‘Wheels: The Horse and Buggy’ program featured at Bay West LIFE meeting

IRON MOUNTAIN – “Wheels: The Horse and Buggy Era” will be the featured program at the Thursday, May 9 meeting Bay West L.I.F.E., held at 10 a.m. in the Fornetti auditorium at the Bay West Campus.

Local historian Bill Cummings will present a Power Point program discussing life before motorized transportation locally and beyond. A follow-up program “Wheels: The Horseless Carriage” will be presented at the June 13 meeting.

Using period photographs, many from his personal collection, Cummings will show the hustle and bustle of city traffic during this era from London to Boston, New York City, Chicago, St. Louis and San Francisco, and then concentrate on historic views from the Dickinson County area. Presentation will include the L.M. Hansen’s Livery and Boarding Stable, which was located at 413 South Stephenson Avenue, where the north end of Plaza Central is now located, from before 1892 until 1909. By 1902 Hansen had expanded his livery stable to include 411-413 South Stephenson Avenue. In its March 24, 1910 edition, the Iron Mountain Press noted that “the old livery barn on Stephenson avenue, occupied by L.M. Hansen for a long term of years, is being demolished preparatory to the erection of a brick block by Messrs.Cook and Pelham, owners of the property.”

In late March of 1909, Hansen purchased the former Halvar Person livery stable, north of the Dickinson County Court House at 623 South Stephenson Avenue, from Andrew Bjorkman. Located on the northeast corner of South Stephenson Avenue and C Street, that livery stable was demolished when the Wolfe Building, now occupied by B’s Caf and other businesses, was constructed there in 1927. The north corner of the M. Levy Co. (later Levy & Unger) store, one of Iron Mountain’s major early department stores, is visible at the far right. The structure later housed the J.C. Penny Company and was home to the Western Auto Store when the central portion of the 400 block was destroyed by fire in Sunday evening, Feb. 28, 1982.

Trades connected with horse-drawn transportation included livery and boarding stables, sales stables and barns, blacksmith shops, wagon maker and carriage maker shops, harness shops, feed stores and undertakers, who maintained hearses and teams of horses to pull them.

Wheeled conveyances included coaches, buggies and carriages, buckboards and wagons, surreys with and without the fringe on top, carts, sprinkling wagons, and fire engines and steamers, as well as some farming implements During the winter months, horse-drawn transportation was provided by sleighs, cutters and a variety of sleds used for heavy loads, especially in logging operations. All of these modes of transportation, complete with contemporary photographs, will be shown.

Advertisements from early city directories and newspapers, as well as colorful excerpts from early newspaper accounts, will help tell the story of life with horse-powered transportation from the 1880s into the early twentieth century. Collisions between rigs, resulting in severe injuries, were duly reported in the local newspapers, just as today’s traffic accidents are recorded. A runaway buggy or wagon could result in serious injuries to the passengers, the vehicle, the horse and innocent bystanders.

Bay West L.I.F.E. is a group of people who believe in lifelong learning, and gather once a month to hear speakers of interest. Dues are $18 per year, or $1.50 per month. Coffee is served and visitors are always welcome. The group meets at 10 a.m. on the second Thursday of each month at Bay West campus on North U.S. 2 in Iron Mountain.