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Madison’s Black Beauty was a genius

Mickey Starling: Greene Publishing, Inc.

In the early 1900s, paved roads were unheard of in Madison County. On a rainy day, these roads could become pretty soft and messy and enough rain could leave roads a mess for days. Perhaps that is why Madison's Fire Chief, Malachi Waring, decided against a fire truck when that option came available. Waring did not trust that a motor would be reliable enough to serve the needs of the fire department.

Instead, Waring relied on a beautiful black horse that he personally trained. This was no average horse. In the 1900s, horses used by fire departments were normally housed at the fire station. Madison's equine genius was stabled across the street from the station, where City Hall is currently located. It is reported, thanks to the excellent memory and helpfulness of Mrs. Teenie Cave, from the Treasures of Madison County Museum, that the state fire inspector was unhappy with the distance from the station that these arrangements created and was going to require this be corrected. Instead, Waring said, "Let me show you something."

The two men stepped outside of the station and Waring promptly let out a whistle. The horse immediately ran from his stall and backed himself to the fire wagon, eager to be hitched. The impressed inspector spoke no more of the need for relocation.

The passing of time would eventually necessitate the purchase of a motorized fire truck, which occurred in 1926. The faithful horse was sold to a nearby farmer who sold milk door-to-door in Madison. This was working well for the farmer until the next fire broke out. Upon hearing the fire whistle sound, the horse broke from whatever pen that was attempting to hold him and returned to the station, looking for a wagon to back up to. This beloved servant had to be sold to a more distant farmer so that the fire whistle could not be heard. In the case of the Madison Fire Department, good help was not only easy to find, it was also hard to get rid of.

Photo Submitted

The beautiful horse that led the Madison Fire Department's last horse-drawn wagon was very well-trained by Madison Fire Chief Malachi Waring pictured in front. Beneath Waring's left foot is a large bell that he used to sound a warning so folks could get out of the way when they were en route to a fire. The photo was taken in 1910.

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