The Dornan business in Moose began 100 years ago on August 19, 1922 when Evelyn Middleton Dornan filed for a homestead on 20 plus acres along the east bank of the Snake River near Menor’s Ferry Wyoming. That year she came to Jackson Hole with her seventeen-year-old son Jack Dornan. The homestead property had been relinquished by a blacksmith. His cabin, after some repairs, was still usable. Jack spent the winter of 1922 alone in the cabin and worked for Holiday Menor who owned a ranch on that side of the Snake River.
In 1923 Evelyn and Jack had to find a way to make their land productive to meet the Homestead Act requirements. Their first venture was a two-acre potato farm south of the cabin along side the river. In 1924 the original steel bridge was constructed over the Snake River between the Menor and Dornan properties. While the bridge was being built Evelyn started a lunch service called “The Bridge Tea House” to help feed the workers. Her ambition, however, was to start a guest ranch for visitors from the East Coast named “Spur Ranch”. Jack began building three log cabins for future guests.
By 1927 the homestead had “proven up” and Evelyn Dornan received the title to the property. In 1927 Jack married Ellen Jones and in 1929 their oldest son, Bob, was born. In the 1930s the guest cabins by the river had a common bathhouse, and the homestead cabin was built. Spur Ranch now had plumbing, running water, and electricity from a small generator. The ranch also had a dozen horses for guests to take on trail rides and pack trips. In the later 1930s, Jack built a small store with gas, a small lunch counter and a “beer parlor” with a view.
After the Second World War Jack Dornan expanded the business with a new bar. He started the building in 1941, but it was not opened until 1947 with a full service liquor license. The post war boom meant more traveling tourists and fewer long-term cabin guests. The next business was the Chuck Wagon Restaurant that featured a traditional cowboy menu cooked in Dutch ovens over a wood fire. With an outdoor restaurant, the Dornans had to give up their horses and other ranch animals and eventually they eliminated their barn and corrals. From 1947 to the 2020s, all of Jack and Ellen’s six children have worked at various jobs in the business.
In the 1950s it was clear that the destination tourist business was the driving force in the Dornan business. In 1978 a separate wine shop was added, and the current bar room was built with a restaurant. The wine store became one of the main features of the Dornan business. The last addition to the building was the gift shop that was built in 1986.
The building that currently houses Snake River Angler and the Art Shop went through a history of different kinds of shops: laundry mart, bookstore, sporting goods store. The bike shop began in 1982 and the fishing shop began in 1996. In 1992 modern log cabins replaced the original cabins of Spur Ranch. Improvements and changes are made annually to the business in order to keep pace with changing demands and the needs of the public. “Dornans” has remained a family-owned and family-run business through the last 100 years.