Tadpole's Outdoor Blog

March 31, 2013

“THE MOSS HOTEL” BY: NEAL MURPHY

 

 

I had just walked out of the Augus Theatre that Saturday afternoon in March of 1946.  As I adjusted my eyesight from the darkness of the theatre to the bright light, I noted some people running toward the Chevrolet dealership south of the courthouse square.  Then I heard the fire siren atop the city hall building wail its signal to the volunteer firemen.  Something was on fire.

I was only nine years old, but I still recall the sights and smell of that large structure fire.  The Moss Hotel was on fire and the city’s two ancient fire trucks and volunteer firemen were no match for the inferno.  I stood on the southeast corner of the courthouse square watching with mouth agape as ashes and cinders floated overhead imbedded in the thick smoke.  I was soon surrounded by many other people watching this fire event.

The Moss Hotel was located approximately where the car lot for Mike Perry Chevrolet dealership now stands.  It was a rambling two-story frame structure and was known far and wide.  It was a favorite stopping place for travelers in the days before the automobile.

The fire was discovered around five o’clock when Mrs. J. J. Mitchell, who with her husband operated the hotel, went to investigate an odor of smoke.  A fire was found inside a box containing four gallons of turpentine which was stored on the back porch.  The hotel was in the process of being painted.

moss_hotel_1946

One of San Augustine’s familiar landmarks, the Moss Hotel was purchased in 1938 by Mr. J. J. Mitchell and had been operated by him and his wife since that time.  The Hotel was built in 1908 by Mr. Louis Thomas, who at that time operated a saw mill a few miles from town.  It was known as the Caney Creek Lumber Company.  When the building was completed it was taken in charge by Mr. J. W. Moss, who came here from Rusk County.

Mr. Mitchell stated that an estimate of the value of the property loss would be around $10,000 total.  The loss of the Moss Hotel was the second time that Mr. Mitchell’s home had been destroyed by fire.  Their home burned around 1931 when some gasoline exploded near an open fire.

The loss of this landmark hotel left San Augustine’s already critical housing situation further strained.

That event left an indelible mark on my young memory.  I had never seen such a large structure burn to the ground before.  In fact, I recall that I decided I wanted to become a fireman when I got old enough.  However, as I aged that desire waned.  I, instead, became an insurance man who would ultimately reimburse property owners for their fire losses.

“THE  MOSS HOTEL”

 

BY: NEAL MURPHY

 

107 HEMLOCK STREET

PO BOX 511

SAN AUGUSTINE, TX 75972

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