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The Goat Man of Big Sandy

Written by Gay Ingram.

A large tombstone—with a goat’s head carved to the right and a revolver to the left—marks the resting place of John “Overland Jack” Rose in Chilton Cemetery in Big Sandy. Centered above his name, a small oval holds a picture of John, his wagon, and his goat team.

John, born in Virginia in 1888, fell beneath the wheels of a freight train and lost both of his legs at age nine. By means of hand-walking props that he made himself, he was able to remain ambulatory and complete his education. At age 20, he began traveling the country, driving a small wagon drawn by goats. He eventually settled in Big Sandy, built a home beside Everman Lake, and, refusing public aid or charity, supported himself and his goats by doing small repair jobs on watches, eyeglasses, guns, and antique clocks. Each year in early spring, “The Goat Man,” as townspeople affectionately called him, would set out from Big Sandy, making about 10 miles a day, stopping to sell postcards of himself for a dime, and doing repair work whenever he could find it. By the time automobiles made the roads too dangerous and ended his travels, he had toured 19 states and covered some 30,000 miles.

Overland Jack died in 1962. His personal property was auctioned, and his goat cart donated to Tyler’s Caldwell Zoo. One of his postcards is in the archives of the Historic Upshur Museum (903/843-5483) in Gilmer.

From the October 2005 issue.

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