The Vagabond – Horse traders and mad stones


By Danny Crownover

The Vagabond recently came across an article about when a rainy day forced historian Will I. Martin to stay indoors and gaze out on some vacant lots across from his office on Chestnut Street. He was thinking of the good old days when the horse traders held conventions in downtown Gadsden (pictured at right). This was after all the saloons, gambling houses and the pits for fighting chickens had disappeared.

Those horse traders were a lively lot. Some of them drank their “drams,” while others went out for a big spree on swapping days. They reportedly ate cheese and crackers and cove oysters in great quantities. The oysters were eaten in a bowl into which were crumbled soda crackers, the mess being drenched with red hot pepper sauce.

It was reported that Morrow & Pentecost, a grocery store that had a backdoor that opened on those vacant lots, sold no less than 21 hoops of cheese in a single day, mostly in small cuts with crackers. That did not look possible, but apparently it was not far from the truth, according to one Tom Morrow.

Otto Agricola and Ed Anderson, two Georgia boys who operated a stove and tin ware business with a back door opening into the lots, were not troubled much with the horse swapping trade.

When they went into business, Agricola and Anderson signed an agreement to draw only $30 a month each out of the store. Anderson later Ed moved to Atlanta to become a fireman at $18 a week, leaving Agricola to run the business, which eventually generated a considerable fortune.

It was reported that a relative of one of the swappers had been bitten by a mad dog. Local folks recommended finding a “mad stone,” since it was claimed that such a stone absorbing the poison injected by said mad dog. Hasson claimed that such stones could be found only in the heads of deer with five-prong-antlers.

Robert Hasson possessed such stone, which he claimed had cured 19 persons who had been bitten by mad dogs. The stone it could not be located, however, and a doctor was called. Fortunately, the bitten horse trader soon recovered.

It was around that time that Gadsden was invaded by 1,200 sheep that had been collected at Leesburg and driven here by Tobe and James Daniel It was the largest collection sheep ever assembled in this area, before or since.

The animals had been sold to Calhoun County parties, who had in turn sold them to a sheep rancher in Bellbuckle, Tennessee.

The Daniel brothers did not wish to see a dog of any kind, much less a mad one.

It was around that time as well that Dr. Lander’s drug store in Hokes Bluff was exhibiting a chicken preserved in alcohol that had two backs, four wings, four legs and one head.

It was also around that the time that two blind brothers, Henry and Richard Clark, worked as mail carriers in St. Clair County. Apparently, the brothers were efficient in delivering mail on two separate mountain routes. The reportedly relied upon the intelligence of their horses.

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