Freel And Mason Drug Co.
Freel and Mason Drug Company was a pharmacy, restaurant, and all-purpose store which began its operation at the beginning of the twentieth century. It endured through a number of owners in the eighty-one year span of time. Freel and Mason was more than a drug store. It was an institution of service to the community and also a historical landmark.
Founding of the Business
Freel and Mason started in 1903 when two up and coming pharmacists decided to open a pharmacy. They purchased the space for the store from heirs to the Marks estate. The Marks had been leasing the space to a local Doctor by the name of Dr. L. Stoner. Dr. Stoner was the original founder of what would be later known as “Freel and Mason Drug Co.”(Service to Community) The original store was Stoner’s Drug store. This drug store was in business in the 1890’s up until Freel and Mason took over. The store was located on the north side of the Marion courthouse. (Long Ago) The address was 109 East Third Street, which is located near present day Beatniks Café. (City Directory 1942) Freel and Mason advertised their selection of drugs, books, magazines, stationery, perfumes, toiletries, fancy soaps, and “the finest cigars and tobaccos in the city.” The business had an ideal location since it was in the center of the city and also located where many doctors had offices and practices set up. Earlier in the twentieth century, many of the doctors in the city of Marion had their locations in the town square. With the doctor offices near, Freel and Mason received most of the business that came from different people needing to fill prescriptions and buy medicines. (Freel and Mason stronger)
After Freel and Mason, the next owner of Freel and Mason Drug Co. was Courtney B. McDonough, or “Mr. Mac” as he was called. Courtney McDonough was born in Upland, Indiana, but grew up in Marion. He always considered Upland his hometown. The day after he graduated from Purdue University’s School of Pharmacy, in April of 1906, he began work at Freel and Mason. McDonough worked at the store for 15 years before he was finally made partner. After seven years as a partner, McDonough was made the sole owner of Freel and Mason Drug Co. From 1928 up until 1944, he was sole owner and made all decisions by himself. After he was sole owner, McDonough stayed associated with the business and became part owner when his nephew, Lester Metcalf, joined him. (Freel and Mason stronger). After 59 years of service and association with Freel and Mason, Courtney McDonough died at Marion General Hospital at 7:05 A.M., on Friday, June 27, 1969. The pharmacists that knew him estimated that McDonough had filled nearly 500,000 prescriptions in his career and he was named “Pharmacist of the Year” in 1962 by the Indiana Pharmaceutical Association. In his private life, McDonough was a member of the First United Methodist Church, and also an honorary member to the church’s board. He was a member Grant County and Indiana Pharmaceutical Associations, the Lions Club of Marion, the Travelers’ Protective Association, the Grant County Historical Society, and the Knights of Phythias Lodge. He had one son who grew up to be a pharmacist in Gas City, Indiana and one daughter. His wife preceded him in death. (Chronicle Obituary)
In October of 1964, there was a fire in the store. It began in the basement and spread rapidly throughout the store. When it was over, the fire caused $150,000 dollars worth of damage to the inside of the store. Freel and Mason was forced to close to make repairs, and in March of 1965 the store reopened after large-scale remodeling. Shortly after the reopening, C.B. McDonough sold his piece of the business to Lester Metcalf after he returned from college. Metcalf became the sole owner of it until Larry French became a partner in 1968. Shortly after, George Baker began partnership with Larry French. (Freel and Mason stronger)
After eighty-one years of business in the Marion square, the owners of Freel and Mason decided to move to a new location. The store had changed much from what it used to be in the earlier years. When it first started out, not only did it carry prescription medicines, but it also carried toys, animal feed, and even featured a soda fountain. You could eat lunch at the fountain or simply get an ice cream. As times changed, business slowed down to the soda fountain. (Moving after 81 years) A lot of the business to the soda fountain was lost when the city hall and police station relocated further away from Freel and Mason. (Getting the scoop) The business also changed in a major way due to growth. It used to depend on people walking in to fill prescriptions and things of that nature. Since the doctors’ offices have moved from the courthouse, not many people use Freel and Mason to fill prescriptions. It now depends on nursing homes and other long-term care facilities for its business. The company began distributing medicine to, at one time, 16 nursing homes as far as Ohio. Freel and Mason moved to 4735 South Harmon Street. This location is Wesleyan Retirement Center. The new facility was 5,500 square feet, which is roughly 3 ½ times bigger than the original location. Freel and Mason changed drastically from the humble beginnings in which it started.
Freel and Mason was a large part of the history of Marion, Indiana and one of the premier suppliers of medical supplies in the city and Grant County. Without it, people would have had to go out of their ways to fill prescriptions, shop for things they need, and even just to eat a meal. Freel and Mason represents more than just a pharmacy. It represents the simplicity of the way society used to be. Freel and Mason served the community well and is one of the historical landmarks that is overlooked in the historically-rich city of Marion, Indiana.
This article was written by Josh Stanley during Spring 2007 for Mr. Munn's AP US History Class at Marion High School.