Mule auction provides peek into county’s history

Marsha Coleman of Millersburg, who raises mules, shows off one of three mules she brought to the Mule Auction last year at the Fulton Street Fair.

Marsha Coleman of Millersburg, who raises mules, shows off one of three mules she brought to the Mule Auction last year at the Fulton Street Fair.

Visitors to the Fulton Street Fair on June 15 will have an opportunity to step back into history and experience a real mule auction on the west side of the Callaway County Courthouse.

From the 1900s to the early 1940s, mules were extremely popular in Callaway County and were auctioned on a regular basis just outside the courthouse in downtown Fulton. Temporary corrals were set up and all types of livestock were auctioned, including horses and mules.

The annual Hit the Bricks! Fulton Street Fair revived the historic mule auctions, and will have one starting at 5 p.m. on June 15 on the west side of the Callaway County Courthouse.

Every year about two dozen mules are auctioned at the street fair.

The mule auction will be conducted again this year by the John Payne Harrison family of Callaway County. John and his son Jack will call the auction.

“My dad and grandpa sold mules there by the hundreds,” John Payne Harrison said. “At one time there was a big market for mules in Callaway County.”

Before tractors took over, Missouri farmers used mules to plant and cultivate crops. A mule has been designated by the Missouri General Assembly as the state’s official animal.

“People raised mules for sale,” Harrison said. “Mules were used a lot by t he U.S. Army during World War I. We sold thousands of Callaway County mules to the Army.”

Jack Harrison said the current market for horses and mules has been depressed for the last few years.

“Some mules won’t even bring $25 or $50 today,” Harrison said.

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