long distances difficult.

Jason Tomlinson, vice president of Finance and Administration at TWU, said adding more resident spaces is necessary because around 740 students who previously lived in off-campus housing are moving into residential housing this fall. Tomlinson said since these students will now qualify for resident parking passes, there will be less competition for commuter spots.

The university is also spending $4.5 million to build another residential lot behind Parliament Village, which will feature 517 spaces and open in the fall.

“That’s 517 cars that used to park in commuter lots that’ll no longer be parking in commuter lots,” Tomlinson said. “Between that and the free parking at the church, you don’t need as many commuter spaces as you did before.”

Tomlinson said by changing the Lowry Woods all-decal lot to resident-only and the all-decal lots near the tennis courts, new soccer field and Pioneer Hall to faculty/staff and commuter — a new delineation that varies from the separate faculty/staff and commuter lots and re-designates 623 spaces — results in a net increase in parking spots for commuters.

But students say there is not enough on-campus parking to accommodate the more than 5,800 commuters on the Denton campus in 2018, a number that could increase this year.

TWU’s Oakland Street Complex Garage also has space to house almost 600 vehicles, but many petition respondents say they cannot afford passes, which run $350 yearly for an unreserved space and $525 for reserved.

Tomlinson, however, said the university already takes a loss on the permits they sell.

“The parking operation at TWU today operates at a deficit,” Tomlinson said. “The expense of our parking permits doesn’t cover the costs, so that’s one consideration that has to be looked at. Nor does it cover maintenance — some of our lots are in disrepair, so it’s about looking at the total operation, which is what we’re doing now.”

As for security, university administrators say TWU is among the safest U.S. universities, and students concerned about getting to their vehicles safely can request an escort from the TWU Department of Public Safety.

Administrators also say they are working on installing cameras, WiFi hotspots and more lighting in parking lots, beginning with new lots. Varble and Beard say Mendez-Grant and Tomlinson told them in a meeting last Tuesday they were considering running golf-cart shuttles to the remote lots at night.

Tomlinson said the parking committee is still evaluating the parking situation on campus and will reconvene in the fall.

Kara Dry/DRC 

Pig handler for Swifty Swine Productions, Paul Vaughn holds piglet Honey Boo Boo as children pet her at the North Texas Fair and Rodeo on Sunday, Aug. 19, 2019, in Denton. The 6 p.m. pig race was canceled due to heat and small audience size. Swifty Swine has been in business for some 25 years, traveling across the U.S. with it’s pig racing and swimming shows.

Abbott names new election chief after voter citizenship flub

AUSTIN — Texas Gov. Greg Abbott appointed a new secretary of state on Monday after his previous one resigned amid backlash for wrongly questioning the citizenship of nearly 100,000 voters.

The Republican governor announced in a statement that he appointed Texas Workforce Commission Chair Ruth Ruggero Hughs to serve as the new secretary of state, a position that also oversees the state’s elections. Ruggero Hughs has chaired that commission since last August.

“I am proud to appoint Ruth as Secretary of State and I am confident that her experience at the Texas Workforce Commission will translate into success in this new role,” Abbott said. “Under Ruth’s leadership, we will continue to build the Texas brand on the international stage and uphold the integrity of our elections.”

The Republican governor’s appointment comes after former Secretary of State David Whitley’s office led a botched scouring of voter rolls in January that misidentified scores of people as non-citizens. Facing questions about the review from Congress, the state ended up settling a federal lawsuit.

President Donald Trump used the information Whitley’s office provided to renew his unsubstantiated claims of widespread voter fraud.

Whitley stepped down in May as it became clear that Democrats in the Texas Legislature would deny him the confirmation vote needed to continue serving. He transitioned soon after to a new job as a special advisor to Abbott with a salary of $205,000.

Republicans never forced a vote on Whitley, sidestepping partisan battles ahead of a potential fight for their GOP majority in 2020.

Dallas state Rep. Rafael Anchia, who chairs the Mexican American Legislative Caucus, said in a statement that the caucus invites Ruggero Hughs to work closely with lawmakers to rebuild department confidence.

“Texas ranks near the bottom of voter turnout nationwide,” Anchia said. “And when Texans sense that election officials are rigging the system, it reduces participation and harms our democracy.”

State Sen. Jose Rodriguez, chairman of the Democratic caucus in the chamber, said he is concerned about Ruggero Hughs’ vote in April supporting a rule change that exempts app-based companies that hire contractors from paying unemployment insurance for those workers.

The Democrat from El Paso said that rule change should have instead been accessed by the Legislature and that he is looking further into Ruggero Hughs’ qualifications for the position.

“I would like to know more about her background regarding voting and whether she has any track record of supporting more access to the ballot box or the opposite,” Rodriguez said.

Libraries serving rural Denton County expected to get boost from commissioners

People moving into Denton County are doing more than adding rooftops across the rural parts of the county. They’ve led to a revival in public library spending.

Rural libraries across Texas have been battered over the past decade since the 2008 recession. Libraries like the one in Ponder had to cut down on staff. Others scaled back hours or removed programs because of budget constraints.

Kathy Ramsey, the Aubrey Area Library director, said Denton County commissioners around 2009 asked libraries to reduce their funding requests.

“And we did,” Ramsey said. “We never really got any increases moving forward.”

That will change in 2020. Commissioners are expected to give 10 libraries that take county funding about $36,400 more next year than last year.

As the proposal coordinator for the Denton County Library Advisory Board, Ramsey proved to county leaders this year that people moving into incorporated parts of Denton County are putting a greater demand on libraries in places like Krum, Little Elm, Aubrey and Sanger.

Denton County commissioners are expected to give libraries that take county funding about $36,400 more next year than last year. Here is the breakdown for those libraries, according to the Denton County Budget Office:

Library2020 funding2019 funding
Flower Mound$57,000$50,500
Little Elm$43,600$36,200
Pilot Point$13,300$13,700
The Colony$43,400$42,800

“They all find us,” Ramsey said. “They all want library cards.”

The 10 libraries — in Aubrey, Carrollton, Flower Mound, Justin, Krum, Lewisville, Little Elm, Ponder, Sanger and The Colony — allow any Denton County resident to have a library membership for free because they receive funding from the county. They serve people inside city limits and those who live in development communities like Lantana and Paloma Creek.

Commissioner Hugh Coleman supported Ramsey and the advisory board in the effort to secure more funding.

“I know we need to spend money on jails, but spending money on educating people, we get a lot better bang for our buck,” Coleman said. “I think if we get people educated, it helps people pursue careers and education in the long term.”

Audrey Tolle, the Sanger Public Library director, said the $700 bump from the county won’t solve all her problems but does show her the county has faith in her library’s mission.

“They’re helping us get the message out there that libraries serve many purposes not just being warehouses for books but all the programs we offer, the computer access, the assistance we provide,” Tolle said. “For especially even smaller cities than Sanger who aren’t given as much by the city when their budgets are very small to begin with, the county can make a big difference.”