JOHN H. MCDONOUGH (1858-1938), a Kentuckian who came to Texas in 1884 as a member of the federal civil service in the post office department, entered private industry in Dallas in 1900 by buying control of the Murray Ginning Systems Company, manufacturers of a full line of cotton gin machinery, later expanded to include cottonseed oil machinery, linters, and allied products. At the end of his first year as a manufacturer, his firm was doing a yearly business of $312,000. Within a decade this volume had been expanded to approximately $1,500,000 a year. McDonough was the son of J. M. and Priscilla (Peak) McDonough of Meade County, Kentucky. His first job in Texas was in the post office in Fort Worth. He subsequently served as assistant postmaster at Denison, where he met his wife, the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. John Kirby of Denison. They were married in 1890.
“For a time my father also served in the railway postal service in Texas,” recalled J. Kirby McDonough, a son who is still living in Dallas (1977). “This undoubtedly gave him an excellent preparation for the work of a traveling salesman in Texas and other states of the Southwest, an enterprise he shortly turned to.”
McDonough did his traveling as a salesman by horse and buggy. When covering his territory he would be gone for many weeks, even months, at a time.
The Keating Implement and Machinery Company of Dallas acquired McDonough’s services for a time as a salesman shortly before the end of the century. This pioneer firm headed by C. A. Keating was located on lower Elm Street, between Record and Houston.
McDonough bought a block of raw land on Ross Avenue between Fitzhugh and the Episcopal College (present St. Matthew’s Cathedral) and built his first Dallas home there. Ross Avenue at that point was not paved, and the property was so far out in the country that the entire block had to be fenced to prevent stray cattle from intruding on it. The McDonough children, including J. Kirby McDonough, were born at this Ross Avenue home. “Among our neighbors,” the son recalls, “was a brilliant young lawyer, Hatton W. Sumners, who made a home nearby for his two maiden sisters and himself.” ( Sumners later represented Dallas County for many years as congressman.)
In the opening years of this century the McDonoughs became the fourth family to own and occupy the famous Dilley “Mansion” on Maple Avenue at Wolf Street, present site of Maple Terrace. ( Other owners had been the Dilley, the Wildy Gibbs, and the Royal A. Ferris families.) As the past occupants of the once-famous Dallas showplace, the McDonoughs sold the property to permit the construction of the Maple Terrace Apartments. J. Kirby McDonough verifies the old legend, or rumor, that the area on Maple Avenue where the house stood had been an Indian burial ground in prehistoric times. “I remember that when the house was torn down about 1924 or 1925 and foundations set for the high-rise apartment, archaeological evidence was discovered underground of Indian burials. No thought was given at the time to preserving the arrowheads, urns or the pieces of funerary art associated with Indian burials.”
The Murray Company, now a part of the large North American Rockwell Company, manufacturers and distributors of many different kinds of products, was a pioneer among Dallas concerns in the development of foreign trade, notably in cotton-growing areas in Brazil and other Latin American countries. McDonough recalled:
When we first went to Sao Paulo, the “miracle” growth city south of Rio de Janeiro, it was a relatively small city, probably no more than 250,000 population. Since then it has exploded in population growth to become the largest urban community in South America. It has several million people and a veritable forest of skyscrapers that would dwarf those in Chicago. There is, of course, an enormous cotton producing area in Brazil today.