York Town Square

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Shrewsbury Township sleigh rescued: ‘Tell the children we saved Christmas’

When heavy snow caused the recent collapse of this Shrewsbury Township (Pa.) barn, the owner of the old barn successfully sought the recovery of an antique sleigh. Sleighs such as this one were common means of transportation in winters around York County. Also of interest: Is this a York County farm truck or is it just a wagon with a motor? and Codorus collector exhibits collection of conveyances – wheels and sleighs and The Acme Tongue Carrier of Hanover, Pa.: Are there any around today?

York County’s best-known sleigh story did not involve Santa Claus. Rather, it evolved from an encounter between Battle of New Orleans hero Andrew Jackson and a thrifty York countian.
As the story goes, Jackson became angry when advised of the proposed $50 taxi ride in the sleigh. The price from the Shrewsbury Township sleigh owner came down to $30, and Jackson was in good humor during a short stay in York.
A sleigh made the news recently when the owner of a collapsed barn asked for its rescue. The barn, coincidentally, was in Shrewsbury Township… .

After the sleigh was recovered, excavator Barry Taylor, with B.C. Taylor of Glen Rock, told the York Daily Record/Sunday News: ‘Tell the children we saved Christmas.’
Actually, sleighs and all their romantic attachments were a transportation staple in York County before the paving of roads began in earnest in the 1920s. The hard surface roads permitted motorized vehicles to navigate during inclement weather.
Physicians were among the benefactors of sleighs.
Dr. Philip A. Hoover in “Echoes of the Health Century” writes about how his physician/father, Wrightsville’s Benjamin A. Hoover, kept a horse for house calls. That horse pulled a buggy in the summer and sleigh in the early 20th-century winters:
He described those sleigh rides:

“Father had a black sealskin cap with earmuffs that would come down and a pair of gloves made from buffalo hide. These were cumbersome but warm. From the floor of the sleigh, there was a rectangular box-like device covered with a piece of carpet.The device had a drawer made of bronze which could be pulled out, and contained two large briquets. These could be heated in the stove until red hot and then dropped into the drawer and closed with it. This improvised heating unit placed on the sleigh floor under a heavy cover kept the feet warm for quite a while. the trip home, however, was usually a cold one unless the family visited would heat the briquets before you left. The roads were often drifted full since there were no snowplows. If there were not other routes, rails could be removed from the fence and the horse could pull the sleigh until the drifts were passed. An essential accessory for the sleigh was a cutter to slice through wire fence. … Roads would remain drifted shut for weeks.”

In 1912, Dr. Hoover purchased an automobile, a Stevens-Duryea. It could be used for house calls, but roads remained rough and dusty in summer and impassable in winter. So Dr. Hoover kept the horse and the automobile, which after 1916 gave way to a Dodge touring car.
Philip Hoover wrote:
“This was a very simple, reliable, and easily maintained automobile, and soon the horse passed from the scene. When the snow was too deep in winter, the rural patient, who usually still maintained a horse and sleigh, would come and get the doctor if a house call was required.”
Interesting stuff about a way of life long gone.
And by the way, there is no known link between the rescued sleigh of 2010 and Andrew Jackson’s conveyance in 1819.
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