“Dollie is Dead.” That’s what the headline said in the Paducah Daily Sun on this date, February 25, 1897, and the brief obituary that followed stated that Dollie was promptly buried at 3 in the afternoon at Oak Grove Cemetery, which also happened to be her place of employment.
Yet, the obituary never mentioned Dollie’s last name.
Because Dollie didn’t have a last name.
Because Dollie was a mule.
That’s right. Among the 40,000 souls who have found their eternal rest at Oak Grove Cemetery is a mule named Dollie who was a loyal city employee for over 30 years.
Born in Marshall County around 1861, Dollie was brought to Paducah just after the war to work in the city fire department. Described as spry and scrubby, Dollie pulled the hose carriage faithfully for sixteen years, never once coming down sick or lame in that time. It was said that Dollie was so good at her job that at the sound of fire bells, she could make her way to the nearest water cistern without having to be driven.
Around 1880, however, Dollie found herself out of work, as the mule’s job at the fire department had been outsourced to horses. Undaunted, Dollie found a second career at Oak Grove Cemetery, trusted with the care and delivery of those who had shuffled off their mortal coils. Old habits died hard with Dollie, however, and in her first couple years at the cemetery she would wildly run up and down the aisles whenever she heard fire alarms. But she eventually found a calm stride and became a beloved graveside fixture. She served Paducah at Oak Grove for another sixteen years.
So, revered was Dollie’s loyal service to the city, that when she grew too old to fulfill her duties, a proposal was adopted by the city council that “Dollie be forever exempted from work, and that every attention be paid until death came.” The city remained true to its promise, and Dollie lived another year in unburdened comfort until her passing on February 25, 1897.
Though the obituary on the day of her death was quite brief, a follow-up obituary was published on the day after which took up an entire column in the newspaper. The article was written by the managing editor of the Paducah Daily Sun, who just so happened to be Irvin Cobb, and quite frankly, his words about Dollie were beautiful.
Cobb wrote: “The death of Old Dollie, the graveyard factotum, and beast of many municipal burdens, deserves more than a passing notice, for Dollie was an odd character—an animal as faithful as she was perennial. Dollie was as indispensable to Oak Grove as sugar is to a good toddy, and now that she is dead, and laid to rest around the trees and shrubs and flowers that for sixteen years were so familiar to her, it is but just that poor Dollie’s history should be given to the world as a last tribute to her memory.”
And at Mr. Cobb’s behest, we’ve done just that and passed on the story of Dollie for yet another generation to remember.
*Bonus Fact and Moral to the Story – As it so happens, a second mule is buried at Oak Grove Cemetery. We know the mule’s name was Tom and he has a lovely little marble headstone, but that’s all we know. Unlike Dollie, Tom’s story has been lost.
For more information about those who have gone on before us, feel free to visit us in the Local and Family History Department at the McCracken County Public Library. And if you like this story, make sure to “Like” our Facebook page.