James Harris Draughon (1843–1913)
James Harris Draughon was a prominent businessman and civic booster in Arkansas and Texas following the Civil War. With numerous business interests in the Texarkana (Miller County) area, he was a central figure in the founding of the town that now bears his name, Draughon (Cleveland County).
James Harris Draughon was born on June 12, 1843, in Waverly, Tennessee, to William W. Draughon and Cassandra Murphy Draughon. His father died when he was less than a year old, leaving his mother to care for him and his six siblings. He grew up in Waverly and received his early education in the town’s public schools. He got his first job in 1857, working as a clerk in Dresden, Tennessee. Although he moved to Hickman, Kentucky, in 1858 and then to Christmasville, Tennessee, in 1859, he continued working as a clerk until the outbreak of the Civil War. In 1861, with the conflict growing, Draughon joined the Memphis Independent Dragoons, where he served briefly before reenlisting and later serving in the Company C, Twenty-second Tennessee Infantry. He rose through the ranks to become a first lieutenant and was wounded in the hand at the Battle of Shiloh in 1862. He was captured at Dresden but was paroled in the spring of 1864.
Following his release, he traveled to the West Coast via Panama. After visiting San Francisco, California, he worked for a few months as a bookkeeper for a local grocery business in Virginia City, Nevada, before returning east where, in the spring of 1865, he secured a job in Paducah, Kentucky. The following year, he moved back to Waverly, where he married Alice Spencer in 1866. The couple had three children.
The nomadic Draughon relocated to Gardner, Tennessee, in 1868. He then moved to Arkansas in 1870, making his home in Forrest City (St. Francis County). In 1873, he settled in Texarkana, Texas, a developing town situated at the intersection of the Cairo and Fulton and the Texas and Pacific railroads. There, he started a dry good stores and a lumber business while also investing in real estate. He became the young town’s second mayor and also served as an alderman. In addition, he served as president of the town’s First National Bank for a decade.
In 1885, Draughon built a house on the Texas side of the city, the Ace of Clubs House, a singular structure shaped like a playing card “club.” According to legend, the lavish two-story Italianate brick structure featuring a spiral staircase and a twenty-foot tower was given its distinctive shape in honor of the winning card in a game that had launched the nineteenth-century entrepreneur on his path to financial success. Whatever the truth, the house became a Texarkana landmark.
Draughon lived in the Ace of Clubs house for only a short time, selling his dry goods and lumber businesses in 1888 and investing instead in Sulphur Lumber Company at Sulphur Station. He assumed the company’s presidency, even abandoning his presidency of the First National Bank in order to devote all his energies to the company’s interests. In 1893, he sold his interest in the company and moved to what is now Draughon in Cleveland County, where he bought a sawmill and undertook the production of lumber. He also devoted his time to the development of the town whose location along the Cotton Belt Railroad line made it a potentially profitable area.
After his wife died in 1892, Draughon married Anna Northen of Georgia the following year. The couple had six children; one died in infancy.
In 1896, with the town that now bore his name growing, Draughon again relocated, this time to St. Louis, Missouri. There, he opened a new business, the Draughon Commission Company, for which he served as president until he sold it in 1898. He moved to Oklahoma, settling in Shawnee, where he incorporated the Round Bale Cotton Company. Constructing two large plants in the Shawnee area, he led a company that compressed and baled cotton that was then shipped to market, with St. Louis being the principal destination.
While he had served in public office in Texarkana and was a declared Democrat, Draughon’s greatest energies were devoted to commercial enterprises and not politics. In his later years, he served as the vice president of the Cotton Ginners Association of Texas and Oklahoma. Around 1903, Draughon moved the whole family back to his native home state of Tennessee, where the lifelong entrepreneur spent the rest of his life working with his son in the real estate business in Memphis. James Moore Draughon died on October 8, 1913, in Memphis and is buried in the city’s Elmwood Cemetery.
For additional information:
Henderson, Ashley S. “‘The Ace of Clubs’: A Social and Architectural History of the Draughon-Moore House, Texarkana, Texas, 1885–1985.” MA thesis, Baylor University, 2008. Online at https://baylor-ir.tdl.org/baylor-ir/bitstream/handle/2104/5246/Ashley_Henderson_Masters_Thesis.pdf?sequence=2 (accessed October 21, 2020).
“James Harris Draughon.” Find-a-Grave.com. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=8715523 (accessed October 21, 2020).
William H. Pruden III
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