LookBack3.26

This young fellow is sitting pretty in a “courting buggy.” There was just enough room for him and his sweetheart! This photo is from the Kathleen Rodgers McIlwain estate.

We have spent this month looking at how our ancestors traveled, before the automobile was invented and we had paved highways and gas wars.

For many thousands of years, mankind used what Mother Nature had provided him — his feet!

It wasn’t until man domesticated the horse and the donkey that we had the luxury of riding. But it was a luxury that most people couldn’t afford.

As we pointed out last week, riding a four-legged animal was not without its risks!

The Hartsville paper wrote this in January 1908, “Fred Hall, son of M. F. Hall, County Register, had a narrow escape yesterday. The little fellow was attempting to mount a horse and had placed his foot in the saddle stirrup, when the horse became frightened and jumped, throwing the boy, his foot catching in the stirrup. The horse immediately began to run and dragged the boy a considerable distance, when the stirrup broke, releasing him from what seemed to be certain death. He was considerably bruised about the head, but it is thought that no serious results will follow.”

With the advent of the wheel, travel improved.

Most people in rural Trousdale County would have had a “farm wagon” — a multipurpose vehicle, good for farm work, hauling produce to market and carrying the family to church on Sundays.

Having a buggy was a sign of wealth, as it was only practical for carrying people to and from places. A family buggy would be large and wide, so that several people could sit on each seat. A courting buggy was smaller, with just enough room on the seat for two people!

Today, you can vacation somewhere and for a few dollars you can hire a buggy to take you around the park or even the streets of an historic district in a large town. And we do so, thinking how nice it must have been in the “good old days’ ” to travel so leisurely and slow.

We burst that bubble by reminding you that horses still bolted, buggies ran off the road and stagecoaches overturned!

The headline of the paper on Sept. 28, 1911, was, “Injuries Sustained by Hartsville Woman Prove Fatal”. The accompanying article goes on to say, “Mrs. A.C. Welch, who was thrown from her buggy Sunday, Sept. 17, died this morning at 7:30 without ever regaining consciousness.”

Mrs. Welch was the wife of the owner of the Hartsville newspaper!

The tragedy happened just a few months after another prominent local family was in the news, when the nephew of State Representative A.E. Foust was killed in a buggy incident.

“Carl Leslie Foust, the 9-year-old son of Oscar Foust, was accidently killed about 5 o’clock this afternoon in Hartsville. He was standing on the back spring of a buggy driven by his brother, Herman, when in some manner he lost his footing and was caught in the right hind wheel of the vehicle, and dashed against the street… and instantly killed.”

Horses, like car engines, were unpredictable.

We give this account of an accident on the bridge across Little Goose Creek in 1909, “Clerk Lytle Dalton, his wife and little girl, Lillian were driving home from church and had crossed the North Hartsville bridge, when the horse, from some unaccountable reason, began to stagger and, despite the efforts of Mr. Dalton, the animal fell over the bridge approach, carrying the vehicle and occupants with it.”

As it was, Dalton suffered a broken arm. The child was pulled from under the horse with minor scratches and Mrs. Dalton had been thrown clear of the wreck and was unharmed.

Buggy accidents were front-page news in the past, just as terrible auto accidents are today. We have many we could include in this article, but we’ll add just one more, this one involving a runaway horse.

From 1905, “Clair Littleton and Lem Plummer, were out driving, and when coming down a hill near town (Hartsville) the horse commenced to run. As it entered town the horse dashed down the pavement, smashing chairs and running until it fell in front of the bank, the buggy turning completely over the prostrate animal, throwing the occupants out. Young Plummer escaped with only a few bruises, but Littleton received a severe cut on the head, from which he bled copiously, and also received other painful injuries. Fears were at first entertained for his recovery, but he is now much improved…”

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