By Harold Fuller
Donald McGilvey, better known as “Mac”, who had a world-wide reputation as a driver of many animal, died June 12, 1909 in Hawthorne, of pneumonia and pleurisy after a ten day illness.
McGilvey was a man who drove the 20 mule team of Borax Smith down Broadway with one jerk line. This was at the time Smith was doing his national advertising and the famous twenty mule team was talked about from one end of the continent to the other and every newspaper in the country had cuts of the outfit.
“Mac” was picked up by Smith during his wanderings around Death Valley and was instantly recognized as one of the best drivers in the country. Being approached with the proposition of taking charge of the big Smith team, he soon found himself the actual “Master of Ceremonies” and before the dream had ended he had driven the big team through the principal streets of all the large cities in the land.
During the World’s Fair at Chicago, in 1892 he was granted permission to drive his team through the streets by Smith and the local officials and to the astonishment of sightseers in the Windy City, McGilvey, using his one jerk line, maneuvered his team around the sharp corners and traffic and really showed his expertise handling the team. After that display of skill with the jerk line, his claim to fame was assured.
The highlight of his career came when he drove the team down Broadway in New York City. Mac knew about as much about New York as a hog knows about Christmas, but he was game and when the time came he limbered up that jerk line, straightened out his twenty mules and to the complete astonishment of all New York he proceeded to drive down Broadway, in spite of the crowds, cars, horses, cops and everything else.
Some years later Mac was asked by a recently introduced gentleman how he felt about his Broadway experience and the old driver pushed back his hat, spat meditatively and said, “Well, of course I drove the team all right, and I drove ‘em right down Broadway. Course there wasn’t any particular hindrance and I recon I drove ‘em fairly well. None of them cars, busses, or that chuck load of people bothered, and I never had no trouble.”
Then the old man went back to his ore team and started for Lucky Boy for another load, which was probably his last drive.
He had been employed by George Box, the popular auto and freight transfer proprietor, for some time past and was only off duty a few days before his death.
He was a member of the Knights of Pythias, who conducted the services and was buried at the local cemetery under the direction of Gallager and Cavanaugh on June 16, 1909.
His is but one of many unknown, or unmarked graves that time has taken from us.