Historic Pelham

Presenting the rich history of Pelham, NY in Westchester County: current historical research, descriptions of how to research Pelham history online and genealogy discussions of Pelham families.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Before There Were Car Crashes in Pelham There Were . . . Horse-Drawn Sleigh Crashes!!?

The unusually-warm weather these days makes it hard to think of Pelham as a winter wonderland.  During the nineteenth century, however, when snow covered Pelham, residents of our town hitched their horses to sleighs and went sleigh riding to enjoy the local winter wonderland.  There are many newspaper accounts that describe the joys of sleigh riding in Pelham, often along "Pelham Road" known today as Shore Road in Pelham Bay Park.

On Monday, February 11, 1895, Pelham was covered in snow.  Two men, W. L. Specht and Albert New, decided to enjoy a sleigh ride in Pelham.  They hitched up a "very spirited" horse to their sleigh and took off along Pelham Road toward New Rochelle.  The horse became "extra frisky in the sharp bracing air" and galloped at a lively pace that became "unmanageable."

As the sleigh headed toward New Rochelle and approached the little settlement of Bartow along the way, it met another horse-drawn sleigh on the roadway. . . . head-on.  The horse and sleigh in which Messrs. Specht and New were riding collided with the oncoming horse and sleigh upsetting their sleigh and throwing the two men out of the sleigh.  As Mr. Specht fell to the ground, the sleigh passed over his face "knocking out eight of his teeth, and cutting his face and head very badly."  Albert New, in contrast, escaped without a scratch.  The occupants of the other sleigh were unhurt as well.  Mr. Specht was carried to his home where a local physician tended to his wounds.

Within a few short years after this sleigh mishap, Pelham Road became a popular destination for the new-fangled automobiles that were beginning to choke the roads of Pelham.  Soon car crashes replaced sleigh crashes along that roadway!

It seems likely that it has been more than eighty years since a horse-drawn sleigh has traveled the roads and countryside within the Town of Pelham.  The story of Messrs. Specht and New, however, reminds us of a simpler time when the words of the song "Jingle Bells" described what it was like to dash through the snow in a one-horse open sleigh on the roads of Pelham!

19th Century Sleigh Ride Scene.
NOTE:  Click Image To Enlarge.

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Below is the brief news account of the sleigh mishap described above.  It is followed by a citation and link to its source.

"BAD RUNAWAY. -- Mr. W. L. Specht and Albert New were out sleigh riding Monday.  They had a very spirited animal which felt extra frisky in the sharp bracing air.  When near Bartow the animal became unmanageable and started on a lively pace toward New Rochelle.  A horse and sleigh was coming toward Bartow.  Mr. Specht's horse and sleigh collided with it.  Mr. Specht and Mr. New were thrown out and the sleigh was upset.  In the fall Mr. Specht's sleigh passed over his face knocking out eight of his teeth, and cutting his face and head very badly.  Mr. New escaped without a scratch.  The wrecked sleigh and horse was brought to New Rochelle and Mr. Specht was taken to his home where Dr. Tefft dressed his wounds.  The horse and sleigh and its occupants that was collided with were unhurt."

Source:  BAD RUNAWAY, New Rochelle Pioneer, Feb. 16, 1895, p. 5, col. 3.  

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