Located in Dresden TN, Moran Place was built by J.W. Moran for his wife Sophia Reilly Gunn. The house is a modified design of George Barber's Cottage no. 36 from Book No. 2. Construction began in early 1895 but put on hold when Sophia became Ill and died Oct 7 1895. Construction resumed a few months later.
Saturday, April 6, 2013
From Bank President to Farmer
J.H.Moran III President, Bank of Dresden
Prior to the depression the Moran family owned the Bank of Dresden and Jim Moran III was the president while Harrell (Uncle Brud) Moran was the chief bank clerk. Jim was the youngest bank president in the State of Tennessee. He invested heavily in the Dresden bank and other banks too.
Brud diversified his interests and one way he did that was buying land. Sharecroppers worked the land owned by Brud. We don't know what he drove prior to 1929 but many people remembered Brud driving his 1929 Dodge to check on the land and the sharecroppers.
When the Bank of Dresden failed in 1927 Jim was devastated financially and while Brud was hit hard it didn't wipe him out. Due to Brud's financial savvy the Moran's were able to keep Moran Place and all of the property together but not enough money to maintain it forever.
One of the family stories about Jim and his "good time attitude" is that prior to the bank failing he had the opportunity to buy a beautiful house on Linden Street that eventually was purchase by Ned Ray McWherter. But he didn't. He chose to buy a sports car to the deep disappointment of the family.
So what happened after the bank failed? They did whatever they had to, to survive. Jim, who had been elected to the state legislature in 1925, probably used his political connections to secure a position as a bank examiner for the Federal Housing Authority. He worked in Memphis and would commute back to Dresden on the weekends. He also spent time in Little Rock for the FHA. Brud continued taking care of the land holdings. Most of the servants and workers were let go but a few were retained. Kitty was the cook and housekeeper and we think she may have been an Irvine. Some of the other Irvine's were retained and there are memories of one of the Irvine's visiting Moran Place in the 1980's to visit Nathan Moran prior to his death. Jim's wife, Virginia, began canning the crops that were raised in the garden. Their sons Jim the IV and Nathan were put to work farming as well. Nathan continued having a rather large garden up until his death in 1982 and Kent remembers working that garden as well as canning.
This photograph was taken in the 1930's and shows Jim plowing the Moran Place garden. The small out building behind him is the old smokehouse which was originally an ice house or storage building, it's been called both through the years. It was built using soft bricks, the same bricks used in Moran Place which would cause problems throughout the years because they crumbled. The white on the smokehouse is where Nathan Moran had begun stuccoing the building in an attempt to keep the bricks from deteriorating further. The ice house was converted to a smokehouse after the depression so that they could smoke their own hams. In addition to growing their own food they also had cows and pigs. They also were given the occasional pig by some of the sharecroppers.
Jim Moran III, plowing at Moran Place ca 1930's
Everyone settled into their new way of life. They may not have been rich in money but they were rich in family and friends. And of course, they still had Moran Place.