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December 2019
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Passionate about history: Mule houses of Jasper

mule lawson chevy

photo from Photos of Pickens County Georgia Facebook group

The new Old Mulehouse on the corner of Main Street and Highway 53 was originally a Chevrolet dealership operated by the Lawson family. The Lawson family did originally operate a mule house in Jasper, but not at this site. 

By Blake Moss

 

The much anticipated opening of the Old Mulehouse on Main Street has finally arrived. It is in the nearly century old Lawson building that once housed automotive establishments Lawson Chevrolet and NAPA auto parts, where my grandfather, Wallace "Pop" Moss, worked for many years. 

The name of the restaurant itself comes from a common building found in most small towns around the turn of the century called a mule house. It would be a large barn that when someone would ride into town to do their business, they could stow their mule there and not worry about it wandering off.

Like most of the towns, Jasper had one of these buildings near Main Street, but it was actually just across Main Street from the more modern mulehouse.  Eliza Cagle, a ninety two year old local resident, remembers the mule house being just behind the modern day Jasper Drug Store in the lot that Jasper Jeep occupied in the eighties. 

Mrs. Cagle lived in a house just beside the mulehouse which was owned by A. W. Lawson, Sr. who also sold lumber from the same lot. The building was destroyed at some point in the early to mid 1900s when cars started taking over the roads of Pickens County.

A common mistake the media tends to make in movies which leads to confusion when discussing these mule houses is that horses were nowhere near as common they would have you think in everyday use. Horses were effective and larger but going all the way back to ancient times, mules were preferred because of their resilience in hard weather conditions and strenuous jobs. 

Mules were bred by crossing a male donkey and a female horse which created a strong workhorse but it was sterile and unable to breed. In 1785 President George Washington had developed a dream to create an American breed of mule. But due to the small size of the donkeys in America, Washington contacted King Charles of Spain in an attempt to purchase a native Andalusian donkey, which was much larger than normal donkeys.

King Charles then sent one of his personal Andalusians named Royal Gift and two high quality female horses to President Washington, making him the first dedicated mule breeder in America. Over time Washington would breed a donkey descendant of Royal Gift with a Black Malteese donkey creating the American Mammoth Jackstock, which is the largest donkey species in the world.

The National Museum of the American Mule estimated by 1786 Washington had around fifty six mules being used in his Mount Vernon plantation in Virginia. His endorsement of the mule led to it being adopted all over the nation, but primarily in the hot and humid south. 

During the Western expansion of the nineteenth century, healthy mules were some of the most vital assets one could have. Many pioneers joked saying the mule selection process "required more thought than choosing a wife." While mules couldn't travel as far in a day only making around twenty miles, to a horses thirty. Mules were more self-sustaining being able to survive on occasionally eating grass found on the roads and had all around better stamina. 

Mules have also served in every major American war from the Civil War to World War One, although served in a very limited respect in World War Two. General William Sherman on his march through Georgia is said to have had over 80,000 mules constantly carrying supplies to and from his army. The mules never saw action in a cavalry charge situation due to their sheepish and stubborn nature, but were more suited to carrying artillery, baggage, food and being used as ambulances. 

The last two active mule based military units that were stationed at Fort Carson, Colorado were disbanded in 1957, well after cars and tractors had taken over the jobs of the mule in transportation and agriculture. 

 

Sources

Eliza Cagle

Mulemuseum.org

Oregonpioneers.org

[Blake Moss is a lifelong native of Talking Rock. He is currentlya student at Pickens High School. “I like to claim to be one of, if not the most, passionate history students at PHS.” Moss may be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .]