Mention the Moon family, especially Molly Moon, and Caddo residents will eagerly tell you their stories. Many begin with “I remember sneaking out to see her…” or “My mom never knew, but I went to see Molly…”. One local told me that she remembers going into the mausoleum when she was fourteen. “I was too frightened to see much,” she said. “I can remember a glass covered casket, with a lady with long hair. It wasn’t skeletal remains, but skin covered. Looked kinda like dried to the bone. My mother would have killed me if she had known I was there!”
Molly Moon, wife of successful Caddo retailer, W.J. Moon, committed suicide sometime in the fall of 1904 while W.J. was on a buying trip to St. Louis. He often went on buying trips for days or weeks at a time, sometimes alone, sometimes with employees. This news item is from a spring 1904 issue of The Caddo Herald: “W. J. Moon returned Sunday from St. Louis where he has been the past three weeks buying a large stock of goods for his mammoth store here. Mr. Moon always buys the best goods and his trade is always satisfied with the results of their dealings.”
Moon’s store was the talk of the town and mentioned several times in the Herald. Here’s an item from July of 1899: “W.J. Moon will in a few days be ready to occupy his 50x100 foot brick building and has commenced work on another building of the same size, which will be built of brick.” He operated the largest general store in the area, selling groceries, dry goods, hardware and harnesses, and furniture. Of course, like most furniture dealers of the time, he was also in the undertaking business and sold a variety of caskets. He had just started construction on the Moon Hotel. He also owned a handsome residence considered an “ornament to the neighborhood”.
We may never know why Molly killed herself. We only know that W.J. was so devastated by her death that he built a brick mausoleum, had her remains carefully preserved, and placed her in a $500 glass covered casket. He even left her diamond rings and pins on her, and placed a gold watch on a chain around her neck. “You see, Grandfather Moon handled jewelry in his store and he always liked to see his wife wearing diamonds”, stated his granddaughter Valentine Moon Craig.
John Clift, of the Denison Herald interviewed Valentine in 1977 and wrote an article about “The Legend of Molly Moon”, her untimely death, and her mysterious mausoleum. Valentine said she was never allowed to see her grandmother’s body. Her mother didn’t think it was right since she had never seen her alive.
At first Mr. Moon visited his wife daily to comb her hair and change her clothes and shoes. Later a caretaker took over the task of protecting her remains. The Moon mausoleum was open to the public for many years. The caretaker would take visitors to see Mrs. Moon and he would talk to her and wind her watch. After a rabbit died inside the mausoleum Mr. Moon decided to have a lock placed on the door. But the caretaker continued to unlock it for people. Years later vandalism forced Mrs. Craig to have it sealed entirely. Bars were placed on the windows and the door welded shut. Few people today realize that the sealed mausoleum also contains the remains of Mr. Moon.
After Mollie’s death Mr. Moon married two more times. First to a woman from St. Louis, who didn’t last very long. Mr. Moon gave her some money and put her on the train back to St. Louis after only six weeks. He lived for a time as a boarder with the Keith family of Caddo. In 1909 he moved to Dallas and met his next wife, Lula Mae. According to her niece, he met Lula Mae at a party in Dallas. Lula was seventeen years younger than W. J. They operated a grocery store in Dallas for many years.
W. J. was plagued by misfortune. His two sons also met untimely deaths- the first in a car accident and the other in a gin accident. W. J.’s granddaughter, Valentine, was raised by her maternal grandfather, John Droke after the death of her mother and father. Mr. Moon died of cancer in 1923. This is his obituary from the Caddo Herald:
W.J. Moon Dies
“At his home in Dallas Friday morning at 8 o’clock. W.J. Moon died after an illness of eight months. The remains were brought to Caddo and interred in the Moon vault in Caddo Cemetery Saturday morning at 10.
The funeral was had at the home of John Droke, conducted by Rev. W. B. Slack, assisted by Rev. L. W. Moore.
The remains were accompanied to Caddo by his wife, granddaughter, and several friends. Floral tributes attested friendship. The funeral was not largely attended because of a slight rain, and the fact that so few people knew about it.
W. J. Moon lived in Caddo about twenty-five years ago. For ten years he was one of the principal merchants of the town. He built two large bricks and the large Moon Hotel while here. He moved to Dallas in 1909 where he has since made his home. Jack Droke and family from Coalgate were here Saturday and Sunday.”
Yes, Mr. Moon’s third wife actually brought him back to Caddo to be entombed with his beloved first wife, Molly.
Here is his obituary from the Durant Democrat (Caddo News section):
W.J. Moon Dead
Friday evening’s northbound Texas Special from Dallas bore to Caddo the mortal remains of W. J. Moon, formerly one of Caddo’s leading merchants, but has resided in Dallas the past 14 years. The deceased passed away at his home, 3122 Hood St. in Dallas, Friday morning at 8:30 after a lingering illness of eight months. His wife, Mrs. Lula Moon and granddaughter, Miss Valentine Moon, were at his bedside at the passing. W. J. Moon was born in Alabama 60 years ago. He was a member of the Oak Lawn Methodist Church, Dallas and had been a worthy citizen of Dallas since 1909, going there from Caddo. He was esteemed by all who knew him. Many were the beautiful floral offerings that accompanied the remains here. He is survived by his wife, granddaughter, Miss Valentine Moon or our city, and grandson, Dooley Moon of Blanchard, Okla. Funeral services were conducted Saturday at 10am at the home of Mr. and Mrs. John Droke by Rev. W. B. Slack. Rain was falling at the hour for the funeral but a large crowd was present to pay their last respects to the deceased. They followed the remains to our beautiful Gethsemane and placed them in the iron vault which he had built 20 years ago. He asked that his remains be returned to his old home and placed therein.
After W. J.’s death, Lula Mae married and was widowed two more times.
Valentine grew up, married, moved to Texas, and later retired to Caddo, where she died:
Molly Valentine (Moon) Craig, 93-
A graveside service will be held at 10am Friday in Gethsemane Cemetery, Caddo, for Molly Valentine (Moon) Craig, 93, Caddo, who died Wednesday, Dec. 1, 1999 in Caddo Nursing Home. The Rev. Wanda Johnson will officiate. The daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Joe A. Moon, Mrs. Craig was born Feb. 14, 1906 in Caddo. Her parents died when she was very young. She was reared by her maternal grandparents, J. M. and Lydia E. Droke, who were pioneer citizens of Caddo. She married James R. Craig, July 10, 1935 in Durant. She had attended Caddo Schools and was retired from the teaching profession. She was a member of the First Presbyterian Church in Caddo and was a resident of Caddo Nursing Home for the past seven and one-half years. She loved flowers and animals. Memorials may be made to the First Presbyterian Church, Caddo Educational Foundation, or Caddo Nursing Home.