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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

Sledding Major Event In Early Winters

Dallas Bogan on 4 September 2004
original article by Dallas Bogan
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Wintertime was an extremely boring time for the first Ohio settler and his family. Many farmers had their own transportation during this period, the sleigh. A family of any number could clothe themselves in good warm homemade clothes; fur caps, quilted hoods, woolen mittens, or perhaps a robe made of buffalo hide, and defy the cold winter months.
The old ancient inn, in many Ohio communities, was the place where the old sleighing parties gathered. The pioneers related stories of how they used to assemble at the tavern for sleighing parties and perhaps stay for supper, their appetites being obvious by the long trek through the wintry snows.
A vision of them yet, the ladies still clothed in their respectable petticoats of homespun goods, and their closely fitted hoods of fabricated silk. Accompanying the ladies were the men with their high silk hats, their leggings of green blaize strips which tightly fit their trouser legs, all in another day, another time.
What a treat to have the blazing fire briskly leap from its stone hearth to warm the winter traveler! What a luxury to relish the smell of the vittles being prepared in the vast hearth in the kitchen, its foods consuming the entire dwelling; to feel the warming fire spreading its glow of embers into every corner and opening: this an occasion fit for a king or the common passerby.
The tavern fire was the heart of all who took time out from the routine of ordinary life. Around these fires swarmed the travelers from afar who had merely stopped for directions, or the locals who had planned to spend a time of social activity. The fire was fed by an endless supply of wood, which included oak, walnut, beach, elm, ash, hickory and pine.
A truly pioneer atmosphere beckoned to the multitude; the old man rubbing his wrinkled hands or turning his body towards the smoldering embers and its comforting ways; the young man with his plastered hair of bear oil, leaning toward the fire with his powerful hands, finding relief from the continuous cold.
The young ladies with their cheeks still suffering from the frigid air gathered to seek the warmth of the great hearth.
The older ladies, sometimes with their plump look of middle life, sought refuge from the chill of the blasts of winter. After warming of their bodies, they would perhaps exchange recipes for the fine jams and fruitcakes, which had been passed down through generations.
A gala of delight and aroma, the fires in the kitchen putting forth great odors of cooking food. The fragrance of a baking ham, of roasting fowls, the delicate scent of potatoes and corn- bread browning on the hearth, all of which delighted the tavern patronizer.
Many landlords jealously guarded their fires. John Moore, whose inn was located at Cambridge, a famous stop on the National Road a century and a half ago, was said to have locked his poker under lock and key. No one messed with his fire! A descendant tells that Mr. Moore burned coal in his hearth, of which huge lumps which were mined in the nearby hills. These blackened chunks were placed in such a manner on the hearth that when they split in burning, the pieces would fall back into the fire rather than on the floor.
Wintertime, sometimes being long and boring, prodded the inn to cater to many parties. During the winter of 1855 and '56, a hundred days or so of continued cold and snow made sleighing in the northeastern corner of Ohio a most joyous time for sleighing.
Sleighs were pulled down from their resting place in the dusty barn lofts. Bobsleds were resurrected and equipped with appropriate apparatus. Beds of old farm wagons were lifted from their axles and placed on runners.
Sleighing parties abounded by the multitude. Everyone, young and old attended.
On a cold February morning in 1856, the snow and ice continuing, and the roads in excellent condition for a sleighing extravaganza, a gathering of citizens from Solon Township, Cuyahoga County, organized a party of seven four-horse sleigh teams and drove to Akron. Prior to this event, smaller sleighing parties from Medina and elsewhere had made the same trip.
The two mentioned parties accepted a challenge and the race to Akron was on. The Solon Township participants for the purpose of sketching the profile of a face with a thumb to the nose with fingers extended used an American flag. (This was before the flag code had been accepted as a symbol of freedom.) The gesture was merely intended as a friendly challenge to their neighbors.
The Solon party passed through Twinsburgh and the residents of the challenging community mustered fourteen four-horse teams and drove to Solon where the citizens politely gave up the flag.
The folks of Royalton caught the spirit and decided they wanted the flag. They immediately assembled thirty-eight four- horse teams and traveled to Twinsburgh, who welcomed them and cheerfully gave up the flag.
News of the flag proceedings quickly spread to two adjoining counties, Summit and Medina. On March 14, 1856, competing organizations met at Richfield.
Medina County had accumulated one hundred forty four-horse teams, Cuyahoga one hundred fifty-one, and Summit one hundred seventy-four, making in all four hundred sixty four-horse teams. The sleds or sleighs averaged fourteen persons each, a total of six thousand five hundred and twenty-four people, and one thousand and sixty-four horses. Aside from this large accumulation, there were a sizable number of single sleds not in the contest.
All the townships provided a brass band to compliment the occasion. Summit County carried the banner proudly to Akron, but it was not to remain there long, for four days later Medina County claimed it, this time with one hundred and eighty-two four-horse teams, one team of mules and numerous brass bands.
One account states "they were received by the citizens of Akron with lavish demonstrations, including the ringing of bells, firing of cannon and uproarious cheers." Refreshments were served as well as two songs being written commemorating the occasion. News of this event quickly spread throughout the United States, as well as all Europe and in virtually every newspaper of the time.
Needless to say the hospitality of the inns were involved to a great extent.

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This page created 4 September 2004 and last updated 28 September, 2008
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