Monday, October 8, 2012

Douglasville's Own Mule Whisperer


The Sheriff's Department page at CelebrateDouglas.com has a wonderful listing of every sheriff who has served the county with a small amount of biographical information compiled by Joe Baggett.

With regards to Sheriff Mac Claude Abercrombie, Sr. the site states he served as sheriff from 1933-1952 defeating Seawright Baggett in the 1932 election by 24 votes.  Abercrombie started business in 1923 with a grocery store on Broad Street, later moving to Church Street near his father's barn and blacksmith shop.   At the time of his election, he operated a dairy on Fairburn Road on Dura Lee Lane.  

Abercrombie retired to operate a stable at the corner of Church Street and Club Drive, now the county jail parking lot, and later owned Timber Ridge Stables.

Early on in his life Mr. Mac, as many around Douglas County remember him, worked with his father trading mules.   In 1918, his family moved to Phoenix, Arizona where they remained for three years trading mules and delivering them all over the area.  

In the video I've posted below... filmed in 1986.... Mr. Mac tells about his father having a contract with the Harvey Company while they were living in Arizona. 

Now the Harvey Company.....or the Fred Harvey Company to be exact.....had been granted the concession contact with the Grand Canyon in 1922.  The Harvey Company had started operating many of the restaurants found along the rail lines throughout the western section of the United States.  They were basically the first restaurant chain established in this country, and early in the 20th century they saw an opportunity with the Grand Canyon.

Now mules had been used since the 1840s  to carry men and materials down into the canyon when prospectors were thinking there was treasure to be found, but early on folks realized the real gold mine at the Grand Canyon wasn't from prospecting, but from tourism.  When Theodore Roosevelt rode down into the canyon in 1913 he made the trails even more appealing to tourists.

In order to fulfill the contract with the Harvey Company, Mr. Mac's father had to travel to Texas and bought 30 mules. The animals were then broken and trained before delivering them to the Grand Canyon.  

In the video Mr. Mac tells about staying on at the canyon with the mules stating that they were a bit short-handed.  My research indicates that during 1920 the Phantom Ranch was being built at the bottom of the canyon, so more than likely the mules the Abercrombies delivered to the canyon were....for a  time....involved with transporting the building materials down to the bottom of the canyon...as well as tourists.  






In the video Mr. Mac mentioned the numerous young people that hung around the barns and helped him through the years.   He referred to them as " barn rats", and they called him "Mr. Mac". If you watched the video you saw the part where he mentioned giving the kids a quarter back when you could actually go to a movie and get some form of refreshment for such a small amount. 

Mr. Mac also mentions the decline of the mule business as gradually more and more farmers stopped depending on them to pull the plows and began using tractors.  As a result he began to get more and more involved with horses at that point....during the 1950s. 

The video below shows many of the different locations of Mr. Mac's various mule barns which in the beginning were were located in downtown Douglasville.





This last video is a tribute to Mr. Mac with lots of different pictures and newspaper clippings






Of course, I haven't even begun to touch Mr. Mac's long career as our sheriff which was filled with interesting events as well including a few stills that were tracked down and destroyed.  I'm on the research trail and hope to bring that installment soon!

Mr. Mac passed away at the age of 90 in 1994.   An article published in the Douglas County Sentinel states, "At 'the barn' one could find an honest horse trader, gifted storyteller and a real man of integrity in Mr. Mac."

A very nice tribute website to Mr. Mac can be found here. 

I have a feeling I would have loved to have known Mr. Mac!

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