The Richland Album: Sleigh Rides

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, 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 you have to picture these sights is with our virtual Richland Album.

This collection of images from the virtual album features folks of Richland County traveling in the wintertime when the snows have made the roads too awkward for their horse-drawn carriages. The solution back then was to hitch the horse to a vehicle with runners like a sled.

In most cases it would be a ‘one horse open sleigh.’ Oh what fun it is to ride.

This collection of Richland photos from around 100 years ago provides ample evidence that the sleighs were not always only ‘one horse,’ nor were they necessarily motivated by horsepower at all.

In addition to photos evoking the spirit of times past on our snowy roads, we also fortunately have a compelling evocation of sleigh rides from the pen of author Louis Bromfield. This reminiscence was written in 1933 when he was remembering his childhood in Mansfield; driving out West Fourth Street at Christmastime:

“The winter journeys were the best of all.

“In winter, when the frozen ground lay hidden beneath a foot or two of snow, the buggy was abandoned and the journey was made in a sleigh. You were tucked in with blankets and old fur robes, with your feet resting on hot bricks placed in ankle-deep clean straw.

“The bells jingled and the horses trotted and the snow fell, melting upon cheeks and nose and lips, and in the evening when the moonlight struck the banks of snow they were no longer banks of snow, but of diamonds.

“There was excitement even in the preparation for departure, with a great hubbub and laughing and chatter. There were mufflers and overcoats and mittens and caps, and if you were very small and the night very cold, a soft shetland scarf had to be tied across your face so that you did not breathe too deeply of the frosty air.

“There were the hot bricks and buffalo robes to be arranged while my father held the impatient horses and the bells jangled and sang. Grandfather was always there, standing coatless and vigorous in the snow, to see that everyone was tucked in properly; and at last the horses sprang off down the lane under the locust trees, and the last thing you saw on looking back was your grandfather standing at the gate, waving farewell.”


This image taken in Lucas is scanned from a 7” x 10” metal plate called a tintype. A close examination of the scene shows the travelers wrapped in a buffalo robe; and a strap of ‘jingle bells,’ or ‘sleigh bells’ around the horse.
These folks were riding their ‘coasters’ in downtown Lucas in 1907. There are a couple sleighs visible in the photo: parked along the street on the right, behind the toboggan.


Not all sleighs were polished and pretty: some were very utilitarian and built for hard work like this sledge south of Butler used for heavy hauling.


This two horse open sleigh was photographed in 1910 during an excursion from Bellville. Notice that every horse in the parade is wearing sleigh bells. The distinctive and cheerful sound of sleighs passing through the countryside in a muffled winter afternoon is one of those once-common sensory experiences lost to the modern world.


Photographed on Mill Run Road this guy has his own private vehicle…is it a sled? Is it a sleigh? It looks fun.


In the deep snow of November of 1913 only sleighs and streetcars were out at the corner of Main and Park Avenue.
These kids were taken on a sleigh ride in the 1930s from the stables of Frank Black—today the Raemelton Therapeutic Equestrian Center.


This sleigh ride illustration is adapted from the Kate Lord painting that decorated the endpages of Louis Bromfield’s novel The Farm, 1933. It depicts his memory of arriving at the family homestead on West Fourth Street.


This 1911 postcard from Shelby identifies “the doctor’s horse and his hired man.”
This woman photographed on Smiley Road in 1908 has taken on the role of sleigh horse for her little ones.


No one told this little guy from Shiloh that his sleigh couldn’t be pulled by his two dogs; or that his sleigh needed runners instead of wheels.


Folks in Plymouth didn’t have far to go to find a new sleigh: they were manufactured on the north end of Sandusky Street as early as 1855 in the Waite Blacksmithing shop. By 1879 the carriage and sleigh operation had grown enough to move into its own factory.

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