Freel And Mason Drug Co.

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Freel and Mason Drug Co., ca. 1948
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 its eighty-one years of business. Freel and Mason was more than a drug store. It was an institution of service to the community and a historical landmark.

Founding of the Business

The North side of the square in 1912. Freel and Mason is the drug store to the left.
Freel and Mason started in 1903 when two up-and-coming pharmacists decided to open a pharmacy. They purchased the space for their store from the 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 known later as “Freel and Mason Drug Co.”(Service to Community) The store was originally called Stoner’s Drug Store. This drug store opened for business in the 1890’s and continued to operate 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 very close to an area in which many doctors had offices and practices set up (early in the twentieth century, many of the doctors in the city of Marion had offices in the town square). Because many doctors' offices were near their store, Freel and Mason received most of the business from different people needing to fill prescriptions and buy medicines. (Freel and Mason stronger)

Courtney McDonough

After Freel and Mason, the next owner of Freel and Mason Drug Co. was Courtney B. McDonough, also known as “Mr. Mac." Courtney McDonough was born in Upland, Indiana, but he 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 to work at Freel and Mason. McDonough worked at the store for 15 years before he was finally made a partner. After he worked for seven years as a partner, McDonough was made the sole owner of Freel and Mason Drug Co. From 1928 to 1944, he was the sole owner of the store and made all decisions by himself.

After his time as sole owner ended, McDonough stayed associated with the business and became part owner with his nephew, Lester Metcalf. (Freel and Mason stronger). After fifty-nine 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. Macdonough had been 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 an honorary member to the church’s board. He was also a member of 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)

Side wall of Freel and Mason, ca. 1960s
In October of 1964, there was a fire in the Freel and Mason building. It began in the basement and spread rapidly throughout the store. When it was over, it was estimated that 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, upon Metcalf's return from college. Metcalf was the sole owner of the store until Larry French was named a partner in 1968. Shortly after, George Baker was named a partner as well. (Freel and Mason stronger)

Changes

The store changed much over the years. When it was first opened, not only did it carry prescription medicines, but it also carried toys and animal feed, and it even featured a soda fountain. Customers could eat lunch at the fountain or simply get an ice cream. (Moving after 81 years) A lot of the business gained from the soda fountain was lost when the city hall and the police station relocated further away from Freel and Mason. (Getting the scoop) The business also changed in a major way due to loss of customers. It used to depend on people walking in to fill prescriptions, but since the doctors’ offices have moved away from the courthouse, not many people have used Freel and Mason to fill prescriptions.

After eighty-one years of business in the Marion square, the owners of Freel and Mason decided to move to a new location, 4735 South Harmon Street. This location is in the Wesleyan Retirement Center. The new facility was 5,500 square feet, which is roughly 3.5 times bigger than the original location was. In its new facility, Freel and Mason depended on people in nursing homes and other long-term care facilities for its business. At one time, the company was distributing medicine to sixteen nursing homes as far as Ohio. Freel and Mason changed drastically from the humble beginnings in which it started.

Conclusion

Freel and Mason was a large part of the history of Marion, Indiana. It was one of the premier suppliers of medical supplies in the city and Grant County. Without it, people would have had to go farther out of their way to fill prescriptions, shop for things they needed, or even eat a meal. Freel and Mason represented more than just a pharmacy. It represented the simplicity of the way society used to be. Freel and Mason served the community well and is an often-overlooked landmark in the historically rich city of Marion, Indiana.

Credits

This article was written by Josh Stanley during Spring 2007 for Mr. Munn's AP US History Class at Marion High School.