Throwback Thursday by Matson Insurance: Early 1800’s Saddle Manufacturing in Brookville

Matson Insurance has partnered with Jefferson County History Center to offer readers a look into Jefferson County’s past. Today, Early 1800’s Saddle Manufacturing in Brookville is highlighted.

[Pictured above: A dray is usually a wagon without sides. They were used for moving heavy objects like barrels and logs. (Courtesy Brookville Heritage Trust)]

(Article submitted by Carole Briggs, Jefferson County Historical Society.)


The Native American trails that once crisscrossed the county became wagon paths for the early settlers who came over the mountains on foot, on horseback, or by horse and wagon or cart. John Brownlee began manufacturing saddles and harnesses in Brookville in 1834, an indication of the many who had arrived with horses.

According to that Internet source that has replaced the encyclopedias of my youth, wagons are pulled by animals to transport goods and sometimes people. Carriages are wheeled vehicles for transporting people. And just as the word automobile may be further defined as a coupe, sedan, station wagon, or limousine, wagons and carriages may be further defined, too. A wagon, for instance, can be a buckboard, covered wagon, or dray. And just as an automobile may be named a Chevrolet, Ford, or BMW, wagons were named Brewster, Bronson, or Brewster-Bronson!

Buckboards are those familiar wagons seen in western films! Drays were used for heavy loads. And both were common in Jefferson County.

Carriages, too, have more definitive names―coupe, landau, phaeton, shay, surrey, sulky―the list goes on and on. When Jim and Donna Brush donated a carriage to the History Center, it was simply noted as a “buggy” or lightweight horse-drawn carriage. Built by Brookville’s Michael Murphy more than a century ago, it is indeed light-weight (one small woman moved it from its Jefferson Street storage location to Main Street) and displayed above the cabin and woodworker’s shop. We called it a phaeton, but now, after further study, are more inclined to term it a Victoria.
Definitions for phaetons typically describe the vehicle as a light, four-wheeled carriage drawn by one or two horses, with front and back seats and, usually, a folding top for the front. Our Brush buggy is light, four-wheeled with folding top, but is drawn by one horse and only seats two.

The Victoria, on the other hand, is a light, covered, four-wheeled carriage for two, drawn by a single horse. A sulky is smaller yet, drawn by one horse, having only two wheels, and carrying one person.

Cutters or sleighs originated in New England prior to the Civil War and people preferred traveling in them over snow and ice rather than traveling in a wheeled carriage over rutted dirt roads. The Portland Cutter on display at the History Center is rare in that it has doors to protect passengers from the cold.

The vehicles used to transport people and goods have indeed changed since 1904, but you will have to admit Portland Cutters and one-horse shays bring to mind the more leisurely pace of life in those days gone by.

[email protected] County Historical Society, Inc.

Throwback Thursday is brought to you by Matson Insurance in Brookville.

Submitted by the Jefferson County History Center.

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