Horses and Sleighs

Harry and his son Lorne MacLean with their driving sleigh led by a horse named Buzz-L

Janie and Harry MacLean in their box sleigh led by a horse named Doll.

These photos feature two types of sleighs from the early 1940s; the one on the left is a driving sleigh pulled by a retired race horse which would be used for a Sunday or short distance trip. The one below is the more rugged box sleigh which would be used for longer distances like going to town to sell goods at the Charlottetown Marketplace, and it would be pulled by a stronger horse. A third type of sleigh that we have yet to find a photo of was a pung sleigh, short for tom-pung, a sleigh popular in the North Eastern US and Eastern Canada. The word was derived from Algonquin and has a similar derivation as the word toboggan. The pung sleigh had a bench seat and a trunk area in the back.

In the wintertime, going to Charlottetown was a shorter trip than in the summer, as you could cross the ice at the end of the Ferry Road and drive up Brighton Road/Euston Street. You could cross up until April. As the days became warmer, there would be men testing the ice to make sure it was safe. You had to prepare for the long cold trip by wearing an overcoat over your winter coat, warming bricks in the oven to place at your feet among some straw, and over all that, you would tuck yourself inside a buffalo blanket.

Once arriving in Charlottetown, you left your horse and sleigh at such stables as Rodd’s located on Queen Street, the Morell Hotel or North American Hotel on Kent Street or Walker’s on King Street. If you were taking goods to sell, one had to arrive early in the morning to find a place for the horse and sleigh and to secure a table at the Marketplace, located where Confederation Centre of the Arts is now. A favourite treat was to take turns going over to the Morell Hotel to enjoy a homemade dinner along with bread pudding prepared by Mrs. MacMillan.

At the Marketplace, country folks sold cream, eggs, chickens, geese, butter and vegetables. Louis MacPhee of Clyde River always have a meat stall. Market days were Tuesdays and Fridays only. One could enjoy good sales before Christmas, and earn $3.50 or $4 for a chicken or goose. After the market was over, you would go shopping for necessities like clothing and footwear at Moore and McLeod’s, S.A. MacDonald’s, Holman’s or some of the smaller stores.

On your way home, the town boys and girls would be hanging on the side of your sleigh as you travelled down the street, delighting in the novelty of a short sleigh ride or maybe throwing a snowball or two at your horse.

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  1. J'Nan Brown on March 1, 2011 at 10:49 am

    There was a lovely box sleigh like the one in the picture in an outbuilding when we moved into the MacNeil farm in 1977. It was in great shape and our daughter, who dreamed of having a horse of her own someday, wanted to keep it.
    When our daughter left PEI to go to Guelph University in 2005 we sent the box sleigh to the PEI Museum and Heritage Foundation and it is no doubt stored somewhere waiting for a museum to be built to showcase these heritage items.
    There were more pieces of horse drawn equipment in the barn and outbuildings: a market waggon, a buggy and a side bar mower, which we gave to Billy Waller, a loose hay loader, a binder, and a potato scuffler, which we gave to Laurie Blue (who used to have a horse drawn equipment show every summer in eastern PEI).
    Going into the barns in 1977 was like stepping back into time. Back to an era before oil. Back to when “horsepower” meant horse power.

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