The Richland Album: Horse Power

The Law of Time

This is the law of time: for every hour we go on, there is an hour that slips behind; so that for every bit of gain there is equal loss. In order to enter the future we must relinquish the past.

As each generation creates its own new version of America, so the old way, the old style, passes into history; and as each wave of people takes the stage to witness a particular and unique new story, so it watches the putting away of sets and scenery and props from the play just concluded.

This series of photo essays takes a look at landmarks from the past that were once common and familiar components of the landscape to Richlanders long since passed on. A hundred and fifty years ago folks couldn’t really imagine a county without covered bridges, without hitching posts, without livery stables. Today the only way there is to picture these sights is with our virtual Richland Album.

This collection of images from the virtual album features the age of transportation before the rise of automobiles: when our roads were made to be traveled by horse power.

Our history as Richlanders, and our heritage as humans, could never have progressed past the most menial stages of work and travel if it had not been for the acquiescence and assistance of horses.

There is no saying what we owe them.  In today’s society, horses are marginally noticeable: at the racetrack, on the trail, lounging in the field; but 150 years ago, our society simply could not have functioned without them.

One of the principal red-letter days in county history was when the first horse drawn stage coach successfully negotiated its way through the wilderness from Mount Vernon to Mansfield in 1815; officially networking Richland into the United States.

From that point on, humankind and horsekind were inseparable partners for many generations.


This view of downtown Lucas taken during the age of Horse Power reveals one key element of roadside necessity that travelers took for granted in those days, that has since vanished from our world: the horse trough.  They didn’t have gas stations back then, but they did require a filling station: where horses could get a drink.  Every town had some kind of public fountain or accessible water conduit to maintain their horse power.


The hazards of crossing the street during the age of Horse Power were different than those we experience today: the streets were dirt, often mud; and the horses made the thoroughfares fragrant with road apples.
These men in the hills south of Butler who gathered maple sap, were dependent upon horse power to get their unwieldy vats through the woods to the sugar camp in 1911.


One common civic necessity during the age of Horse Power was the presence of horse rails along downtown streets; where horses, teams; rigs, wagons, and carriages could be secured while doing business.  These features of 19th century streetscapes, as seen here in Bellville, were replaced by lined parking spaces in the 20th century.
In the epochs of history before tractors and other steam or gas powered farm machinery were measured in “horsepower,” all of the essential horsepower was produced by horses.  These haymakers were photographed in 1910. (Bellville-Jefferson Township Historical Society)


During the age of Horse Power there was at least one livery and feed barn in every town; this one was in Lexington. (Richland County Museum)


The largest livery in Mansfield was located on South Diamond near First Street, where it was easily available for folks who were headed to the Square.  Hitching horses on the Square became illegal after 1900, when councilmen decided that a century of horse manure had not made the center of town any more attractive or fragrant.  Every carriage in this photo came with a horse, and all the horses are stabled in the ten-cent barn.
If you called for a cab in Mansfield during the age of Horse Power this is who might show up at your door.  Miller’s Livery and Cab Line provided cabriolets for weddings, dances, and funerals.  The stables were located on South Walnut Street between First and Second.


The livery stable in Ontario was actually located in New Castle: an ill-fated town platted just a mile east of Ontario on the “Mansfield-Bucyrus Stage Line.”  There were no notes on the back of this photo to indicate why these men at New Castle were posing with their plow.


Every town had milk wagons in the early part of the 20th century that were pulled by horses; and it was common knowledge that the horses knew their delivery routes every bit as well as their human counterparts.  The Shelby Pure Milk Co. had horse delivery service that was so successful, it lasted well into the age of automobiles: these two outfits were photographed in 1956.  The men in the photo are Robert Went and Jay Moore; the names of the horses were not documented. (Shelby Museum of History)
Today we know American Express as a credit card, but it began as a horse drawn express shipping service.  This American Express horse was photographed at the Autocall Company in Shelby. (Shelby Museum of History)


The ‘maintenance garage’ during the age of Horse Power was the village blacksmith, who kept all the horses roadworthy.  This blacksmith shop was somewhere between Shiloh and Olivesburg.  The photo was taken in a year when the Ringling Circus came to Mansfield, between 1906-1915.


During the age of Horse Power, the dirt streets required special attention in summer months to keep the dust down: like this sprinkler photographed in 1898 next to the Livery, Feed & Sale Stable in Plymouth.  This was a special model, called a ‘horseless sprinkler:’ it was powered by mules.

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