THE McBRAYER LIVERY BARN
Narrator: W.J. McBrayer of Hamilton
Excelsior Livery Barn
Large Credit System with Banks
The McBrayer Excelsior livery barn was built 1875 by Samuel McBrayer on Main Street, two blocks south of the depot. Mr. McBrayer was born in Daviess County, his ancestors having come from North Carolina. The barn was increased in size from time to time, the pictures of it in 1885 showing a bigger building than the picture of 1875. Later on, Mr. McBrayer built a big sale barn farther south on Main. The livery stable itself had about 30 horses for hire. In the sale barn, often there would be from 150 to 300 horses kept.
The livery barn kept a corps of drivers hired to accommodate customers. Some of these men were Sam and Jake Buster, Fred and Austin (Ott) Farr, and Mr. Eggleston.
The livery stable of the 70's and 80's and 90's had two uses - 1) to supply horses and buggies for pleasure drives. You could get for a Sunday afternoon drive a double rig, (two horses and double covered carriages) for two dollars. However, on some very important occasions like picnics or campaign speeches, the cost was higher and you had to engage a rig several days ahead. The other use was for commercial purposes. It gave transportation for drummers or traveling men to inland towns. Drummers would get off here at Hamilton with their four or five trunks, go to the livery man and he would fix up the trip. First the trunks would be put into a lumber wagon with a driver and the drummer with another driver drove behind. They made Kingston, Polo, Knoxville, Taitsville, Dawn, Russellville, and some towns which no longer exist, to sell goods to the country store keeper. They might be gone a week or ten days, and if the drummer's trip went east, they would go to Chillicothe where he and his trunks got a train and the two drivers brought the vehicles back to Hamilton. On such trips, the drummer paid all the expenses of drivers and horses. This sort of thing went on in these parts till the Milwaukee railroad, 1886, came to some of the above towns. The grocery drummer never kept out a team as long as a dry goods drummer, but he came more often.
When asked if goats were a necessary part of a livery stable to keep away disease, Mr. McBrayer said, "Nothing to it" but they often had a goat as a pet for Claude, the youngest son.
Samuel McBrayer (usually called Sam) had a son, Wm.J. (usually called Billy) the narrator of this story. He and his father bought the old "Excelsior" livery stable from each other several times. Wm.J. is a born horseman and still loves to talk about his horse buying days. At one time, he employed ten to fifteen men in the local barn and had about the same number of men in Kansas and Missouri buying up horses and mules. Over eighty people were dependent on his payroll. About thirty-five years ago, mules cost $300.00, and at one deal one of his buyers bought one hundred mules, sending in a check of $30,000.00 on W.J. Other buyers sent in enough checks to make his out going checks $60,000.00 which he borrowed from three banks, showing the strength of his credit. These things are of interest, because business is not done that way now.
He told how he happened to trade with the old Savings Bank. He had had his money in the Houston Spratt and Menefee Bank an old private bank of fine reputation here, but small. He offered checks on this bank while buying horses in Kansas. They would deliberate and then accept them saying "Why don't you do business with a bank on the National list? This list does not contain your bank but does have Hamilton Savings Bank." He came home and took his money over to Dan Booth, cashier of the Savings Bank.
He recalled when be bought the old red bandwagon - a high long wagon with a canopy top and seats running lengthwise. It held twenty-two people and was the popular way to go to the Hamilton Fairgrounds. He took it full of men to Gallatin to see the murderer, Jump, hanged. They used to have public hangings in the eighties. On that occasion, people travelled all night over the Gallatin
road to witness the death. Sometimes people would bring home pieces of the rope as a keepsake from hangings.
On the occasion of W.J. Bryan's first race for the presidency, in the 16 to 1 days, he recalled that fifty to seventy-five white horses were collected from here and elsewhere to accommodate girls who were riding in Bryan's silver procession.
Interviewed March 1934.
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All photos are copyright KingsCross Farm, 1997 & 1998