This Day in Dayton, 15 January

The Red Bird sleigh was described by an unnamed citizen (possibly the editor) and in a nostalgic poem by Sanford Cox in the Lafayette Daily Bee on January 15, 1873 (Kathy Matter, “1 local tradition about a sleigh is a mystery,” Journal and Courier, December 1985). The winter of 1842–43 was one of the worst in the history of the Mid West (DeHart 1220). Beginning in perhaps the winter of 1843 and continuing for some years afterward occasional arrivals of a sleigh called “Red Bird” brought the adventurous from Lafayette to Dayton. The sleigh was large enough to hold twelve or fifteen couples or more. A sleigh large enough to hold twenty-four to thirty people must have taken six to eight horses to pull. The ride was surely a treat with laughter and singing, and a stop at an outlying tavern before the ride back. Destinations of West Point, Battle Ground, and others are mentioned as well as Dayton. At Dayton the stop was apparently at an old frame tavern large enough to hold such a crowd. A fiddler was also brought along, so perhaps there was dancing before the trip back. This tavern may have been Ezra Bush’s tavern. Bush ran a tavern in Dayton until the death of his first wife in 1843 (Biography of J. S. Bush). A house on Walnut Street (SR 38) is remembered to have once been a “saloon” (Jon Grimes and Pat Arihood Ricks, “Remembrance”). Could this have been the same one where the Red Bird stopped in the late 1840s?

Susan ClawsonComment