John Nelson’s photograph of his sister, Hannah Nelson, and his niece, Alice Nelson Dahlesten, in a horse-drawn sleigh, about 1916-18. RG3542-6
When pioneer Nebraskans wanted to get somewhere in a hurry, they waited for snow. When it snowed, sleighs appeared, adding ease and pleasure to winter travel. “The most pleasant of anticipations fill our hearts when we hear the merry jingle of sleighbells,” said the Lincoln Evening News on December 11, 1897, “or when someone tells us that the ice is thick enough to hold a horse.” A horse-drawn sleigh, its bed partially filled with hay, was a luxurious conveyance. The jingle of the bells and the laughter of the occupants could be heard for a long distance over the empty prairie on a crisp, still night. Many early newspapers in the files of the Nebraska State Historical Society frequently mentioned sleighing parties in their columns.
The Nebraska Advertiser of Brownville on January 31, 1861, described several: “On Saturday evening, a half dozen sleigh loads of ‘young folks’ went from this city to Rock Port; stopping at Cook’s Hotel. They partook of an excellent supper, after which, together with their friends of that place, they ‘all joined hands and circled round,’ until the ‘wee hours’ admonished them to ‘go home with the girls in the morning.’ “The same evening, a host of pleasure seekers from our sister city of Nemaha, came up to this place, and put up at the Brownville House, where they were treated in Doctor Macks’ best style. They were accompanied by Dye’s Brass Band, and favored our citizens with some of their excellent music. After supper, and a couple hours’ dance, off they went, band playing.” By December 11, 1897, the Lincoln News reported that sleighing was possible in Lincoln for only a brief period just after a snowfall “owing partly to the high winds which drift the snow and largely to the fact that our city is rapidly assuming a metropolitan aspect which precludes the leaving of much snow on the streets for any length of time. There was a time in this city within the memory of man when a sleigh could be used all winter on any of the principal streets [and] thoroughfares. But the constantly increasing street traffic has changed all this, until now, instead of a beautiful roadway of snow, we have streets filled with slush.”