Presented by the Laurens County Historical Society, Dublin, Georgia. For questions and information, please contact Scott B. Thompson, Sr. at dublinhistory@yahoo.com.

Friday, September 23, 2016

ALBERT A. HORN

A TIME TO WANDER

                               
There is a time when young men yearn to wander - to tramp around the country or jaunt half way around the world to seek out the glories of fame, to acquire the riches of great fortunes or to simply experience the thrills of adventure.  As old men, they revel in telling the tall tales of their glorious youth to any eager listener.

This is the story of one such man, known to millions around the world as “Trader Horn,” but rarely by his Christian birth name of “Albert Aloysius Smith.”  Just over a century ago, Horn wandered into the Southeastern United States, and, in the particular, Wilcox County in southern Central Georgia.

Born on June 21, 1861 in Lancashire, England, Albert’s parents also named him Aloysius for that very day known as Saint Aloysius Day in the Catholic Church.  Often changing his last name, Albert settled on the surname of Horn.  Some knew him as “Zambezi Jack.”

Known as “Uncle Pat” to his newfound friends in Abbeville and Rochelle and most points in between, Horn was first greeted by Jonathan Walker in Abbeville about the year 1913.  Walker, a wealthy man who did not dress the part, was thought to have been another wandering vagrant by Horn, who kindly offered his assistance to his new friend.   Walker, in return, surprised Horn with the offer of using one of his vacant houses as Horn’s shelter from the elements.   Horn slept on a skimpy mat and did his own cooking with whatever utensils he could muster.

“Uncle Pat” earned his keep by drawing four dollars a week working for J.P. Carter as a brick mason.  To support his meager income as a laborer, Horn began to paint landscapes and other subjects.    Some of his paintings survived for many decades in at least one local home.  He painted another  for sheriff Ben Edwards.  In his comprehensive article on “Trader Horn,” Dan Magill, father of University of Georgia’s legendary journalist and booster of the same name,  wrote in a March 25, 1928 article for the Macon Telegraph that Horn sold kitchen trinkets.

Not too long after Horn came to town, his daughter, Marie Scales and her son Sandy immigrated from France to the United States as World War I began to escalate.  At Horn’s invitation, Marie and Sandy came to live with Horn.  Immediately Mrs. Scales began to spruce up her father’s shack into a decent home in the sawmill community of Kramer for her son and herself.  Her husband, Will, would arrive several months later.

In his landmark work ,”Tramp Royal: The True Story of Trader Horn,” Tim Couzens quotes Sandy Scales, Horn’s grandson, who tells of a woman, “She arrived at the house where Aloysius and the Scales family lived. The boards rattled as she walked across the porch, and the shack seemed to be in a terrible condition. It was probably either one of those houses of the Gress's employees or part of the convicts' accommodation!  But she was astounded when Will Scales came out wearing a tuxedo with tails! He was 'like a prince'. Mrs Hillis talks of the regal way in which the Scales family carried themselves even though they were considered refugees by the townspeople.”

Couzens believed that Horn's paintings were influenced by his adventures in  Africa adventures as well as his brief stay in Wilcox County.  Horn and his family were well known and like.  His daughter Marie performed musical concerts and worked as a house keeper in a local boarding house.   Marie inherited some of her father’s skills as an artist.

But what the townsfolk of Rochelle and Abbeville remembered the most were the interesting and thrilling stories. Horn, could mesmerize any crowd, of all ages and all races with his stories of adventures into the darkest and most dangerous regions of Africa, although according to his former boss, J.P.Carter, he was “never one to socialize” in his two plus year stay in Rochelle.

Horn’s usual  podium was around the cracker barrel of the store of W.S. Blackshear in Rochelle.  Eventually, Horn would tour the great halls of the United States and his native England telling the stories of his greatest adventures.

Just about a decade after he left Wilcox County, Horn sat down and began to write the story of his life and his adventures in Africa.  He called his book, “ Trader Horn; being the life and works of Aloysius Horn, an "Old Visitor.”  A few years later, with the aid of Ethelreda Lewis, the book was published by Simon & Schuster and became a best seller in 1927.

“This is the stuff of legends - the true story of the life of Trader Horn.  Down on his luck in his old age, Horn recounted his wild youth as an ivory trader in Central Africa, journeying into jungles teaming with buffalo, gorillas and man-eating leopards; liberating a princess from captivity; navigating treacherous rivers; freeing slaves, and meeting Cecil Rhodes, the founder of Rhodesia. Trader Horn is a vivid and unforgettable portrait of a vanished period in African history. An amazing book .... It cast a spell over me,” wrote a book reviewer for the New York Times.

The book was made into a movie in 1931.  The movie made Hollywood history as the first  non-documentary movie ever filmed in the continent of Africa.  W.S. Van Dyke directed the film which starred Harry Carey, Sr. and Edwina Booth.  Booth became so ill during the filming that she never made another film.  Co-starring as “Peru” was Duncan Renaldo, who went on to fame in the 1950s as the “Cisco Kid.”

Albert Aloyisious “Trader” Horn died in June 21, 1931, five days after his 70th birthday.   The movie of his life, which was remade in 1973,  was released that same year as a fitting eulogy.   His family never took up the offer of his first Abbeville friend, Jonathan Walker, to have Horn  buried in his family cemetery.

I will not attempt to tell you about the African  adventures of the man they called “Trader Horn.” Sufficed to say that you will need to buy the book and read Horn’s own words.









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This article was written in tribute to my great grandfather, Robert E. Stubbs, Sr., a farmer, once successful saw mill operator and a contemporary of Trader Horn in Rochelle. “Pop Stubbs’‘ was a teller of tale tales too.  His greatest adventure may have been when his son, “Uncle Billy,” graduated from West Point and “Pop” invaded the kitchen of the U.S. Military Academy to  promptly instruct the northern cooks on the proper way to cook grits. He too suffered financial hard times when he filed bankruptcy and lost his three saw mills in Abbeville, Hazlehurst and Surrency, not to mention the devastating loss of the cotton crop during the World War I and even more disastrous losses during the Great Depression.  If I could turn back the hands of time, I would go back and listen for weeks  to “Pop Stubbs” and his first wife’s kinsman, Guy Fuller, a legendary story teller of Wilcox County as they told their tallest of tales.  

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