County Seat Newspaper
of Clare County

Anna was also “Mussell the Druggist”



Cleaver Managing Editor

My friend, Clare resident and local metal detector/bottle digger Matthew McCown recently purchased a bottle he shared with me. Of course, he wished he had found it digging but couldn’t resist buying it when he found it for sale. The bottle is marked ‘Anna E Mussell & Son Central Drug Store, Clare, Mich.’ and it’s in almost perfect condition.

Local bottles are rare. And bottles that feature a woman running a business near the turn of the century are even rarer.

Anna Mussell was born Anna Husted in 1865 in Oakland County Michigan. She was the daughter of Julius and Francis Husted. Julius Barton Husted went by Burton or Burt and ran a hotel, saloon, opera house and other businesses in Clare beginning the 1870s. He also had a store and saloon in Gladwin. He was a businessman all of his life. He married twice and Anna had nine siblings.

Anna married Robert Mussell July 11, 1882, in Clare when she was 17 years of age. They had one child, a son born in 1885. After her husband’s death in 1902 she ran their drug store. She told a reporter that she had become a pharmacist in 1885 after passing the examination given by a traveling State examiner.

Her son Arthur was a doctor and also a pharmacist and lived in Clare most of his life. He graduated from Loyola Medical College in 1912 and served in WWI. He died in 1956 when Anna was 91 years old. The undertaker took his casket to their home for several hours to console Anna on the death of her son as she had been bed ridden by that time for 9 years. She was cared for by her various nieces for the last decade of her life.

In 1955, the Cleaver reported, “Mrs. Anna Mussell was remembered by friends Sunday honoring her 90th birthday anniversary. M.s Jennie Sersaw is her bedside companion and caretaker, and she remains interested in local activities in spite of the years confined to her bed.”

In 1956, Anna was featured in the Saginaw News and billed as Michigan’s oldest registered woman pharmacist. She’s quoted as saying, “We used to do a lot of business with the lumber camps, filling prescriptions for both man and beast.” She was an active pharmacist almost all of her life.

The Saginaw News also quotes her, “We had a liquor license in those early days too, but we didn’t have trouble with the lumberjacks. They went to the saloons. To buy from us they would have to get a prescription from a doctor and that cost 50 cents more. Our whisky came in barrels, and we put it in bottles.”

“Mrs. Mussell saw many changes in drugstores during the more than half-century she worked as a druggist. Back in 1885 they had fixtures made from oak trees lumbered off their own property. ‘And we had our own Mussell’s Bone (Liniment. That was a good seller. We discontinued the liniment because wood alcohol was the principal ingredient and we just couldn’t keep it in stock. And we have to keep so many records then it because a nuisance. We worked hard, sometimes we’d work all night, it took quite a while to pulverize drugs that come in chunks.’”

She died in Clare in 1960 and she is buried in Cherry Grove Cemetery. Her obituary in the Clare Sentinel names her at the oldest Clare native and mentions her “other distinctions were her record of a half-century of activity in Clare business.”

© Clare County Cleaver


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here