Will Esler, founder of Esler Paint & Paper Company

William Myers Esler
1863 - 1948

Will was born August 16, 1863 in Tyronville, Pennsylvania to "Jack" and Julia Esler. He was educated at Meadville, PA. He lived a short while in Petrolia, Kansas, then moved to Denison, Texas where he spent the remainder of his life.

Will was 8 years old at the time of the 1870 US Census in Pennsylvania. In 1879 he moved from Kansas to Texas to be with his uncle, Jim Leslie. Will's age was given as 16 in the 1880 census. (The discrepancy in ages has to do with the different months that the census was taken those years.)

After an apparent brief stint with the railroad, Will went to work as a an apprentice painter, traveling from job to job in a wagon (picture).

In 1887, at about age 24, Will formed a partnership with Mr. Albert E. Clifford. Their business, known as Clifford & Esler, involved house, sign, and carriage painting as well as wall paper hanging. Later they went into retail paint and paper sales. Will subsequently bought out Mr. Clifford, and the store became known as Esler Paint & Paper Company.

While it remained in business, it was believed to be the oldest business of its type in the state, and it was billed as "Texas Oldest Paint Shop." A Dallas Morning News article reports that Will still had two items that dated back more than 50 years. One was his desk that had been given him by Maude for his birthday. The other was a sign that reads, "House, Sign and Carriage Painters." The sign used to hang on the door of the Esler store. (It now hangs in our home.)

Will once told WR Esler about taking a trip to New York to visit his uncle as a child. After two days, he was ready to go home. His uncle told him, "Well, you don't want to wear out your welcome."

The June 1, 1900 US Census, Texas, Grayson County, Roll 1639 Book 2, Page 271, has Will, age 36, living at 818 W. Main St., 3-WD in Denison. He and Maude, age 29 then, had been married 10 years. Will and Maude had 4 children then. Their youngest child, Julia, was not even a month old.

The April 15, 1910 US census, Texas, GRAYSON, Roll 1557 Book 1, Page 100a, finds Will living at 817 [sic] W. Main St., 2-WD in Denison. His daughter, Julia had died of pellagra, but Wilma, born in 1901, is now listed. Jane Taylor was still living with them.

The April 4, 1930 US Census, Texas, GRAYSON, Roll 2338 Book 1, Page 46a, has Will and Maude living at 1020 W. Morton, 3-WD, Denison. Their dwelling was valued at $8,000. WR Esler recalls that it was a two-story home with a two car garage.

Will was the first person in Denison to own a car. Maude would take him to work each morning, and he would walk home. The store's truck was parked in the second stall. Will was 66, Maude was 58, and all their children had left home. Will was still listed in the census as a Merchant in the Retail Paint business. Maude was listed as a Bookkeeper in Retail Paint.

A March 21, 1948 article in the Dallas Morning News reports Will still alive at 84 1/2 years olds, still going to the paint store once a day. By then the store had been in business over 61 years and was still the oldest established business running in Texas.

Will lived at 1020 W. Morton until his death at the age of 84 on April 28, 1948 (5 weeks after the newspaper article had appeared). After Will's death, Clifford sold the house, and his mother, Maude, went to live with her daughter, Elma, at 1800 West Bond St.

Will smoked heavily and probably died of atherosclerotic vascular disease. WR Esler remembers that Will had one leg amputated at the knee, then the other.

His obituary, found on the front page of the Denison Herald along with his photograph, can be read here.

Click here to see pictures of his grave in the Fairview Cemetery, Denison .

His Parents >>

Maude, about 1898. Her children appear to be on the front row (L-R) Ila, Clifford, and Elma. The other children standing in the back may be cousins.

Maude Taylor
1871 - 1953

On March 25, 1871 Maude was born to Joseph and Jane Taylor in Sheffield England. Maude was initially educated in her native England. In 1880 the family immigrated to Denison where Maude finished her education.

On September 21, 1889 in Sherman, Grayson County, Texas, Maude married Will Esler.

According to the 1900 US census, Maude had two siblings, both still alive in 1900. We believe that one was a brother named Charlie who was in the aviation business. While there was initially some belief that this might have been the same Charlie Taylor who built the Wright Brothers' first airplane engine, subsequent investigations make this unlikely.

Will and Maude had five children, three of whom survived into adulthood.

Ila, the oldest, was born in 1891 but died in 1908 at the age of 17.

Their only son, Clifford, was born next in 1894. He later took over his father's retail paint business.

Elma Kate ("Aunt Amo") was born two years later in 1896. She also survived and inherited part ownership in the paint store.

Julia, born in 1900, lived less than a year, dying from pellagra.

Wilma Maude (daughter) was either born in 1900 -- if you believe the date on her grave marker -- or in 1901 if you believe the census reports. She was married to Harry I. Neill. She died in 1932 and is buried in Fairview Cemetery in the Esler plot.

Maude, the mother, survived Will for nearly five years. She died April 1, 1953 at age 81 and is buried in the Fairview Cemetery, Denison. As the wife of a Denison pioneer, her obituary also appeared on the front page of the Denison Herald.

Click here to see pictures of her grave in the Fairview Cemetery, Denison .

According to the 1900 census, Jane Taylor, Maude's mother, lived with Will and Maude. She was 63 at the time of that record. Jane had immigrated in 1880 from England. Both her parents were English. Jane had worked as a nurse, but in June 1900 had been unemployed 5 months.

Her Parents >>

Family / Generation

Esler / 2
Taylor / 2


Their Children
  1. J. Ila Esler
  2. Clifford Myers Esler
  3. Elma Kate Esler
  4. Julia Esler
  5. Wilma Maude Esler

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