Where Research is a Delight!
The first time that I revisioned a different Asheville, one with horses, was when I read Pauline Moore’s diary she wrote in 1916 at the age of 19. In May, Pauline wrote, “Frank Netherland & I went for a long horse back ride this afternoon. Up by Beaumont Lodge by the Battle Bungalow through Kenilworth up to the old water works & beyond and home again by the river road & Biltmore.”
When I read Pauline’s diary, I saw a city not of roads and automobiles and trucks, but a city traversed with horse trails and paths with people and their horses everywhere, riding from one place to another across surprising distances.
Later in August, Pauline wrote, “Icky & I went for a long horse back ride this afternoon out to the Asheville School Lake Dam and came home by a different road. I enjoyed it as much as any ride I have taken this summer.” [“Icky” was the nickname for Francis C. Bourne, whom Pauline later married. She died in Asheville in 1979. Her diary is MS171.001A.]
The second time I was taken aback from the notion of horses being the main mode of transportation was a short notice in the newspaper telling about O. D. Revell’s horse taking fright while he was inspecting some building work on Spruce Street. The horse made a wild run for College Street, and then went on to North Main, its buggy that it was drawing seemingly striking almost every wagon it encountered as it flew by. Revell, the architect and builder, rode a horse-drawn carriage to his clients’ homes! Or to inspect one of his buildings under construction! The thought had never occurred to me. [Asheville Daily Citizen May 24, 1899.]
Did people keep horses in their carriage houses, like we keep our cars, and did most people have one? And did they keep hay and grain for them? Did they have pasture? How many people in the city had horses?
I began to look through our photographs to let them tell me what Asheville with horses looked like, and all that horses were usefull for.
Horses pulled street cleaning wagons, laundry, funeral caskets,
and all sorts of farm products to market.
Horses pulled sleighs for traveling in heavy snow,
and they pulled carriages through very poor roads.
Horses helped the mailwoman deliver mail,
and took teachers into hard-to-get-to places in the mountains.
Horses were used for general all around transportation for most everyone,
including the rich.
In short, there were just horses everywhere.
Every sort of book about Asheville at the turn-of-the-century listed the best drives and their distances from the center of Asheville. Fernihurst, Richmond Hill, Sunset Drive, the top of Town Mountain, Biltmore,
Arden Park, Kenilworth Inn, or the Swannanoa River.
And if you didn’t own your own horse, or if you were visiting, there were more than eight large livery stables in the early 1900s where you could rent one. You could get a horse and buggy for $2.50 or $3.00 a day, or a two-horse surrey for the same price. You could even rent your own tallyho for $8 to $10 which was drawn by four horses and could hold 10 to 14 passengers. [Asheville Citizen-Times Feb. 21, 1932, “Livery Stables Give Way to Modern Autos.”]
And when the first automobile came through Asheville in March 1900, we all know what it was called — the horseless carriage! “It doesn’t shy at trolly cars, and it stands anywhere without hitching.” [Asheville Daily Citizen March 12, 1900. “Horseless Carriage Makes Its Appearance”]
But all is not lost. Twice now, the staff at Pack Memorial Library has happened to see two different women traveling alone on horse-back across country, and coming through Asheville on their way. The first woman stopped by the library and hitched her horse outside the Children’s Room.
And that reminds me, do you know there are still some rings around town, buried in old curbs, where people used to tie up their horses?
Post by Zoe Rhine, Librarian.