Quite a number of carriage drivers have at least heard of Maine’s Mount Desert Island, or they may have even driven there themselves. It is, after all, the location of Acadia National Park, which boasts miles and miles of roads designed and built, by John D. Rockefeller, Jr., specifically for horse-drawn carriages.

Here is a photo (c. 1901) of the Louisburg Hotel at Bar Harbor on Mount Desert Island. This incarnation of the hotel was built in 1874, after the previous hotel on the site (built in 1870) burned down in 1873. The building remained in use as a hotel until 1939, when it was demolished.


First, before we continue with Mr. Johnson’s tale …

A commenter asked whether (and if so, where) she could buy a copy of Mr. Johnson’s book. The copy I’m “reading” from belongs to the CMA Library here in our office, but I’ve never actually seen the book for sale anywhere. I did just look it up online and Abe Books has ONE copy for sale here.

Now to pick back up with Mr. Johnson.

“About two o’clock I met a train of four wagons and I asked them ‘How far is it to water?’ ‘We have seen none since leaving camp this morning, stranger.’ ‘How far have you come, think you?’ ‘About twelve miles I think. Stranger, how far have you come?’ ‘About the same distance.’ ‘When did you cross any rivers or creeks last?’ I asked. ‘We have seen none for many miles.’ ‘How far from the road were you camped last night?’ I asked. ‘Oh, not far; about forty rods, not more. We turned in on our right and made a high bluff, around the bluff we found both water and grass; you will see our tracks, we have made some deep ones today, stranger.’ ‘Where are you from?’ I asked. ‘We are from Colorado. Where are you from, stranger?’ ‘I am from California.’ ‘What, you all the way from California?’ ‘Yes, all the way.’ ‘That beats the devil. Have you brought that cow all the way from California, stranger?’ ‘No, I did not say that I brought that cow from California, but led her all the way. She has walked all that distance,’ I said. ‘Where are you going to, stranger?’ ‘I am going to Massachusetts.’ ‘Oh, hell! Where are you going, honest?’ said the stranger. ‘Honest, I am going East, to Massachusetts. Where are you going?’ I asked. ‘We are bound to Washington Territory.’ After this conversation we bade goodbye and went on our several ways.

“About six o’clock I came to the tracks made by the teams I had met. I turned in and followed the tracks around the bluff and came to water. Here I stopped and made my camp for the night. I detached the horse from the wagon, removing her harness and let her loose, the cow also. The horse went in for rolling, the cow for grazing. I went gathering sage brush for fuel and having gathered a large pile, I set it on fire, prepared a hot supper and ate it. After supper I brought in my cattle, securing them and gave them their evening meal, made up my bed and lay down to rest.

“As I lay down on my bed my attention was drawn towards my horse. She was looking steadily towards the bluff, and continued to for some time. I looked in that direction but could see nothing; still she kept looking all the same. All at once I saw what had attracted the attention of my horse. It was a herd of deer coming down the bluffs for grass and water. They were not more than twenty rods from us. I did not trouble them, and told them to remain as long as they wished, and they did remain. I did not let my fire go out as I thought there might be something more than deer around.

“It has been my custom at nights to tie my dog to the wagon, since I was so near to losing him when I was traveling among the sheep ranches and was annoyed by coyotes. They were around me continually; I did not know what to do to stop their infernal noise. One morning I was up early and saw one a short distance from me. I set the dog on him and the coyote turned on the dog. I tried to call the dog off, but the little boobee was only the more courageous, and since that time I have been more particular about setting him on to the wild animals.”

Someone commented here recently that the old photos and trip reports I’ve been sharing were all well and good, but that she really wanted to catch up with Mr. Johnson on his cross-country trek. Fair enough. We left him, quite some time ago, having just met up with a wagon train bound for Utah.

“On the morning of the 30th [of May, 1883], all hands were up before the sun. A detail was made and sent in search of wood, but nothing but sage brush could be found, and enough of this was found to boil all the water that was necessary to make coffee for breakfast for the whole camp. I milked the cow and contributed it to the general stock, and the company were much pleased to taste milk once more. At six o’clock all had finished breakfast and got ready to break camp. It was decided to do so on account of the scarcity of fuel and grass, but we had plenty of good water, such as we shall not find for many miles.

“As we were about to part, the captain of the camp, John H. Standly, said, ‘Stranger from California, bound East to Massachusetts, we sincerely hope that you will succeed in your great undertaking. Traveling alone as you are, not knowing what you may have to encounter (perhaps, it is as well you do not), we know, and can’t help but think of you daily. We would like to know whether you succeed in getting through your journey safely.’ I answered, ‘Strangers from Kansas, I thank you kindly for your sympathy in my behalf, hoping that you all may reach your destination in safety. I know what you will have to encounter. Moving as an army, if you get into a tight place you can get out of it; you are not alone as I am. Strangers, I bid you all goodbye.’ As I left them, they gave three cheers for the man from California, bound East to Massachusetts.

“It was half-past eight o’clock when we broke camp, each going his separate way. It was a delightfully warm morning, but hard traveling for my horse, as she kept slipping. But as the day advanced, the traveling improved. About twelve at noon, I stopped and gave the cattle a feed of grain. No water for them as warm as it had been in the morning; it was rather hard on them. My stop was short as I wished to get to some water.”

… to be continued

As often happens with old photos, what is intended as a photo of some building or other ends up showcasing a variety of horse-drawn vehicles as well.

In this case, the buildings in question are the Jefferson County Courthouse and St. Paul’s Church in Birmingham, Alabama, c. 1906. In addition to a couple of bicycles propped up at curbside in front of the courthouse, and a few ghostly pedestrians, we also have two horse-drawn vehicles (and two very well-behaved horses) parked by the curb, a man who appears to be unloading coal onto the sidewalk (while his pair of horses waits), and, farther up the street, what appears to be two men standing on a flat-bed horse-drawn wagon as it’s being driven away.

Enjoy looking around!



On this Christmas Eve day, I hope you enjoy this cute photo of the children’s parade (kids! babies! a dog!) during the 1909 Midwinter Carnival in Upper Saranac Lake, New York.

The CAA office will be closed from tomorrow (Dec. 25) through next Friday (Jan. 2), and we’ll re-open on Monday, Jan. 5 … so I’ll see you then!

« Previous PageNext Page »