The Museum has a growing collection of buggies and wagons. 110+ years ago horses, harness and wooden wheels formed the backbone of American transportation. Folks also occasionally used bicycles, but the few bikes were little used beyond the paved streets of the cities. Dirt roads were just too rutted and rough. (The first mechanically driven velocipede is believed to have been invented in 1839, with bikes similar to the ones used today coming into use about 1880.) So your non shoe leather summer choice was buggy or wagon and, depending how much snow there was, sleighs for winter use.
Many small towns had buggy building or repair shops. In Bath, Summit Co. Oh. the Jaeger Buggy Shop stood at the corner of Ghent & Ira Rds. The Jaeger Hse. was moved to the nearby Hale Homestead, while the buggy shop is gone. The MWRF&E has two buggies that were donated to the museum quite some time ago by an antique dealer in Bath, who had kept them for many years after she purchased them in Bath. The buggies no longer have their makers tags on them, but they are both very consistent with known buggies made at the Jaeger Works.
Richfield Twp. was home of the Carr Carriage Shop. The building, that stood to the north side of Richfield Tavern on Broadview Rd. still exists (sort of). When the shop went out of business the building was cut in two and each half was rotated 90* to face the road. The halves were then remodeled to become homes (It’s a dream of the museum to some day purchase and “reassemble” and restore the two houses into the Carr Shop). The Carr Carriage Shop was quite famous in its day for building high quality buggies. People traveled from as far as Toledo (a long, long way in the day of horse drawn trips) to purchase their buggies. The only remaining artifact from the Carr is a cupboard now at the museum.
In Loyal Oak stood the McLaughlin Wagon Repair Shop near the intersection of Cleveland-Massillon Rd. (old 21) and Rte. 261. The McLaughlin family owned a fair amount of land in the Loyal Oak area before the turn of the century. Every time one of the sons got married or wanted to start their own business, the patriarch would give the son some land. One of the boys wanted to start a wagon repair business, in part because there was a major stagecoach stop at the corner of 261 & 21. The son built a shop/barn and operated a successful business until the advent of automobiles. He then, reportedly, shut the door, put a lock on it and the land reverted to the family.
Years later a Loyal Oak resident bought the barn and moved it to his property along 261, east of 21 and turned it into a cattle “shed”. He donated a number of items left in the old shop to the museum. They included wheel brakes, axles, the wood stairs to the second floor and several tools and wheels. These items can be seen in the museum’s wagon repair shop, now located in the former Lloyd Davis barn which was moved to the museum from Richfield Twp.
The owner of the McLaughlin barn still has the overhead windlass, that hung in the barn, which was used to lift wagon bodies off the axles when repairing any undercarriage parts. We hope to someday add the windlass to the museum collection.
A very heavy delivery wagon from the Massillon Rd. Grocery Market is presently stored in the wagon repair shop. It was donated to the museum by a gentleman who bought it at auction years ago when the market closed its doors. He had kept it for years parked in his garage. His wife finally said she was tired of parking her car outside in the snow and the wagon had to go. We are lucky to have it.
The Schectner Grocery Delivery Cart was donated to the museum by Mrs. Caulfield, locally well known horse woman and daughter of the Caulfield Family (that at one time owned considerable shipping on Lake Erie). She remembered seeing the cart go flying down the roads of downtown Akron as the delivery boy hurried to deliver the day’s groceries to the store’s customers. There is an open area beneath the seat for the boxed groceries. (An interesting side note about the family is that at one time they owned farms on the ridges on either side of the valley that divides Medina & Summit Co’s. In front of each home stood a large anchor from the family’s ships. Before telephones, every morning a family member could stand at the anchors and wave to each other from across the several mile wide valley and know all was well.)
For many years the “Light Farm Wagon” stood in front of the Richfield Library. I always thought it particularly interesting because it was painted purple and grey. My family, on our fathers side, was Amish, so I have mostly always been around buggies & wagons painted black (much of that part of our family still lives in Holmes Co., Ohio). As can be noted with the Birch Run buggy, Light Wagon and “Jaeger” buggy, English (that is, anyone not Amish) tend to be much more “colorful” than Amish.
When the library building became the Richfield Senior Center, the Center’s director, Jan Weber, donated the wagon to the museum. No one remembers for certain what farm the buggy was used on, but it may have been the (now gone) Johnson Farm on Broadview Rd. in Richfield.
The Wheatly Family farmed several hundred acres east & north of the intersection of Brecksville (old 21) & Wheatly Rds. The Wheatly’s raised cattle, horses, hay and other crops. The farm was eventually sold to the Stouffer Family (who later were of frozen food fame). Much of the farms equipment went with the sale of the farm, including the very tall and long farm wagon.
The horse drawn wagon was last used to carry the Richfield Garden Club ladies in the Richfield Sesquicentennial Parade in 1956. It then became owned by Mr. Pettigo who operated Richfield Automotive Garage in West Richfield. The wagon was parked in a barn on the Kluz Farm which had been sold to the Pettigo’s. Unfortunately over the next 5 decades the roof went off the building and the wagon suffered a fair amount of weather damage until it was rescued by the museum with the permission of Van Pettigo (Thank you Van). The museum intends to fully restore the wagon starting with the rebuilding of the wooden wagon wheels by an Amish friend who is a wheel wright.
Even though the farm is now gone to “urban development”, the family cemetery still slumbers across Wheatly Rd. from where the family home stood. The three houses and two barns were bulldozed. The museum was able to save the carriage building, four seater outhouse (people were more “friendly” back then), brick smoke house and very large cast iron kettle used to scald pigs and make maple syrup.
The museum has a number of sleighs in its collection. Before autos and snow plows, sleighs were used when winters snows were too deep for horses to pull wagons. The Porter family lived several miles north of West Richfield Center, on Broadview Rd. The last of the Porter daughters (now in her 80′s) recounted going to school by sleigh. It is remarkable how much our country has changed in just the lives of folks still living.
Even the Amish very rarely use sleighs these days because even if there is snow on the roads in the morning, it is always plowed by the (rather zealous) county road crews by afternoon. With the roads plowed and salted, folks driving sleighs simply find it impossible to make the trip home of an evening.
The Amish use a variety of carriages. One seaters are called buggies, two seaters are surries, a one seater with a bed behind the seat, for carrying livestock, groceries or any of the other requirements of daily life, are called hacks. Very light two wheel carts are for fast, easy on the horse, travel, usually to and from off farm work. The museum has 6 Amish buggies of various types.
Until fairly recently all harness was made of leather. In the last couple decades neoprene harness has come into use, especially among the english and some more “modern” Amish. (Neoprene is sort of an all weather “plastic” material that is very tough and requires no oiling.) The museum has two sets of heavy, draft horse, leather harness that was used many years ago on the King Farm in Hinckley. We also have a set of road horse buggy harness purchased at an Amish harness shop south of Kidron in Holmes County. Leather harness must be oiled with neats foot oil as required (usually once a year). Most harness shops have a large wire basket suspended from the ceiling by a cord and pulley. The harness is loaded in the basket and lowered into a large oil filled vat or barrel and the leather is allowed to soak for several hours. The basket is then raised and the harness drips dry for a couple days.