About 16 years ago, a man named Bill Snell, who was living in Denison at the time, was spending some heavy reading thumbing through old Denison City Directories looking for information about J.B. McDougall, one of Denison’s early, colorful businessmen.
In his reading, he learned that McDougall’s empire grew year by year. All this research began when Snell and his son, Dave, found some hotel room tags and other items with their metal detectors while digging around the ruins of burned homes in Denison several years earlier.
McDougall as proprietor of the McDougall Hotel first appeared in a directory in 1887, but he was in business long before then in 1876 with a wine and liquor store at 227 West Main. Actually this was a saloon and Charles H. Moulton, a relative and possibly the father of George D. Moulton, was bartender at the McDougall business.
George Moulton much later became known as “The father of the Denison Dam.” He was born in Chicago in 1869 and moved with his family to Denison when the town was still a tent city. In fact, the family’s first home is believed to have been a tent set up in what is now the 400 block of West Morton. The family moved here for his dad’s health, but he died a few years later. Moulton’s mother then married Col. J.B. McDougall.
Directories for 1878 through 1886 were missing, but by the time 1887 rolled around, John B. McDougall had expanded his business interests to include the McDougall Hotel, a part of the Katy Railroad Depot, the Denison Opera House in the 200 block on the north side of Rusk Avenue, and the Bank Exchange Saloon, located at the site of the former Wine and Liquors Saloon.
A dear old friend, the late Frank McCune, when he was writing his family history for the “History of Grayson County,” related a story told to him by his uncle about four men being killed on July 4, 1879, at the Bank Exchange Saloon run by McDougall.
Frank also told stories about Cole Younger and Jesse James. The James boys, according to Frank, had fought for the Confederacy under Col. McDougall and the colonel was always loyal to “his boys.” When the James brothers came to Denison under careful disguise, McDougall would supply them with food and liquor while they were hiding at K. Murphy’s barn on East Main. In a column a few days ago was another story about McDougall allowing the brothers to sleep on the floor of the opera house before being driven to a ferry on Red River early the next morning.
By 1891 and 1892, McDougall had become vice president of the Denison Light and Power Company and by 1893, he was listed as proprietor of McDougall Hotel, McDougall Hotel Steam Laundry at 224 West Woodard, McDougall’s Opera House and the Bank Exchange Saloon. Also, he was director of the National Bank, State National Bank and the First National Bank, all of Denison.
A man named Aulson S. Bouchard had joined McDougall in the hotel business at the Katy Railroad depot and the two also were proprietors of the Albany Hotel and bar at 324-326 West Main, and of the steam laundry. The Snow White Laundry was established in 1898 by a Mr. McDougall, possibly our Mr. J.B. McDougall.
Through the early years of 1900, McDougall was listed as living at 412 West Morton and still involved in the saloon, the steam laundry, and the light and power company. By 1907, he had a wife, Margaret, who was George Moulton’s mother. During that year E.R., G.D., Florence and Edmund R. Moulton also resided at 412 West Morton.
That location has been the Inn of Many Faces for a number of years and in October was purchased by Glen and Doris Davis, who have changed the name to Davis On Morton. They plan to open a bed and breakfast there in the near future. Currently, they are doing some remodeling. The Davises, in celebration of their 40th wedding anniversary last fall came to the bed and breakfast from their home in Rowlett, found it was for sale and bought it. They now consider themselves Denisonians.
By 1913, George Moulton had married Daisy Bryant McLynn and they, too, were living there. By that time, McDougall was president of the Denison Bank and Trust Co., and vice president and secretary of the Denison Grocery Co., at 112-114 North Houston.
The Denison Bank and Trust was located at 229 West Main and had been incorporated in 1905 with $100,000 in capital.
By 1921, McDougall’s name was no longer listed in the city directory, but George D. and Daisy Moulton were still living at 412 West Morton. John B., who was born in 1819, died in 1920 at the ripe old age of 101. His wife, Margaret was born in 1879 and died in 1917. Both are buried at Calvary Cemetery.
Most people don’t realize that reading city directories can produce such interesting tidbits of information. Snell re-enforced his findings with such information as tales from Frank McCune and a story on George Moulton by Mrs. Joe Dornstadter in the “History of Grayson County.”
Moulton always will be remembered as the man who first had the idea for the Denison Dam. He fought for it and his determination actually made his dream come true.
The name McDougall from Denison’s past was involved in many endeavors during the town’s earlier days. In fact, the three stained glass windows behind the altar at St. Patrick’s Catholic Church were placed there by McDougall in memory of members of his family.
When Snell found the McDougall Hotel tags for rooms 40, 41 and 42, he had no idea what fun he was going to have delving into the hotel’s history.
Donna Hunt is former editor of The Denison Herald. She lives in Denison and can be contacted at email@example.com.