Charles "Ches(s)" McCartney was a colorful character. Most of what we know about Charles was told by himself or his son. There are so many tales it is hard to tell what is true and what is not. According to many people he loved to talk about himself and his stories. He was born sometime around the beginning of the 20th century. McCartney said he left his home in Iowa when he was 14 and hit the road. He married several times with his first wife being a knife thrower in a sideshow. She was 10 years older than Ches and soon after they married she left him.
In one of his tales he claimed that before setting out on his road adventures with the goats he was a logger. He was injured and presumed dead. When he woke up he was on a morgue table.
He traveled the county with a herd of goats, an old junk wagon and sometimes his son, Albert G. McCartney. He went by the simple name “The Goatman.” His old wagon had pots and pans hung up. They tinkled as he drove his goats along the roadside. Under the wagon bed was an area that the baby goats and the mama goats rode.
He got the name, The Goatman, from people he met along his way and his habit of wearing a goat skin as a vest of sorts. Ches didn’t indulge in bathing. He stated he had not had a bath in 16 years. It was said you could smell him & the goats for half a mile. Here comes the goat man!!
Where ever he traveled Ches lived off the kindness of the townsfolk. Ches gathered metal junk along the way and sold it for cash. When Ches would stop each night to rest he would start a fire to cook on. I found nowhere that stated what he ate but I did find a statement saying he only drank goat milk and water. He collected food as well as money. After dinner he would throw an old tire on the fire to make billows of black smoke. He claimed it kept the bugs away from not only him but his goats. What the tire smoke really did was draw a crowd to see what was burning. Ches told the crowds he was a preacher at his own Free Thinking Christian Mission church in Georgia. He felt his duty in life was to promote the gospel.
He held sermons from the back of his wagon or anywhere else someone would listen to him. He told the townsfolk that their donations were sent to his church in Georgia, after his expenses were taken out. (There are no records of his donations to his church.) He sold Real Picture post cards of himself, the wagon and the goats for a $1.00. You could also pay fifty cents to have a picture taken with him.
Ches liked to travel south for the winter. He said winter was too rough on the goats. His home was an old bus body next to the church he had built. He lived there with his son Albert. Albert went with his father as often as he could. It seems like neither a wife nor mother were much involved in Ches or Albert’s life for very long.
From The Daily Reporter in Greenfield Indiana August10, 1942 pg 1
Goat Caravan Leaves City After Week-end Stay
Although he had planned to stay in Greenfield several days, Ches McCartney, age 42 and his son Alford Gene, age 6, drove their goat-powered prairie schooner-like wagon out of town about noon on Monday headed East along the National Road.
The rickety wagon is pulled by 9 goats and another bunch of goats numbering 10 trails along behind. McCartney stops regularly during his trip to milk the goats.
The caravan pulled into Greenfield Saturday from Indianapolis after a week stay at the Capitol. McCartney hopes to reach Florida by winter. His home is in Sigourney, IA..
McCartney, who took to the road in his goat cart four years ago, where's goat-skin clothing and a heavy beard. He sells picture postcards of his outfit.
The wagon is hand made and is covered with hides and hair. In 1941, McCartney and his son traveled almost 7000 miles in 15 weeks. The nine goats hitched to the cart are capable of pulling more than a ton and a half and can average 10 to 15 miles a day.
From The Hancock Democrat, Greenfield Indiana. August 13, 1942 pg 8
Ches McCartney, 42-year-old Iowaian, drove into town Saturday evening, not in a fliver or plane, but with a pack of goats pulling a worn, hand-made covered wagon.
McCartney, who hails from Signourney, Ia, and his goats have crossed many a state boundary in the past several years. His present destination is Florida. He hoes to reach that state by winter. He spent last week in Indianapolis. Friday he drove his caravan from Indianapolis to Cumberland, where he spent the night. On Saturday he drove to Greenfield. He and his goats occupied a vacant lot on West Main street over the weekend. Hundreds of persons were attracted to the scene by the queer sight sight. McCartney wears a long beard, is forty-two years old and was quite accommodating. He sold pictures of his outfit.
Nine goats were hitched to the wagon while ten goats trailed behind. At regular intervals McCartney stops to milk his goats
McCartney said that he could travel as much as twenty-two miles a day but usually traveled about eight. The goats, he said, could withstand more traveling that horses. McCartney's six-year-old son Alford Gene, accompanied him