Mary Beekman is a four-year-old ghost who resides in The Beekman Mansion, and considers Brent and Josh her “imaginary friends.” Follow Mary Beekman’s Diary each week to learn what it’s like to be a young child in early 19th century America
Just as Father predicted yesterday, snow fell all night long and today is sunny. It is so bright that I have to shut my eyes a bit to look out the window. Father made a promise to us that we could go on a sleigh ride if the snow was deep………..and it is now very deep. We shall need lots of petticoats, our woolen shawls, and long capes and blankets too. I hope we can stop at friends’ for a hot drink along the way. I think Father wishes to try the new sleigh bells and have Mother hear them.
The men have been working with the horses for some time. The horses need to grow accustomed to the sound of the bells as they run. The man who works the most with our horses in the summer told Father that once the horses grow accustomed to the sound, they will change their gait to establish a certain rhythm. When I was listening to the sound of the bells on the horses several days ago, I tried to clap my hands in time to the bells but I could not; it was merely a jumble of jingles. Josh and Brent wanted to go get the bells and see if they could run in time to the bells’ jingle……in the house! I know no one can see or hear them……..only I can. We have been secret friends for a long time. But I wonder if other people could hear them if they carried the bells?
Father said the bells are good for sleigh travel in the fog or the twilight. The bells would warn another sleigh that someone else is on the road. In the winter time, the roads become quite narrow and it takes a sleigh a very long time to stop. The bells would also warn any animals on the road that we are coming. The man who cares for our horses also said the rhythm of the bells can keep a horse from being frightened by an unexpected noise and perhaps spook. That would not be good for the horse or the people riding in the sleigh. I would not like to be tossed in a snow bank. I am not very tall.
* In the early 1800’s a thriving sleigh bell industry arose in East Hampton, Connecticut. The bells produced here were sold throughout America and were very popular in the Northeast. In Medford, Massachusetts sleigh races became a popular winter entertainment. The spectacle of jingling bells and horses training for speed over the snow inspired lively spectators and sometimes wagers.
Read more at Suite101: The History of Jingle Bells