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Mulliegrub

By Gerry Fischer



This story is not really about Mulliegrub, a man I did not know about until the museum opened. His real name was Fred Jack Wilcox and he may have been a prize fighter or sparring partner for boxers in training. Around Brandenburg it was a legend that he was a sparring partner for Jack Dempsey the heavyweight Champion of the World, during most of the 1920’s, but he wasn’t. He probably used that story to get people to buy him drinks, or to impress them.  What this story’s really about is the generous, caring and forgiving people of Brandenburg and Meade County. I once had the opportunity to interview Judge Harry Craycraft, and I asked him a provocative question, “Judge Craycraft, how would you describe the people of Meade County?” I was surprised by the amount of thought he gave the question before he answered. He replied, “The people of Meade County are a gentle people.” He went on to explain, “I don’t mean they are fearful or not firm and resolute, because they are and strong and independent.” He followed this by saying, “They come together to take care of their neighbor.” To me the story of Mulliegrub proves his contention. There is not a lot of information about Mulliegrub, but many people tell stories about him, some funny, not so funny and some sad. Without a great deal to work with, I had his name, nickname and possible occupation. Not very much really. I found that Fred Wilcox was born July 19th, 1921 far too late to be a sparring partner for a man who was champion throughout the 1920’s. He died June 29th, 1981 in Audubon Hospital in Louisville, Ky. His parents were Harvey Lee and Eva Ray Wilcox. He had a sister Martha Elizabeth Wilcox. His parents predeceased him and his sister died in 1995. He is buried in the new Brandenburg Baptist Church cemetery. I researched his nickname, Mulliegrub and discovered it was an Irish fighting or boxing term meaning someone who catches his opponent’s head between his knees, and while immobilized, he beats the daylights out of him. It’s called mulliegrubbing. Then I figured I would look into boxers, and while I found nothing in America, I did find a Fred Wilcox who was a prize fighter in England, and his nationality was said to be the United Kingdom. The U.K. includes Ireland, and this was about 1908, making it possible that he came to the U.S. and sparred with Jack Dempsey. Then I found that Fred Wilcox immigrated here, but nothing else. I looked up Jack Dempsey’s sparring partners and found several, but no Wilcox. Then Fran began researching some old newspaper stories, found Fred Wilcox was in WW II, volunteering in the army 1941. This meant he was likely about 20 years old when he joined. His unusual nickname indicates he may have been a fighter or brawler, either in the service or after he was discharged, and he could have sparred.  Whatever experiences he had, and whether he saw lots of action or none, as my father told me, anyone who was in that war, no matter what their duty, were heroes. I believe that. After the war ended, those enlisting as boys were discharged as men. Many of them spent much of their teens, when they should be learning from their fathers how to mix with men and become a man, were learning to fight and kill just to survive the war. These skills were not always appreciated stateside. Lots of discharged soldiers had trouble fitting in, and found civilian life to be challenging. Most eventually assimilated and found a respected place in society. Sadly, some never did. Maybe this applied to Fred Wilcox. (Read Part 2, about Mulliegrub and Otis Campbell next week)

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