Answer Man: What’s the story behind the mule marker?

The mule marker is at Poplar Head Park in downtown Dothan.

Q: What’s the story behind Dothan’s mule marker?

Answer: The historical marker about mule trader Marvin Holman is at Poplar Head Park in downtown Dothan.

Given in Holman’s memory by Edith Holman Jones and Maxwell E. Jones in June 1981, the marker includes a small statue of a mule.

Before they were replaced by machines, mules and other draft animals performed many tasks in the fields and woods of Alabama.

According to the marker, Holman was a mule trader for 65 years and was known throughout the nation for the slogan “‘tolable’ fair dealer.”

“Opposite this site, on the southeast corner of East Main and Holman streets stood one of the South’s largest mule stables,” the marker reads. “Built in 1917, the 27,000-square-foot red brick structure was a popular gathering place for farmers and townsfolk and contained a ‘mourners bench’ for the traders’ comfort and consolation.

“The building was demolished in 1974. Tractors replaced mules and thus ended an era.”

The “Mules in the Wiregrass” mural at 148 S. St. Andrews St. shows the Holman Mule Co. stable and mules at work. Information about the mural on the Visit Dothan website says mules were introduced into the area in the late 1800s, replacing oxen that had been used to haul heavy wagons.

Mules played a part in the growth of the logging industry. Turpentine was the area’s first industry, and as trees became over-tapped for turpentine they were cut for lumber. Mules were used to haul the logs and clear the land.

Another marker at Poplar Head Park denotes the approximate location of Poplar Head Spring, which served as a meeting place for Native American traders prior to the arrival of the first white and black settlers in the early 1830s.

By 1858 the community, called Poplar Head, had nine families. The settlement petitioned the federal government to assign a post office, but because there was already another town in Alabama named Poplar Head, the name Dothan (a city mentioned in the Bible) was given to the new post office. The post office was near the intersection of what is now West Main Street and Ross Clark Circle.

The turmoil of the Civil War that started in 1861 and Reconstruction resulted in virtual abandonment of the community, according to the marker.

Only three families lived at Poplar Head Spring in 1881, but by 1885 enough families had settled to meet the minimum size requirement to incorporate.

On Nov. 10, 1885, the people voted to incorporate as Dothan.

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