The McGee Harness Shop was located on the corner of West Benson Street in downtown Anderson. Mr. James L. McGee was listed in the 1905 Anderson City Directory as a dealer in stock, buggies, wagons, and harnesses. By 1910, the small shop located at 131 West Benson Street was part of the Davis Brothers Livery and Boarding Stables which provided horses, mules, vehicles and harnesses, and was open 2 hours a day.
By 1925, Elias and Willis McGee became owners of the Davis and McGee Mule Company, which ran a multi-purpose facility with a harness shop, stables, livestock sales and wagon dealership. Their address a 129-130 West Benson included he office of Dr. E.R. Vendergrift, a veterinarian surgeon.
In early 1940's, the West Benson Street business was owned by the McGee Brothers (J. Willis, T. Elias, and Wayne L.). There was a harness shop, livestock sales and wagon sales. At the same address were the offices of Mr. Samuel Cathcart, an architect, and U.S. Selective Service System Board #5.
By the early 1950's, the McGee Bros. had to remove the harness shop because of the widening of Murray Avenue and the tools were placed in what had been the empty living quarters of a blacksmith at the McGee Farm in Starr. At that time, the current harness shop structure was converted from living quarters to a working harness shop. The placement of the tools and the actual arrangement of the room are authentic to this period of time.
In the fall of 2004, the harness shop was moved from the McGee Farm and reconstructed at the Anderson County Museum.
The harness shop was a vital part of a community at the turn of the century. The harness shop and blacksmith shop were essential elements of a thriving town. Whenever someone rode a horse, drove a buggy or hitched a team to plow a flied, they were using leather straps to "harness" the muscle power of the animal so humans could control it and use it for productive work. In the age when animals still provided most of the power for farmers and transportation, the welfare of the community depended on the skill of the craftsmen who know now to work leather. The harness maker used specialized tools to repair broken harness or "tack" and manufactured new equipment when necessary.
The harness has four basic functions:
- It allows the horse to pull the carriage (collars and traces)
- It provides a braking mechanism (saddle, tug loops, belly bands)
- It provides a stabilizing mechanism (breeching and holdbacks)
- It provides a steeling mechanism (bridle, bits and reins)
Given in memory of T. Elias McGee and in honor of Ethiel McGee by their children.